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Flute’s Follies vs Servant Leadership

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Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world

The Servant Leader philosophy fits in very well with traditional Dakotah Values. This kind of Leadership isn’t about gathering as much wealth to a privileged few.  Servant Leaders create systems and develop practices that benefit as many people as possible.  They coach others, and ensure their employees have the tools and skills needed to succeed.

This is the kind of Leadership that is badly needed at the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and is why the Removal of Vice-Chair Donovan White and the forced Resignation of Secretary Crystal Heminger can be viewed as failures of Chairman Flute’s Leadership style. Worst, he fails the entire Oyate of voters who elected White and Heminger.


It’s not realistic to expect newly elected officials to know everything their is about their positions. It takes any new employee about 100 days to really understand everything that’s going on.  During that time, there should be an Orientation process, where staff learns about the policies and procedures. Mistakes will be made, but good leaders make allowances for this, and coach new staff through this phase.

Basic IT Tools

The Information Technology Department under Chairman Flute seemed to deliberately prevent the Vice-Chairman’s staff from doing their Constitutional duties. They failed to provide basic tools like computers, access to data/information, and even phones. Then the Vice-Chair’s office was blamed for finding work-arounds. Worst of all, the IT department “wiped clean” the computers that belonged to previous Vice-Chair staff. (See previous article:  An IT Breach or IT Failure?)

Flute’s Follies?

Chairman Flute’s Administration seems to be shaping up to be the worst in Tribal history – with these removals/resignations of elected officials costing upwards of $75,000 each, the loss of a $713,000 Barker Hill grant, the  purchases of homes at twice their value, and a multi-million dollar grocery store.  And that’s just in his first year! Aye-yi-yi!


Keep Reading

SWO Secretary Crystal Heminger Resigns

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Secretary Crystal Heminger resigned her elected position effective December 8, 2017. No official statement has been made as to why, although the geyapi is that Chairman Flute had a number of charges as basis for Removal if she didn’t resign. Although the charges don’t matter <cough> JUMP DRIVE<cough>, it would have been nice to see what lunacy the Chairman came up with as a basis for Removal.

Whatever the reason for her resignation, the loss of two Executives – the Vice-Chair and the Secretary – in less than a year after the election, points to a serious lack of Leadership by Chairman Dave Flute. These two executives were voted in by the Oyate via General Election, and we expect the Chairman to work well with the team he’s given.

Jeez, this is getting downright embarrassing. We’re a Nation, not a junior high school. While this is a “Resignation”, and not a “Removal”, this is the third Executive Loss that Chairman Flute has been involved in – Chairman Bruce Renville (Nov 2015), Vice-Chair White (March 2017), and now Secretary Heminger.

Weird, huh?

Stay tuned as the story unfolds.

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?


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.


Build a Data Center

I propose that the SWO build a Data Center utilizing the settlement funds we recently received.

What is a Data Center?

  • A data center is a physical building that is connected to the Internet.
  • Inside the data center are multiple computer servers and other equipment needed to store, manage and process massive amounts of data.
  • The owner of the building (the SWO) then leases storage space to clients who need space to store their data.
  • Examples of clients could be large corporations like Microsoft, Amazon or Facebook; government entities like the State of South Dakota or federal agencies; and any other type of business or organization that will pay for secure, reliable storage that allows them to access their data 24/7.

It’s a cool concept, but complex. I will continue to write about the Digital Universe – including more about data centers, the future of digital data (massive growth projected by 2020 driven by the “Internet of Things”), components like hardware and software. There are a lot of things to consider and think about, but it would definitely put the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate at the forefront of technology and economic development.

We can’t afford to let the future pass us by, and the Future is Digital.


YouTube Video – less than 5 minutes long!



I found a cartoonist that works at a data center.  Check it out here: Kip & Gary.




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SWO Tribal Vice-Chair Donovan White suspended pending Removal by a Chairman Flute-led Tribal Council

What heinous misdeed occurred to warrant such a drastic stomping on the Will of the Oyate? A staffer used a $3 flashdrive to analyze non-confidential budget information.


This solid middle finger to the voters just makes one wonder what Chairman Flute et al. are so desperate to hide. Chairman Flute’s own top political appointee, has a half-million dollar judgment against him from a settlement agreement where he allegedly “misused” Tribal funds. Another Tribal Member, twice-indicted for embezzlement, has been bragging about this removal for weeks (before a month of office was even complete!). Who’s really pulling the strings?

