Oglala Sioux Tribe State of Emergency Continues

On November 18, Oglala Sioux Tribal President Frank Star Comes Out declared a state of emergency on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, highlighting a critical breakdown in law and order. This action underscores the United States government’s failure to provide sufficient law enforcement resources on the reservation.

The Underlying Issues

The proclamation points to inadequate advocacy from the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for law enforcement funding as a key factor in the reservation’s soaring crime rates, including homicide, drug offenses, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, and burglary.

Compounding these challenges are alarming social issues:

  • Approximately two-thirds of adults on the reservation battle alcoholism.
  • 25% of children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • The suicide rate, especially in the 14-32 age demographic, is significantly higher than the national average.

A Call for Action

President Star Comes Out appealed to President Joe Biden to direct U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to secure funding for 2.8 officers per thousand residents. Currently, with 60 sworn officers for a population of 43,000, the tribe is striving to nearly double its police force to 120 officers.

Ongoing Legal Battle

The tribe’s ongoing civil lawsuit against the United States since 2022 seeks adequate law enforcement. Disturbing statistics from this case include:

  • 659 missing person cases since October 2022.
  • High numbers of domestic violence, child abuse, and gun-related incidents.

The Larger Picture

In a KELOLAND News interview, Star Comes Out highlighted the spiraling crime, drug, and alcohol problems that necessitated the emergency declaration. Tribal officials, including Treasurer Cora White Horse and Police Chief Algin Young, emphasized the gross underfunding by the federal government, leading to systemic failures in addressing the high crime rates.

Views from the Community

The state of emergency, effective through January 1, 2025, has elicited mixed reactions:

  • Liz May, a local business owner and South Dakota House Representative, acknowledged the need to address these deep-rooted issues, emphasizing that more law enforcement is only part of the solution.
  • Tribal member Ken Hart appreciated the move but expressed skepticism about its impact on ongoing crimes.

Beyond Law Enforcement

Young stressed that addressing the crisis requires more than just policing. A functional legal system, including adequate numbers of prosecutors and judges, is crucial for effective law and order.

The state of emergency declaration is a stark reminder of the complex challenges facing the Pine Ridge Reservation, calling for immediate and sustained action from both tribal and federal levels.

Oglala Sioux Tribe State of Emergency Continues
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