From Unsettling America:
Cante Tenza Okolakiciye – Strong Heart Warrior Society
Free & Independent Lakota Nation
Box 512, Hill City, South Dakota 57745 | 605-454-0449 or
605-517-1547 | lakotaoyate.net
For Immediate Release: March 2, 2011
Contact: Duane Martin Sr. 605-517-1547 or 605-454-0449
Elders, Warrior Societies, Oyate to Take-Over Elderly Meals Program in Porcupine
Porcupine Community, Pine Ridge Reservation, SD – Mere hours after dozens had gathered for the “Liberation Day” celebration of the 1973 Occupation of Wounded Knee, traditional elders and the Strong Heart Warrior Society announced a new occupation is planned for 1pm Friday when a group of elders, warriors, activists and concerned citizens will take over the Elderly Meals Program building in Porcupine Community.
The planned elder-led march and occupation will be supported by the Strong Heart Warrior Society as well as the Urban Warrior Society from Rapid City and various chapters of the American Indian Movement (AIM) including representatives of the AIM Governing Council.
The occupation is the direct result of a failure of Porcupine District and tribal government officials to meet with the Elders and their advocates to discuss a wide range of elder abuse complaints at the program and to begin to implement much needed changes.
Complaints include unsanitary conditions, inedible food, physical and psychological abuse of elders, refusal of meals to certain elders, the mismanagement of program funds and resources, law enforcement abuse, and the illegal selling of drugs and alcohol by Porcupine center staff while Elders are present.
“They never treat us good when we go to the Elderly Meals,” said 91- year-old Cecilia Martin, who is one of two surviving American Indian Movement Grandmothers from the 1973 Wounded Knee Occupation. “For over five months I haven’t gone there because the food is no good.”
The current elderly meals staff led by Winifred Janis has taken numerous retaliatory measures against elders and others speaking out about abusive and illegal activities. Elmer White Face, 71, was arrested in February for allegedly“verbally assaulting” Janis at the center despite the fact he was born mute! Three members of the Janis/ Quiver family physically beat Wilson Coleman Jr., an employee of the center, after he spoke out about illegal activities including alcohol bootlegging and the selling of drugs in the Elder Center.
For weeks the Strong Heart Warrior Society, at the request of their elders, has increased pressure on tribal government by informing the media and asking concerned people to contact tribal council and meals program officials to investigate the Porcupine elderly meals program. Despite numerous calls to tribal, state and federal officials no action has been undertaken.
Even as late as yesterday, Oglala Tribal Government Vice President Thomas Poor Bear said, “We don’t have a problem with our Elders.”
“The people are behind us – we are going to walk in and takeover that place,” said 67 year-old Enoch Brings Plenty, whose wife has been denied meals by the current meals center staff. He added, “We are going to do all these things for the elders, so they can have peace.”
Changes to Elderly Meals Program including the construction of a newer, cleaner building have been rebuffed, delayed, and denied time and again by officials of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) supported Oglala Tribal Council which has said the elder’s fate lies solely in their hands.
“They (tribal council officials) are totally in it in it for themselves – they are totally for themselves,” explained Brings Plenty.
“All of these demands have been met with a certain resistance because they (tribal officials) are not taking the elders very seriously, “added Duane Martin Sr., leader of the Strong Heart Warrior Society. “They are living in denial because the poor people, the elders, the children are left without.”
Elders and activists say the abuse and corruption in the Elderly Meals Program is a microcosm of abuse and corruption present in many of the tribal government programs and within the Tribal Government itself. Corrupt officials and their families work together to threaten and punish those who seek accountability while at the same time soliciting additional Federal, State and local funding as well as so-called “heart donations” from concerned people around the world.
Concerned elders, and others who have stood up to this corruption have been the targets of violence, verbal threats, and the denial of tribal government services such as housing and winter heating fuel. These are the same conditions that led to the 1973 Occupation of Wounded Knee as well as two previous takeovers of the Red Cloud Building – one in 2009, and a nine-month long occupation in 2000.
“I thank everyone for everything so that this works out good, and I hope so too,” shared Grandmother Cecilia Martin. “But right now we need a lot of help.”
Elders and warrior society members have appealed outside of the tribe for investigations into widespread graft and corruption but some government agencies are claiming their hands are tied. They said they are unable to work directly with community activists and traditional groups because they must work through the corrupted BIA system of tribal government to implement changes.
Duane Martin Sr. explained further why the occupation was necessary, “The tribal court system, along with the tribal government, doesn’t really administer the change in procedures that would create a healthy system. They are all unhealthy – the police department is unhealthy, the tribal government is unhealthy, the BIA is unhealthy, and now the Meals for the Elderly is unhealthy!”
The Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is the size of the state of Connecticut. Due to decades of abuse, corruption and colonial enforcement, Pine Ridge faces epidemic rates of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, elder abuse, and poverty. Life expectancy for Lakota men is below 40 years old. Nearly ¾ of the Lakota people have lost their language, and the traditional language is on the verge of extinction in Pine Ridge. The reservation has one of the highest rates of unsolved murders that are widely attributed to violent retaliation against those seeking an end to corruption and an assertion of Lakota sovereignty.
Cante Tenza Okolakiciye also known as the Strong Heart Warrior Society of the Lakota Nation is an ancient Lakota warrior society as well as a broad-based civil rights movement that works to protect, enforce and restore treaty rights, civil rights, and sovereignty of Native people and their communities across Turtle Island. In addition to activist efforts to protect the land and people, each year Cante Tenza collects and freely distributes shoes, winter coats, school supplies, food, and other support to Oglala Lakota elders, children and families. “Lakota Oyate” on Facebook. | www.lakotaoyate.net | @CanteTenza on Twitter