Corruption Oglala Sioux Tribe Whistleblower exposes!

About Looking Back Woman-Suzanne Dupree

Tetuwan Lakota scholar, educator, historian, Sun Dance participant, Cannunpa carrier, cultural & spiritual preservationist, journalist-writer and fraud investigator.
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One Response to Corruption Oglala Sioux Tribe Whistleblower exposes!

  1. LINKS

    October 7, 2016 Latest:
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    2016-10-05 / Top News Print article Print
    OST treasurer brings charges
    Whistleblower uncovers racketeering, conspiracy to cover-up wrongdoing and double dipping
    By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
    Native Sun News Today Editor
    PART 1

    PINE RIDGE RESERVATION –– Nineteen months ago in 2015 when Melanie Two Eagle Black Bull took the job as treasurer for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, she took an oath to protect the tribe from wrongdoing and to provide transparency.

    Black Bull said she came to Native Sun News Today as a whistleblower because the other reservation newspaper Lakota Country Times receives money from the tribe as their official newspaper and is not allowed to publish negative stories that reflect badly on the tribe.

    A month into her job, Black Bull, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from the Porcupine District, said she thought she was going to have a heart attack after looking at the tribe’s debt and their financial practices.

    “It scared the hell out of me, I almost quit. It was scary to see how they functioned and how they ran the tribe and how all of this wrongdoing has been over looked,” she said.

    But Black Bull, who has an Associate’s Degree in General Business, a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Lakota Leadership, took on the challenge and this year’s clean audit report reflects her expertise in finance.

    “In 2016 we had no audit findings for the first time in the history of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The first time in the history of the tribe there is transparency and accountability and our audits reflect that,” she said.

    But getting there hasn’t been easy because from the get go she said she was coerced by some of the leadership of the tribe to “do things their way,” and not to “rock the boat.”

    Before becoming treasurer Black Bull said she worked for 10 years as a coordinator in the OST Executive Directors office and became quite familiar with routine business practices of the tribe.

    “Having been there for that long – you get tired of seeing the corruption. You get tired of seeing different families benefiting over the tribal population,” she said. “You saw people go to work drunk and no big deal; you saw people high on coke and it’s no big deal. They call the tribe the ‘White House’ and when there are going to be drug tests, everybody takes off.”

    Black Bull referred to the administration of the tribe as the “Good Ol’ Boys System” and believes that some of the leadership have been there for too long, “There is so much cronyism and the tribe is run like the mafia or the mob.”

    She laments that some tribal leaders spend much of their time micromanaging tribal personnel and other mediocre issues when she believes they should be taking care of bigger problems such as housing, economic development, health care, water and land issues as well as crime.

    “When I ran – I wanted to make a difference,” she reflects. “But after I got in, I saw firsthand how it really works. There are huge families that are related throughout the system. I feel bad because we tell our children to get educated; get a degree and come back and help your tribe and they’re never given equal opportunity to apply. Council pushes to hire individuals that they have selected. They basically go to the executive director and tell him to hold positions for their people.”

    Black Bull said she came to dread going before the OST Finance Committee and felt like she had to walk on eggshells when dealing with issues that needed their attention and was told to turn the other way when she saw discrepancies with tribal policy or violations the of the tribal constitution.

    “I have been threatened by counsel every month ever since I got in. I’ve always been reminded by council ‘I could be that one vote’ (that could have her terminated). I’ve been reminded to back off from any personnel issues and I will be okay,” she said and that she has also been warned to back off doing a forensic audit or she would be removed.

    But Black Bull said she did not heed their warnings and set out to do the job she was hired to do knowing she could be held liable if she didn’t. She said she spent hours and hours going over program budgets and made it a policy to hold each program responsible for their monthly reconciliation reports.

    In doing her job she has also uncovered numerous incidents of racketeering, cover-ups of wrongdoing, ghost employees, double dipping and tampering with tribal elections.

    One incident she shared was the recent topic of an OST council meeting wherein a tribal council member was found guilty of double-dipping and suspended.

    “Jackie Siers informed me that her constituent was getting a check at the Tribal Chairman’s Health Board for attending that same meeting with her. On four occasions Sonya Little Hawk Weston received a TA check from Tribal Chairman’s Health Board and a TA from tribe,” Black Bull said. (Editors note: After verifing her paperwork Black Bull confirmed that it was the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association not the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board)

    “I filed a complaint and I took it to the council and she got suspended. But whenever it came to (prosecution) she resigned. They never charged her but they referred it over to the proper authorities,” she said. “Now she is running again.”

    “Many of these tribal charters provide our legislators who sit on those boards with a stipend and mileage and sometimes a TA. But they have been doing it for years and years. I never knew that it was happening,” she said. “This issue was brought up to our travel clerk, she was like, ‘They never had me follow up on anything like that. I didn’t know.’ When you are the treasurer of the tribe it is your responsibility to follow up when you find out things like this.”

    Little Hawk Weston is not the only person involved in the controversial practice she said. While investigating the report about Little Hawk Weston, Black Bull said she went to the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association and requested paper work to support the claim. In doing so, it was revealed that President John Yellow Bird Steele, James Red Willow as well as other council members were also involved, she said.

    After uncovering the double dipping scandal Black Bull said she was threatened, shoved and her mother’s brake lines were cut, “There is no protection for whistle blowers.”

    “It is council’s responsibility to protect whistle-blowers. In our policy it is just one or two sentences. Is it my responsibility or the attorney general responsibility? But when people uncover stuff like this they are removed,” she said.

    “I even had President John Yellow Bird Steel tell me, ‘You better behave. No one is going to jail under my watch. Bring it to a committee and we will deal with it,’” she said. Black Bull questions whether or not Steele has the authority to determine who does and doesn’t get prosecuted. “Even some tribal council members threatened me and pointed their finger at me and stated they wanted to decide what gets sent to OIG and BIA, in order to cover-up wrongdoing. ‘You do what we tell you to do,’” they told her.

    She has since turned the information over to the Attorney General’s office for further investigation involving the current year and prior years, “I’m obligated to report it to the OIG, (Office of Inspector General) and Randy Seiler the Attorney General. Otherwise I could be held accountable.”

    Black Bull said she commends council members Ellen Fills the Pipe, Ron Duke, Don Fire Thunder, Chauncey Wilson, Austin Watkins, Pat Ross, Mike Her Many Horses, Blaine Little Thunder, CJ Clifford and James Cross.

    “They are the ones that want to correct corruption and support my efforts to hold people accountable. These council members have been honest and backed me up.”

    Part II next week

    (Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at

    (Editor’s note: There is much more to this story and it is still developing so we have decided to break it into a two-part series. Be sure to read Part II next week.)

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