The Salazar Settlement
First of all, I didn’t get involved with the Salazar Settlement immediately; the issue slowly reared its head during our discussions over the SRST Tribal Chairman’s firing of the tribe’s executive director. My side on this Termination controversy is that our tribe has sovereign immunity regarding its employment practices. If such wasn’t the case, there would be non-tribal members working for our tribe in the various offices.
Our discussion quickly changed from this controversy to that involving the $48.9 million Salazar Settlement. At first I confused the Salazar Settlement with the Cobell Settlement. I never heard about the Salazar Settlement at all.
At first, just prior to the actual disbursement of the Salazar Settlement to the SRST tribal council, there were many discussions I participated in where we were concerned whether tribal members living off the reservation would receive any of the Salazar Settlement. We did not receive any money yet, with promises still in the air. My point in this is the same as I hold in our tribe’s protection from suit involving certain hiring practices especially those job position funded by our tribe’s own income and not federal or state grants.
Here is my point, my perspective on our tribal government and on tribal governments in general. These are creations of the federal government and such are colonial governments. Living under these organizations means that we have lost certain rights to a representative government having laws regulating its own accountability to tribal members. I guess they established these tribal governments in order for us to improve them to our satisfaction; this did not happen and cannot happen without further federal and public intervention.
Regarding the Salazar Settlement, since it is known that our tribal government is notoriously unaccountable of its funds and that anyone trying to expose this human rights violation is subject to harsh retaliation usually in the form of denial of services and employment; many people just accept this unaccountability as being a price for living on the reservation. Without much discussion on whether the off reservation tribal members would be included in the Salazar Settlement, our tribal government disbursed the Salazar Settlement to the local district community governments, using a pro rata distribution, also used to distribute the annual Casino Revenue profits (this pro rata figure is used to deliberately avoid the Per Capita regulations in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and is based on US Census population estimates of people living in the tribal communities).
And of course, in the best of possible worlds, the local district communities would have shared their pro rata Salazar Settlement allocation with their off-reservation relatives. Sadly this did not happen for whatever reasons. The tribal council, although knowing that this would happen, did willfully distribute the Salazar Settlement in order to keep the lion’s share of the Salazar Settlement for its own spending spree.
To “help” off-reservation tribal members, the tribal council established an application along with an office that has the purpose to prevent double dipping by on-reservation tribal members. These workers were to compile a list of on-reservation tribal members that have already received funds from the Salazar Settlement through their local district community governments to prevent double dipping. Then after finalizing this compilation, they’d begin distributing $1,000 to off-reservation tribal members. And as usual, this simple process developed some insane nightmares, meaning that the off-reservations tribal members are still in the dark as to when they’ll actually receive any of the Salazar Settlement.
That the off-reservation tribal members haven’t receive any of the Salazar Settlement just typifies the larger issue, that of the complete lack of accountability of our tribal government to its tribal members. Instead of telling what it has to spend, it spends it, and then weathers the resulting controversy like a punching bag or a yoyo. This lack of tribal government accountability issue is the direct cause of the endemic poverty existing, and increasing, on our reservation, although over the past three years, our tribal government received over $150 million in federal government grants to pay itself handsomely for its madness at the expense of the poverty-stricken, unemployed, no hope reservation tribal members.
The level of the insane unaccountability even made it to Glen Beck’s desk, where he questioned why the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was given almost a million dollars to improve its airport. One look at the OMB A-133 financial audits submitted by the tribes to the clearinghouse shows many more instances of this government waste, waste in that these millions do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life on the reservations. In fact these federal millions do exactly the opposite; they are used to increase the poverty existing on the reservations. Also these federal millions are used to purchase political favoritism-cronyism-nepotism and also are used to retaliate against those opposing the undemocratic nature of the tribal governments.
Meanwhile, in the Salazar Controversy, there are rumors given to me by Rosebud tribal members that the recent $9 million Pe’Sla purchase was funded primarily through an under-the-table loan made by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. And during this time, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council was embroiled in a bitter battle with its own off-reservation tribal members wanting their share in the Salazar Settlement, perhaps to provide a smokescreen to hide this rumored loan.
The reason I am inclined to believe this that I saw firsthand the JTAC/TERF tribal co-signatory loans used to purchase a miniature pony ranch as well as a llama ranch not too long ago.
Whatever the case, the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation is a black box vacuum, millions of dollars are sucked into it, and poverty, despair, suicides, domestic abuse are exhaled out to the bleeding hearts of America!
I used to wonder if I can see this unaccountability causing the extreme hardships on the reservations, why does Congress keep giving millions seemingly to increase the problems. Then it hit me, the millions of dollars in federal grants are being kept in local area banks to provide short term loans to small non-Native, non-reservation farms, ranches and businesses.
This means that US Congressional representatives from both South Dakota and North Dakota are unknowingly complicit in these human, civil and property rights violations existing on the reservations. Their lack of concern exemplifies the rampant paternalism inherent in this colonial policy, the “Let the Indians oppress each other to democracy” stand. Whether these congressional representatives know it or not, they have the blood of our children on their hands.
And regardless of the previous statements, what this means, for the off-reservation tribal members, is that it is highly unlikely that we will see any benefit from the Salazar Settlement. We have been terminated.
It is one thing to know that something is wrong, unjust, and unfair. Then the question becomes what to do about it? How does one correct and amend these wrongs being committed by our increasingly dictatorial tribal government when all tribal members have lost their rights under the current form of government. We can shake our fists at our tribal government all day and that will not effect change in the positive note.
A lawyer once told me 15 years ago, and this thought still holds true today. “Tribal sovereign immunity is good for a tribal government to protect itself and its members from hostile jurisdictions, yet when tribal sovereign immunity is used to defend itself against its own members, sovereign immunity is very bad for both the tribal government and its members.”
Harold One Feather