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Dave Flute

Banishment – Still a Terrible Idea

Chairman Dave Flute of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe with Headquarters located in Agency Village, South Dakota published a Press Release1  announcing new Tribal Code passed by Council that includes “Banishment” of Tribal Members who “contribute” to the methamphetamine problem on the Lake Traverse Reservation.  Here is an excerpt from Chairman Flute’s Press Release:


This new law will give SWST Tribal Justice Department the ability to execute sentences from six months up to three years depending on the offense, and require mandatory treatment for those that continue to manufacture, distribute, possess and ingest hard drugs.

Also, on a third offense of possession, distribution, manufacturing or ingestion Tribal members will be excluded from all Tribal properties. Third offenses carry a minimum three-year jail sentence, a fine of $15,000, mandatory one-year treatment, 320 hours of community service and exclusion from the Tribe and all Tribal property.

However, upon completion of serving time, completion of treatment, completion of community service hours and all fines paid in full the Tribal member will be given an opportunity to be accepted back into the Tribal community and allowed on Tribal properties.


Still a Terrible Idea as Public Policy

The United States has spent considerable time and money on harsh sentences, prisons, and police with zero results, other than having the highest prison population in the world. We’re Number One!

The Atlantic: A Chart That Says the War on Drugs Isn’t Working

First of all the rhetoric used like “an aggressive approach” simply mirrors that of the failed U.S. “War on Drugs”.  It’s only resulted in negative consequences to U.S. Citizens including the highest incarceration in the world, more violence, the creation of a militarized police force, and the systemic disenfranchisement of a significant number of U.S. Citizens. Furthermore, the “War on Drugs” disproportionally affects Minority populations, by giving them a criminal record that affects their ability to get educational funding, housing, and jobs – resulting in more poverty.

This isn’t an Exercise of our Sovereignty

Given the facts that harsher consequences don’t work – Why on Earth would we, the Oyate, enact a similar “harsh consequences” type of public policy? For realz, this policy once again shows that Council doesn’t understand simple concepts like “facts” and “evidence” when making decisions, unless they’re keeping their decision-making skills a secret. Simply mirroring a failed policy is not an exercise of our sovereignty as a Tribal Nation. A true exercise in sovereignty would be implementing innovative and effective solutions that support our Dakotah People – don’t just throw people away like beer cans because they have an addiction.


[The following is an excerpt from my previous article – “Is Banishment Really the Answer?” originally published in April, because it’s still relevant]


Banishment as Public Policy

Before allowing Council to vote “Yes”, the entire Oyate needs to be well-informed about the details of this policy and how it will be applied fairly to all.  Banishment may be the current fad amongst tribes battling meth and other drugs, but there is no evidence as of yet that it would be effective in curbing methamphetamine usage and abuse.  Currently the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Allakaket Tribe, and the Cheyenne River Tribe have all boarded the Banishment Train specific to meth.  Tribal Council singles out methamphetamine for banishment without including other destructive or addictive behaviors like embezzling, gambling, alcohol, nicotine use, other drug abuse, or deviant sexual behaviors like child molestation and rape.

If the Oyate wishes to go forward with banishment, we should do it in a careful, studious way to determine if it really impacts methamphetamine use.  We have many resources to do this including our own Research Office (with an established Institutional Review Board to ensure the rights of the participants), Law Enforcement, Community Health practitioners, and other clinical and ancillary providers in our community. If done properly, a research-based approach would inform all Tribal Leaders on just how effective banishment is, because right now, there is no data to support this action.

Some say banishment is just another way of disenfranchising Tribal Members.  Donna Ellis3 goes so far to state that


Banishment is another form of cultural genocide and an example of internalized oppression


Prior to leaping to banishment, in addition to current efforts, we should try evidence-based approaches to prevention, harm-reduction, treatment, and recovery. Options include increasing funding for youth activities, harm-reduction strategies like needle exchanges, and evidence-based recovery models like SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training).


