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Sicangu Community Histories Fall 2012-Pt 6

December 14, 2012
Round Dance Hall

Round Dance Hall

In regards to regulation of  illecit sexual arrangements or domestic relationships considered illegal, there was a purpose behind it.  This was so that the OIA  could positively document paternity to “facilitate the determination of heirs in probating trust properties (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 8)”.  It was also important for the distribution of rations in that those unsupported by fathers would not receive rations. The court regulated couples who were cohabitating without a legal license as well as those couple who divorced in the Indian manner, especially those who moved in with a new partner.

The trusteeship regulations stated that allottment lands were held in trust for each allottee.  That this trust was for twenty-five years.  This would mean the allottments could not be leased or sold without “the permission or supervision of the Interior Department (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 11)”.  It was thought by the administration that the Indians were incompetent wards, and thus they regulated the income from said trust lands.

Land leasing seemed lucritive to the native people.  It was a means to obtain income from lands in which a living could not be made due to the fact that cattle ranching required much more land than they were allotted.  The OIA frowned upon leasing because they felt the up-coming generation was not receiving the experiential education of farming.  Nevertheless, leasing became a major source of income in the 1910s.

In the late 1910s the new cattle industry of the reservation began to have set-backs, partly due to the allottments provided insufficient grazing land.  But, also due to the outbreak of World War I.  Native Cattle farmers were encouraged to sell their herds and lease the land, a disasterous move for long-term economics on the reservation that also kept the people dependent on the government.

Today, what is now the norm is for tribal members to lease the land for numerous years.  Usually, these leases are well below the going market price and often divided amongst many family members. With leasing, comes over-grazing, the over-use of pesticides, and a large amount of animal wastes that leach into the aquifer that lies below the reservation.

Another source of income was the per capita payments from the tribal trust funds.  The money came from land that was ceded from the 1887 Dawes Act , that was sold to white settlers.  The OIA had the descretion of when and to whom these payments would be distributed. These payments were a large portion of the income for many on the reservations during the 1910s through the Great Depression.

One point that is brought out in the book, Organizing the Lakota, is that not only did the OIA have the power to distribute funds, it also “made the flow of some of these resources from Washington possible (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 28)”. The OIA were able to petition for funding from Congress and from the Secretary of State. But, the funds they made available were not always sufficient, and many on the reservations suffered because of the lack.

Leading into the New Deal Era, both the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations worked to develop a tribal government that was uniquely their own, despite the constant monitoring of the OIA. Early in the process, the chiefs (“Wakiċuƞza” or Head Chiefs) were utilized to distribute annuities.  But, this was undermined at the agencies “by withdrawing recognition (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 38)” and not allowing the chiefs to distribute the annuities.

The 1889 Agreement itself was intended to undermine the Lakota traditonal government by all male members being allowed a vote in the decision-making process. Thus, over-riding the chiefs. This process is the “policy of privatizing Indian tribes (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 43)” and was “directly related to the growing bureaucratic presence of OIA on the reservations (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 43)”.  But, this process did not cause the chiefs to disapear, rather they took the role as spokesmen.

In 1903 the case of Lonewolf v. Hitchcock, the use of ‘plenary power’ doctrine allowed Congress to carve up the reservation (of the Kiowa) “this plenary power is not found in the Constitution, but was implied by the Court from the trusteeship doctrine (Echo-Hawk, 2012: 163)”. With this ruling, the only ‘check’ on the government was “…a bare moral obligation of Congress ‘to act in good faith’… (Echo-Hawk, 2012)(177)” and also explained “that ‘the judiciary cannot question or inquire into the motives which prompted the enactment of this legislation’ (Echo-Hawk, 2012: 177)”

Following the Lonewolf v. Hitchcock case, “Congress no longer needed Indian consent to allot reservations and sell the remaining lands to homesteaders (Echo-Hawk, 2012: 181)”. There were three consecutive Acts that opened up Lakota lands to white settlement, chopping up Lakota Territory.  These three acts were the Gregory County Act of 1904, the Tripp County Act of 1907, and the Mellette County Act of 1910. The total acreage lost was more than 11,000,000 for the Sicangu nation alone. This court case “only served to heighten the significance of the three-fourths majority rule” that became a “treaty provision which was in their view broken (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 45)” by the United States government.

