Activists plan to file injunction against alcohol referendum on Pine Ridge Reservation

2013-08-16T06:30:00Z 2013-08-16T13:47:04Z Activists plan to file injunction against alcohol referendum on Pine Ridge ReservationDaniel Simmons-Ritchie Journal staff Rapid City Journal
August 16, 2013 6:30 am  • 

Following the results of a historic referendum this week, a Native American group pledged on Thursday to file an injunction in tribal court to halt the legalization of alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The American Indian Movement Grassroots, an activist organization that is opposed to legalization, believes that Tuesday's vote was illegal due to a lack of polling sites, improper notice for tribal members, inadequate training for election workers and other issues.

After all ballots were tallied by midnight Wednesday — and some removed because they were filled out incorrectly — a narrow majority of reservation voters chose to legalize alcohol 1,871 to 1,679 votes, or 52.7 to 47.3 percent. The result, if approved by the tribal council later this month, will end a ban on alcohol that has existed for the near-entirety of the reservation's 124-year history.

However, Thomas Cheyenne, president of the American Indian Movement Grassroots, said he believed that a majority of tribal members would have voted against legalization if more had gotten to the polls.

"There's a lot of them, because of transportation," he said. "And it wasn't notified. There wasn't enough information for the tribal members — they weren't informed on what was going to happen."

But Francis Pumpkin Seed, chairman of the tribe's election commission, disputed those complaints on Thursday.

He said the overall count of 3,550 valid votes was one of the highest in Oglala Sioux history — higher than its council election in November.

"Had the numbers been really, really low, I would say maybe there was a mistake, but the numbers were higher than the general election," he said.

Pumpkin Seed said it was true that Tuesday's election was conducted on a tight budget. In a general election, the tribe's executive branch usually budgets about $150,000. This election, the executive branch allocated $15,000 to his commission.

Pumpkin Seed said that meant he could only plan to open nine polling places instead of the usual 22, which, while not preferable, was not illegal. Tribal law doesn't stipulate how many polling sites need to open on the day of an election.

He said the training given to election workers was the same as any regular election.

Pumpkin Seed also insisted that his commission provided proper public notice about the referendum date. While the law says a general tribal election requires 180 days of notice, it offers no guidance on how much notice is needed for a special election. He said his commission sent out election notices on June 29, two weeks before the referendum, and it was advertised in print, radio and television.

"I don't believe my commission has violated any sections of that law," he said.

Ultimately, he said he believed the American Indian Movement Grassroots would be wasting its time by filing an injunction.

He said the normal process to challenge an election result is to file a complaint with his office within three days of the election's certification. His office then has five days to tell the complainant whether it agrees or disagree with the complaint. If the complainant is dissatisfied with the commission's ruling, that party can then appeal to the tribal supreme court.

By filing an injunction at this point, Pumpkin Seed said, the lower courts will only turn it away and say that the matter is outside of its jurisdiction.

"It's only going to prolong their own process," he said.

Whether the American Indian Movement Grassroots files an injunction or files an election complaint this week, it's unlikely to deter the group from trying to stop legalization.

Cheyenne said that if the group feels its complaints aren't heard, it may hold protests.

He said alcohol legalization would only hurt the Lakota culture and aggravate existing alcohol problems on the reservation.

"The crime rate and the death rate from alcohol will increase," he said. "Cirrhosis and everything that comes with it. And violence, which is going to be a bigger problem."

[Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect a correction. Thomas Cheyenne said "cirrhosis" would be an increasing problem if alcohol is legalized on the reservation]

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. rcsdlakota
    Report Abuse
    rcsdlakota - August 16, 2013 10:57 pm
    Listen up snowflake,

    'They' to you is me and I know you know not a single ioda of us Lakota. You are only representing the shameful few who look down upon us. You are only human and no better, if you want to really keep it real come on down to our land and speak your mind. Let's see how far that gets you.

