For the second time in nearly four months, stray dogs are being rounded up on a South Dakota reservation following a fatal attack.
This time, it’s on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Tribal council members on Monday approved a resolution authorizing tribal police, working with officers of the state Department of Game, Fish & Parks, to round up stray dogs they deem to be dangerous and kill or impound them. The action lent official approval to an emergency roundup that apparently began Saturday with the blessing of tribal leaders.
The roundup followed the Saturday morning death of Julia Charging Whirlwind, 49, whom the Mellette County sheriff said was fatally mauled by wild dogs in the Lower Swift Bear community on tribal land just west of the town of White River.
Kathleen Wooden Knife, a tribal council member and a main proponent of the resolution, said Charging Whirlwind was a friend of hers.
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“Can any of us look into the eyes of Julie’s children or her family and say we’re not going to deal with this?” Wooden Knife asked in a video of the council meeting viewed by the Journal.
Another speaker at the meeting said Charging Whirlwind had five children and three grandchildren. On Charging Whirlwind’s Facebook page, she listed herself as being a child care worker at Spotted Tail Children’s Home in the town of Rosebud.
Her death is reminiscent of the Nov. 18 death of Jayla Rodriguez, 8, who was mauled to death by wild dogs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is immediately west of the Rosebud Indian Reservation along South Dakota’s southern border.
Stray-dog roundups followed each death, as did guilt and criticism about longstanding stray-dog problems on both reservations. So prevalent are aggressive strays that in the Monday meeting, speakers talked about another dog attack Sunday near the town of Rosebud, in which a victim was apparently saved by passing motorists.
The Journal was not able to confirm that report.
Back in November, the roundup in Pine Ridge was assailed by some as brutally unsophisticated. Some on the reservation accused officials of indiscriminately rounding up dogs, stray or domestic, aggressive or docile, and killing them. Tribal officials denied those claims and said the roundup focused on stray and dangerous dogs only. The early stages of the roundup were carried out by contracted tribal members who pulled a ramshackle horse trailer around town and filled it with dogs, some of which were killed while others were given to a rescue group.
At Monday’s tribal council meeting in Rosebud, several tribal officials promised their roundup will be different.
Marlin Enno, of Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services, said officers will only seize dogs that are stray or unclaimed and aggressive or diseased.
“We’re not killing people’s pets and shooting every dog in the neighborhood,” Enno said during the meeting.
Saturday, Willie Kindle, acting president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, issued an announcement advising all residents of the reservation to tie up or secure their dogs. “Any dog found at-large, outside of the owner’s property, will be impounded,” the announcement said.
It was not immediately clear Monday if the tribe has a place to impound dogs, or a place to dispose of destroyed dogs. Discussion at the council meeting included the possible use of a vacant Bureau of Indian Affairs facility and an old landfill.
LightShine Canine, a nonprofit group that has rescued hundreds of dogs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and sent them away to be adopted, said Monday on its Facebook page that it lacks the manpower to start a similarly large-scale rescue operation on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. But the group said one of its members is there and is working to save any dogs she can.
The Rosebud Tribal Council’s resolution was described as a temporary, emergency measure. Council members also talked of possible long-term fixes for the reservation’s dog problem, including education efforts for dog owners, mobile clinics to spay and neuter dogs, financial assistance to help dog owners buy leashes and kennels, and the development of a tribal pound.
Meanwhile, the community is in mourning for Charging Whirlwind. Messages left at the tribal law enforcement office regarding the investigation into her death were not immediately returned Monday. FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said his office “is currently reviewing the circumstances surrounding this death.”
“Further action (or non-action) will hinge upon the results of this preliminary review,” Loven said in an emailed reply to Journal questions.
The FBI also was involved in the investigation into Rodriguez’s death, which occurred while she was sledding behind a home in the town of Pine Ridge. That investigation took about two months before the cause of death was officially certified as a dog attack.
Alvin Bettelyoun, a tribal council member who represents the area where Charging Whirlwind lived, was assisting with her funeral arrangements Monday afternoon. He often sat beside Charging Whirlwind at White River High School basketball games, he said, where the two shared a lot of laughs.
“To actually have her gone, it’s devastating to know she’s not ever going to be sitting there again,” Bettelyoun said in a Journal phone interview.
He accompanied officers on Saturday’s dog roundup and said he saw “horrific” sights, including a makeshift doghouse in which a litter of puppies was feeding on its dead mother and all appeared to be infected with mange.
“I thought I knew my community,” Bettelyoun said, “but I didn’t know the dog problems were like this.”
Contact Seth Tupper at firstname.lastname@example.org