 

Banishment was originally brought forth as a “Traditional Consequence” by the Elderly Board. I can’t comment on the cultural aspects because that’s not my forte, so while I respect their viewpoint, policies affecting so many people and families should be created around facts and data.  The facts are that harsh consequences don’t affect addiction rates, and Banishment has no data to support its effectiveness yet at all – I assume someone will keep stats?? Drug addiction should be a matter of healthcare and treatment options. The rez isn’t full of big-time drug dealers – those guys live in cities like Minneapolis or Albuquerque (Hey I’ve seen Breaking Bad). I don’t have any data (maybe the aforementioned Research Office does.), but I’m guessing that most “dealers” that get caught will be small-time with little effect on overall consumption rates.

And as a final note, given our recent “Vice-Chair Removal” fiasco, how can we, the Oyate, ensure that the Code is enacted fairly and equally?  Our Council, Tribal Attorneys and Court Systems have already proven themselves incapable of gathering and presenting factual evidence, and reviewing that evidence to hand down a fair and impartial judgment. Do you really think they are capable of enacting Banishment in a fair and equal manner?


SOURCE CITATION(S):

Flute, “Press Release”, Sota Iya Ye Yapi, 9 August 2017, Accessed on 7 August 2017. [Time travel is just one of my many skills.]

“World Prison Populations”, BBC News.  Accessed on 7 August 2017.

Ellis, “The High Cost of Tribal Banishment”, Indian Country Today, 7 October 2014.  Accessed on 25 April 2017.

 

Is Banishment Really The Answer

Chairman Flute advocates “Banishment” as a traditional way to tackle the use and abuse of methamphetamine on the Lake Traverse Reservation.  In the 26 April 2017 edition of The Chairman’s Corner1, he proposes three (3) levels of banishment with penalties ranging from banishment from “all Tribal property” for first time offenders, all the way to a 25-year-to-life banishment for third offenses. He fails to state clearly which offenses would count for his three strike policies, although the article begins with “increasing penalties for those that continue to manufacture meth and smoke meth in our community.”  There is a big difference between smoking meth to manufacturing meth. Furthermore, he offers no evidence to support that banishment will decrease meth use and abuse.

Banishment as Public Policy

Before allowing Council to vote “Yes”, the entire Oyate needs to be well-informed about the details of this policy and how it will be applied fairly to all.  Banishment may be the current fad amongst tribes battling meth and other drugs, but there is no evidence as of yet that it would be effective in curbing methamphetamine usage and abuse.  Currently the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Allakaket Tribe, and the Cheyenne River Tribe have all boarded the Banishment Train specific to meth.  Chairman Flute singles out methamphetamine for banishment without including other destructive or addictive behaviors like embezzling, gambling, alcohol, nicotine use, other drug abuse, or deviant sexual behaviors like child molestation and rape.

If the Oyate wishes to go forward with banishment, we should do it in a careful, studious way to determine if it really impacts methamphetamine use.  We have many resources to do this including our own Research Office (with an established Institutional Review Board to ensure the rights of the participants), Law Enforcement, Community Health practitioners, and other clinical and ancillary providers in our community. If done properly, a research-based approach would inform all Tribal Leaders on just how effective banishment is, because right now, there is no data to support this action.

Some say banishment is just another way of disenfranchising Tribal Members.  Donna Ellis2 goes so far to state that

Banishment is another form of cultural genocide and an example of internalized oppression

Prior to leaping to banishment, in addition to current efforts, we should try evidence-based approaches to prevention, harm-reduction, treatment, and recovery. Options include increasing funding for youth activities, harm-reduction strategies like needle exchanges, and evidence-based recovery models like SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training).

Chairman Flute touts banishment as “Traditional”, but is stripping Tribal Members of access to their identity and culture really the Dakotah Way?


SOURCE CITATION(S):

Flute, “Chairman’s Corner – Updating the Oyate”, Sota Iya Ye Yapi, 26 April 2017, Accessed on 25 April 2017. [Time travel is just one of my many skills.]

Ellis, “The High Cost of Tribal Banishment”, Indian Country Today, 7 October 2014.  Accessed on 25 April 2017.

