Oglala Sioux Tribe

PINE RIDGE | The upending of the political establishment carried over into another presidential race on Tuesday night, this one on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, resulting in the ousting of longtime Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele and Vice President Thomas Poor Bear.

Unofficial election results show that Yellow Bird Steele’s opponent, Troy “Scott” Weston, won with 2,383 votes, or 66.2 percent of the total. Yellow Bird Steele, who has served seven terms over 14 years, lost with 1,215 votes, or 33.7 percent.

Vice President Poor Bear lost to challenger Darla Black, who received 1,826 votes, or 51.2 percent. Poor Bear received 1,740 votes, or 48.8 percent.

Voter turnout was down compared with the most recent tribal election in 2014, according to election commissioner Dorothy Brown Bear. Then, a little more than 4,000 of the 11,816 people registered to vote on the reservation turned out, whereas 3,598 turned out this year.

Neither Weston nor Yellow Bird Steele could be reached for comment.

“I think tribal membership wanted a change,”  Brown Bear said.

That thirst for change was less apparent in some of the races for seats on the tribal council, though some fresh faces were added to the mix.

In the Pine Ridge District — the largest on the reservation — incumbent Richard Greenwald held his seat with 402 votes, or 22.5 percent of the total 1,785 people who voted there.  

"I’m pretty thankful and very appreciative to my community for picking me to serve them for the next few years,” Greenwald said by phone Wednesday. “We have a lot to work on and a lot to get done, and I’m just happy that they trusted me to do the job for them.”

Greenwald said he would refocus his efforts on the council toward combating violence on the reservation.

“We’re seeing an influx in violence, and we need to make sure our health-care system and law enforcement can handle it,” he said.

Greenwald’s fellow incumbents in the Pine Ridge District also won re-election, including Ella “John” Carlow with 321 votes, and Robin Tapio with 306. Challengers Sesalie Red Owl and Irving Provost lost with 262 and 218 votes respectively.

Both incumbents in the Wakpamni Lake District also won re-election, including Jacqueline Siers with 331 votes and Sonia Little Hawk-Weston with 265. Challengers Joni Tobacco and Jane Little Hawk-Rodriguez lost with 243 and 205 votes, respectively.

In the Eagle Nest District, incumbent Blaine Little Thunder also held onto his seat with 186 votes. Jim Meeks also won one of the two open seats in that district with 126 votes. Candidates who lost included Mavis Wilcox with 103 votes and Ruth Brown-Wright with 101.

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Incumbent James Cross of the Pass Creek District won re-election with 141 votes, and Lydia Bear Killer won the second seat with 109 votes. Losing candidates included incumbent Ron Duke with 99 votes, Lawrence Swalley with 62 votes, and Joseph Reddest with 49.

In the Medicine Root District, incumbent Austin Watkins Sr. won re-election with 99 votes. The two other open seats went to Stanley Little Whiteman with 109 votes and Beau Little Whiteman with 141. Incumbent Chauncey Wilson lost with 49, as did challenger Mona Vocu with 62 votes.

Incumbent Floyd Brings Plenty lost re-election in the Oglala District, with 178 votes. He will be replaced by Valentina Merdanian, who received 240 votes, and Stephanie Leasure, who received 201. Valerie Janis lost with 135 votes.

Incumbent David Pourier won re-election in the Porcupine District with 194 votes. Philip Good Crow won the second seat with 198 votes. Incumbent Patrick Ross lost with 161 votes, and challenger James Twiss lost with 189.

In the Wounded Knee District, incumbent Collins “CJ” Clifford kept his seat with 189 votes. The second seat went to Garfield Apple with 155 votes. Former Oglala Sioux Tribal Police Chief Eugenio White Hawk lost with 127 votes, as did Lisa Jumping Eagle-Deleon with 154 votes.

Incumbent Craig Dillon in the Lacreek District won by acclamation with more than half the vote during the primary election in early October. On Tuesday night, candidate Cora White Horse won the second seat as district representative with 127 votes, or 56.19 percent of the vote.

Brown Bear said there are still 500 “challenged” votes that have yet to be evaluated. Challenged votes are votes cast by individuals whose membership in the Oglala Sioux Tribe has been questioned. Those votes will be vetted by the tribal enrollment office before they are included in any tallies, Brown Bear said.

The official election results will be released on Nov. 18, according to Brown Bear.

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