The governance of  tribal matters soon became, in itself, divided.  This was due to new councils that were organized through the new constitution (in Rosebud) drafted in 1920 under the agency supervision. This constitution was in place until the IRA constitution in 1934.  It was comprised of “two classes of tribal councilmen—advisors and delegates (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 49)”.

Hence, allowing the older chiefs and also the younger members of the tribe to have fair representation. At this time, the council meetings began with prayer and “conformed broadly with parliamentary proceedings (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 50)” With the proceedings taking place in both Lakota and English, although the minutes were written in English only.  The OIA in Washington and the local agency recognized the council as representing the Lakota people, but its powers were very limited.

There were considerable divisions over the new constitution, and the manner in which the agents and OIA were manipulating its construction.  Note the words of the presiding tribal chairman[1] in Rosebud who had stated it was not workable, went contrary to the desires of those who still held allotments, and “was ‘contrary to certain old treaties (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 87)”.

There were several criticisms of its contents, which were:

  1. The community plan. It would bring about a change in precincts and combined the ‘secret ballot’ with the enfranchisement of women as voters.
  2. It was thought that too few Lakota people understood the constitution
  3. The fear of the fullblood people that the landless mixed-bloods would get in control of the tribal government –using what they knew to enhance only themselves.

December 1935 was the last Rosebud Sioux Tribal council led by what was to become known as ‘the Old Dealers”. There was a speech by the Chairman, stating the new constitution …”was ‘unworkable’” and he called for the preservation of the “… ‘heritage  of old council for the old men, which should be contined to be respected and adhered to in the future,…’ (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 91)”.  The council ended without making it clear what the old council would do thereafter, nor the relationship it would have in the New Deal council.

An example of the agency-supervised portions of the council law and order code was the ordinance regarding dance halls.  “the codes included an ordinance requiring an annual, five-dollar license for operating a dance hall (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 130)”. This ordinance made the Full Bloods especially unhappy as it was deemed to be “an attack on tribal custom (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: Ibid.)”.

The Superintendent asked the council to issue an interpretation of the ordinance, in which they could not due to the fact that “the ordinance had been drafted not by the council but by the Solicitor’s Office as part of the model law (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 130)”.  It was interpreted by the Superintendent as a means to obtain funds for the maintenance of the dance halls, not to be used for traditional dances at arbors, and other locations.

In this new council could be seen an inkling  of the type of behaviors now observed in the present daytime-frame, Lakota acting against Lakota.  In January 1938 the council passed an ordinance requiring that “medicine men and practitioners of the peyote religion …obtain a five-dollar license and to submit written descriptions of their ceremonies subject to approval of the council (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 134 [emphasis mine]”.  Prior to the council passing the ordinance both Collier and the OIA disapproved of it because it may interfere with their freedom of religion.

The new council also passed an ordinance “which prohibited meetings of individuals and groups opposed to it (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 135)”  This was targeted towards the ‘Old Dealers’ Treaty Council. The council made violations of this ordinance “punishable by a thirty-dollar fine and /or fifteen days in jail (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: Ibid.)”. It was recinded by the superintendent as a violation of free speech.

There remained a struggle between those who were called ‘Old Dealers’ or ‘treaty men’ and the new council over many aspects of the new deal [IRA] council. The ‘Old Dealers’ remained steadfast in their upholding to the twelveth article of the 1868 treaty whereby three-fourths of the adult males decided matters.  Biolsi points out that the old deal “…did not refer to the life before the reservations were established… (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: 173)” what it did refer to was “..the arrangement in which individual property owners lived on their allottments and/or received income therefrom… (Biolsi, Organizing the Lakota, 1998: Ibid.)”.


[1] A full blood who was also trust-patented

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