IMAGE CREDITS:
Meth Paraphernalia: https://www.pinterest.com/juliaogles99/speed/?lp=true, Accessed 25 April 2017
Policy Stages: http://www.giarts.org/article/tools-support-public-policy-grantmaking, Accessed 25 April 2017

Official Charges Against Vice-Chair

SWO Politics by

The Official Charges PLUS Two Bonus Charges

.

ADDITIONAL CHARGES SERVED LATER

Click VCDW_Removal_Charges_10Mar2017 to review the entire 78-page document including “exhibits”.  I received this copy a while back but was asked not to post them because (a) Council had not seen them yet (how did they vote to suspend/remove then, is what I wonder), and (b) Council had allegedly told the Vice-Chair that he is not allowed to talk about his charges to the media including Social Media (Facebook) – essentially a gag-order on him.

No Authority to Act

Also below is an analysis by Michael Roberts, MBA, JD, of the District Motions that Council is basing their authority. There is no unified call for Removal, and no petitions for Removal brought forth.  So why is Council disrespecting the “Will of the People” (by ignoring the election votes) and doing this?

Credit: Michael Roberts

 

The Vice-Chair Responds with Allegations of Chairman Flute Wrongdoing

Suspended Vice-Chair Donovan White published the following Open Letter to the Oyate in the March 15, 2017 edition of the Sota. The letter is well-written, well-reasoned, and provides details to support their counter-claim (although check #s and accounts drawn from would have been nice.

 

Here is a spreadsheet of all the Motions related to the project:

Tribal Police served additional charges, including #9, as a consequence of his communication with the Oyate:

Uhhh, what?  Did Council read a different Open Letter?  This doesn’t make me question the Integrity of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate.  It does make me question the integrity of our Chairman and the reading and comprehension skills of Lead Attorney Deb Flute (sister to Chairman Dave Flute, and presumedly the author – or at the very least, a reviewer – of the charges), because this doesn’t make sense.  First of all, there are zero allegations or implications in the Open Letter that “three of the homeowners” committed wrong-doing.  In fact, the letter states that the homeowners will have to pay back the Tribe those funds (with interest) spent by Chairman Flute – in essence the three homeowners are victims.

This seems an amateur attempt of grasping at any straw to remove the VC because it clearly has no basis in fact and indeed it provides no facts absolving the Chairman – for example they could have provided Motions by Council that do authorize the Chairman’s expenditures thus proving the Open Letter false.  That would have been simple to do… if they could.

In reviewing all the charges, they all seem petty and lack proof beyond a reasonable doubt – nothing to warrant a Removal.  So the question remains – What is the real motivation behind this removal so early in the term?  Are these payments just the tip of an iceberg?

Lack of Transparency and Consequences

Our elected leaders had plenty of time to do the right thing and explain their actions, yet they choose to keep the Oyate in the dark. If we are going to move forward then we all need to be informed of the basics at least.  In the Sota the reason given for not informing the Public was to protect the Vice-Chair’s “right to due process.”. That statement, my friends is utter bullshit.  They threw “due process” out the window a long time ago and are now violating ALL OF OUR rights.

We are a NATION.  Removing a rightfully elected Executive is a big decision, and we, the voters who put him in office deserve to be informed.  These removals disrupt and destabilize the functioning of our government, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you better believe this turmoil is noticed by other entities – other Tribal Nations, federal government, state government, banks, etc.  It tells the world that the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate can’t handle its affairs, and makes them all wary of doing business with us, affecting services offered, credit-worthiness, and economic development.

So what do we have?

  • no authority for this action in the first place.
  • Retaliation and a de facto gag order on Vice-Chair Donovan White
  • Charges with no basis in provable fact.
  • Secrecy by refusing to release the charges to the Oyate, so we remain in the dark while this is railroaded through. How disrespectful.

So what can we do?  Ummm…??  Suggestions?

REMOVAL HEARING ON APRIL 3, AT 10:00 AM, BUT I GUARANTEE IT WILL BE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC based on past experience.

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