    Proud Member of the Oglala Lakota Nation Rapid City

  2. shunkaska
    Report Abuse
    shunkaska - August 16, 2013 4:18 pm
    I can't understand why when the majority speaks-done deal. I don't believe these groups have the nerve to think they are better and their opinion out weights a majority, that arrogant thinking is beyond even listening to. The vote is in, the majority rules.
  3. Obtuseangler
    Report Abuse
    Obtuseangler - August 16, 2013 11:00 am
    "Pumpkin Seed said that meant he could only plan to open nine polling places instead of the usual 22, which, while not preferable, was not illegal. Tribal law doesn't stipulate how many polling sites need to open on the day of an election." I love this story. Some have said, or implied, that the state's failure to fund additional voting locations on Native American land is racist. Native Americans do not have unlimited funds, nor does the state or the feds. There is nothing racist about living within our means. A lawsuit will cost additional funds to defend against. If the plaintiffs win, another election will have to be funded and will likely have the same result.
  4. willrc
    Report Abuse
    willrc - August 16, 2013 9:53 am
    the vote happened for a reason, the majority voted yes, why can't that be respected??? it's up to the people and the people have spoken, deal with it instead of crying like a child who didn't get their way.
  5. snowflake
    Report Abuse
    snowflake - August 16, 2013 9:35 am
    As Dave Rooks wrote in his column today, now that the vote is done and the sale of booze on the rez was voted to be legal, there will be no more blaming White Clay. The tribe will have to assume responsibility...and that is the rub. They do not want to be responsible. They only want to blame everyone else.

    And this group complaining about the lack of voting opportunities and not enough education....yet the turnout of voters was historically high....give up. You lost, fair and square.
  6. Native Thoughts101
    Report Abuse
    Native Thoughts101 - August 16, 2013 9:28 am
    'Don't sell us out!!!' Really, no sell outs here. Our people need to let that 124 year old would close. We our people really don't want to believe is that by keeping alcohol illegal only adds to the problem. Proven fact that Dry Reservations have more alcohol related deaths, alcohol related health problems, alcohol related crimes. PERIOD! Do some research. By legalizing it sure their will be a flare up, but in time most likely over generations the problems will subside. Only reason why groups such as these are even interested is to get in the public eye and get noticed. Otherwise they would never be noticed. Lets take a bad situation and turn it into a good situation. Economic growth is our main problem on our reservation, alcohol and when we as a people make a decision on it, vote and win, we still have other people trying to dictate how people want to live their lives. Have to remember that everything we do in life is a choice and everyone as the rights to their own choices on how they want to live in this world.
  7. letsgoo
    Report Abuse
    letsgoo - August 16, 2013 9:03 am
    Mr Cheyenne dude it's CIRRHOSIS, not Sclerosis! BTW worry about Rapid City I hear that's where you live right? All the outside agitators stay home with yourself, water your own lawn and leave our dirt alone.
  8. Fast Eddie
    Report Abuse
    Fast Eddie - August 16, 2013 9:03 am
    A lot of people did not want video lottery in this state either but it's all about money, it always has been and it always will be. I'm glad this passed. Maybe the drinkers from Pine Ridge will stay on the reservation to drink instead of traveling to Rapid City or other surrounding communities to do their drinking. We have enough problems with drunks in downtown Rapid City without outsiders coming in and causing trouble.
  9. Jmoona2010
    Report Abuse
    Jmoona2010 - August 16, 2013 8:45 am
    Alcohol is already on the reservation, might as well make it legal. At least if alcohol is sold on the Rez, there won't be as much alcohol related accidents by people coming from Nebraska after they bought more booze, hence less death, more family
  10. B-Rock
    Report Abuse
    B-Rock - August 16, 2013 7:26 am
    Of course. When you lose at the ballot box, take it to court. What ever happened to losing gracefully? Why are these people so afraid to give it a try? Prohibition hasn't worked for the last hundred years, so what makes them think this year would be any different? If you're going to have all the problems caused by alcohol, you should at least take the money spent on the alcohol and keep it on the reservation. Keeping the money local is so much better than giving it all to Whiteclay and then complaining about them.
  11. heatheryellowboy
    Report Abuse
    heatheryellowboy - August 15, 2013 11:45 pm
    Don't do it!!! Oyate " don't sell us out!!! We will be hurting the children. And elders!! Go strong no no no no alcohol "!!!
  12. heatheryellowboy
    Report Abuse
    heatheryellowboy - August 15, 2013 11:18 pm
    I Heather spottedelk vote no!!! More money more problems! !
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