Our government will never serve the Entire Oyate as long as the honest, progressive Leaders (Like Donovan and former Chairman Bruce Renville,) elected by the Oyate are removed for such foolishness.

A $3 flashdrive. A poorly written IT Policy. A disgruntled employee stirring the political pot. Alleged monetary kickbacks, promised board appointments, housing purchases without following policy, Tribal attorneys (Senior Tribal Attorney is the Chairman’s sister) who twist the words of Policy and the Constitution, and a $30,000,000 loan done in secret and concealed from the People.

Is this what the Oyate wanted when they elected Donovan to bring accountability and transparency to the Tribe’s Finances?

Stay tuned to www.hotokeca.com for further updates and documents.

A Real Challenge – Policy That Makes Sense

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I didn’t think the “Flash-Drive Controversy” would go this far, but word has it that the Old Agency District (or just 7 people) voted to remove the Vice-Chairman claiming he “misused a flash drive” according to SWO Policy.  Now that we’ve all gotten beyond our WTF moment, let’s review the policy.  SWO’s Computer Use Policy starts on page 77.

2015 SWO Personnel Policies with Revisions

If you can explain to me how anything within this Computer Use policy, Chapter XIII, applies to a flash drive, I will buy you lunch, hot and fresh – a $8.99 value!  Stay tuned and I will post my analysis of this Chapter as well.

An IT Breach or an IT Failure?

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As I was listening to the District Chairman’s Association, I was struck by how many came in to “Investigate the Vice-Chair’s Office and/or Political Appointees for an IT Breach of confidential information.”  Let’s review what happened.

Apparently, the Vice-Chairman and/or his political appointees wanted to review their budget.  Each office has the right to do that, and furthermore, since the Vice-Chairman’s office oversees all budgets, he has the Constitutional duty to examine all budgets.  They ran into a problem however, because the Information Technology (IT) Department had not yet set them up with computers and the equipment they needed to complete their job duties.  This is an failure on the IT Department, as they had plenty of notice that new persons would be coming on board.  The election was held in November 2016, after all, so that’s two months lead time.

I’m told they spoke with IT and IT gave them a portable jumpdrive to transfer documents to.  The budget specialist then gave them the budget matrix on that drive.  Sounds like a simple solution.

I imagine the political bruhaha started about now.


  1. The Vice-Chairman acted within his authority.  It is the duty of the Vice-Chairman to review and administer the financial affairs of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate.  See the By-laws of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Article I – Duties of Officials, Section 3. Vice-Chairman, (f) The Vice-Chairman shall oversee all financial and business matters of the Tribe.
  2. Budgets are not confidential.  Tribal Governement spends our money and we have the right to know how our government spends it.  The budgets are held in a simple Excel spreadsheet with no security whatsoever and are freely shared.  In fact, current Chairman Dave Flute has shared the budget outside of the tribal email system in the past under the same policies in effect now, so I am not sure why anyone would fault the current Vice-Chairman for simply having the file.

I really don’t see the issue with the Vice-Chairman and his political appointees.  If there was a failure of duty, it would fall on the IT Department for not having the Vice-Chairman’s office set up with the equipment they needed to carry out their elected duties.


SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS!!  I’ve heard that people were concerned about the Social Security Numbers within that file.  Oh?  Why would that be?  Social Security numbers should be confidential information and held only by the HR Department.  Then my question is “Why would the budget specialist have social security numbers on her computer?”  Wouldn’t that be a violation of confidentiality on her part then?  Since she was installed with the previous Vice-Chairman, was she directed to keep SSNs on file or did she keep them at her own discretion?  For what purpose?

CHAIN OF COMMAND!!  The Vice-Chairman did follow the chain of command.  As previously established, he has the right to review budgets, he directed his political appointees to begin the process, and the Budget Office reports directly to the Vice-Chairman.

If there must be a call for an “Investigation”, logically the investigation should look at these two departments:

  • Budget Office and Budget Specialists – why do they have SSNs in their files?  For what purpose?  Since this was the previous administration, it would involve looking not only at one remaining budget specialist, but the other budget specialist, the political appointees – Laura Williams (currently working as Chairman Flute’s political appointee) and Viva DuBois, and the previous Vice-Chairman Garryl Rousseau.
  • IT Department – Why didn’t they have the Vice-Chair’s office set up and ready to go when they took office? Why did it take an entire week to accomplish?  The Information Technology department currently reports to Chairman Flute, although, up until December 2016, they reported to previous Vice-Chairman Garryl Rousseau.
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