Every Saturday, Buffalo Post features stories from Native Sun News, published in Rapid City, S.D.
By Randall Howell
Native Sun News Correspondent
PINE RIDGE –– A candidate for the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Pine Ridge District representative continues to await a response to a complaint he has filed with the tribe’s Election Commission.
Bruce Whalen, a first-time candidate for tribal council representative in Pine Ridge District, said he filed his complaint early last week.
The complaint was filed by Whalen in connection with his inability to get a copy of the commission’s meeting minutes wherein it reportedly altered the candidate filing frame because several “chose by their own free will” to go off-reservation to get the drug tests – decisions that several candidates said would delay paperwork establishing
“They are changing the rules … changing horses in mid-stream, changing the rules in the middle of the game,” Whalen told Native Sun News. “Not only did they change the rules, but also they won’t provide me with the minutes of the meeting where it happened.”
Meanwhile, Whalen has charged the commission and the Tribal Council with violating its own open-meeting rules and then meeting to extend the filing deadline to accommodate candidates who went off-reservation for those drug tests. Several candidates reportedly complained that because they did so they could not meet the filing time frame.
Hence, the Election Commission apparently adjusted the time frame to meet the filing needs of those candidates, contends Whalen.
The tribe’s top election commissioner – Francis Pumpkin Seed – conducted the ballot positioning session for the tribe late Wednesday but did not supply minutes of the time-frame-change meeting, though Whalen was present.
After the candidate names were positioned for the ballot, Pumpkin Seed left without acknowledging that he had promised to provide Whalen with a response to his request.
When that happened, Whalen said he initiated several contacts with the Election Commission staff and in each visit he said he was turned away with reasons that ranged from “the commission’s decision is locked in a cabinet next door and cannot be retrieved without commissioner approval” to “the decision cannot be released without all three commissioners present.”
An articulate candidate, Whalen made no secret of his displeasure with “the stalling tactics” of the Election Commission, including the fact that appealing to the tribal court system was something of a dead-end because his late-Friday request also proved fruitless.
“I was told that the judges likely would be out” during the first part of this week – something that pushes any likelihood of a court review to Thursday, Sept. 30 – the last day of the month. The primary election is Tuesday, Oct. 5, which gives the court only three days to review the case. Two days of the five-day window are weekend days.
Meanwhile, Whalen said he has been “watched” by an enforcement officer during his several trips to the Election Commission’s office.
“They have called to report my whereabouts and whether I’m on my own time when I go to the commission’s office, or if I’m doing it on work time,” said Whalen, who works in the tribe’s court system. “I’m always on my own time when I go to that office. Sometimes it’s on my lunch break. Sometimes I take it from my earned vacation time. I’m no fool. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they fire me anyway.”
Frustrated by the Election Commission’s stalling tactics, Whalen said that what he’s seen and experienced is “not the open government that we were promised.”
Meanwhile, at press time, Whalen still had not received a response to his complaint, nor has Pumpkin Seed provided him with the commission’s meeting minutes.
Both Pumpkin Seed and Whalen were within a few feet of each other during Wednesday’s ballot positioning session.
After that session ended, a first-time candidate for vice president also voiced her concern about the way Whalen has been treated.
Vice presidential candidate Phyllis Wilcox of Wanblee was drawn for the second position on the reservation-wide ballot. She said her candidacy for vice president is the result of elders urging her to run.
“I once had hope and faith in our tribal government,” said Wilcox, who is a lay attorney on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. “I hope to make a change.”
Indicating that change comes through the ballot box, Wilcox said that there are few new faces running for office – she and Whalen being among the limited number of first-time candidates.
Vice president and president candidates run on a reservation-wide ballot, while tribal council candidates face only district voters. Wilcox said she already is campaigning beyond her Wanblee district and that when she wins, that campaign will continue.
Polls will open across the reservation at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 5, for the tribe’s primary election. They will close at 7 p.m. that day. Winners will be on the ballot for the tribe’s general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Winners of the general election will take their oaths of office in December.
Already a strong community leader in her own district and beyond, Wilcox said that she would pattern her two-year term in office after her leadership heroes: Enos Poor Bear Sr., Elijah Whirlwind Horse and Wilbur Between Lodge.
Here is the Election Commission’s official candidate’s list with the correct ballot positioning:
President candidates – Donald Steele Jr., Harold Salway, Elvyn Doug Bissonette, Denver American Horse, Theresa Two Bulls, John Yellow Bird Steele, Darla Black, Lloyd Goings, Garfield Steele and William “Shorty” Brewer.
Vice president candidates – Henry Cleone Whalen, Phyllis Wilcox, Thomas Poor Bear, Melanie Two Eagle and Myron Pourier.
Oglala District representative candidates – Jessie Ten Fingers, Valerie Janis, Goldie Starr, Floyd Brings Plenty, Barbara Dull Knife, Paul Little, Mary R. Belt, Wendell Youngmen Jr., Deborah J. Rooks-Cook and Wayne Weston.
Wakpamni District representative candidates – Tom Conroy, Ricky Gray Grass, Walt Big Crow, Debbie Blue Bird, Sonia Little Hawk Weston, Arlene Catches the Enemy and Maxine Lakota.
Pine Ridge Village District representative candidates – Gerald Big Crow, Bruce Whalen, Ella “John” Carlow, Irving “Irv” Provost, Pamela Giago, John Mousseau, Carole Crazy Thunder O’Rourke, Robin Tapio and Garry Janis.
Wounded Knee District representative candidates – Kathy Janis, Kevin Yellow Bird Steele, Eugenio White Hawk, Wilma Thin Elk and Justin Pourier.
Porcupine District representative candidates – Phillip Good Crow, Anthony Wounded Head Sr., David Pourier, Bernard White Face, Troy “Scott” Weston, Beverly A. Tuttle and A. Dominic Running Hawk.
Medicine Root District representative candidates – Joseph Rosales, Austin Watkins Sr., James “Toby” Big Boy, Anne Apple, Juanita Scherich and Stanley Little White Man.
Eagle Nest District representative candidates – Ruth Brown, Billy Amiotte, Jim Meeks, Sylvester Two Bulls, Floyd Wilcox, Marvis Bad Cob and Marian White Mouse.
Pass Creek District representative candidates – Lydia Bear Killer, James Cross and Elaine Martinez.
LaCreek District representative candidates – Donn Fire Thunder, Craig Dillon, Kimmy Clausen, Cora White Horse and Tracy Jones-Swallow.
Marwin Smith is on the reservation-wide primary election ballot as a candidate for chief judge.
Contact Randall Howell at: email@example.com