35 years and counting

35 years and counting

By Richie Richards Native Sun News Staff Writer SIOUX FALLS –– The law does not forgive a person who is in a blackout during the commitment of a crime in South Dakota, especially when the victim is viciously beaten to death. In 1983, George Blue Bird, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, beat a retired rancher, Herb Tech (83) to death in his home in Martin. After a long day of drinking in Martin, Blue Bird and his mother Lenora had gone to Herb Tech’s home. This is where mother and son’s version of the events of that fateful evening separate. Blue Bird claims he was struck by Tech with a wooden object when asked to leave his home and in his retaliation, although he claimed not to remember, is when Tech died during the fight that ensued. Originally charged along with Blue Bird, his mother Lenora, taking a plea deal, testified against her son. She claimed she witnessed her son punch and beat Tech until he lay lifeless. And that she returned with her son to check on Tech, when they noticed he was in fact dead, Blue Bird attempted to burn down the home to hide the evidence. The autopsy showed that Tech died of “blunt force trauma” to his head, chest and abdomen. Blue Bird was 24 at the time of his arrest. In an interview with Native Sun News in June, Blue Bird discussed his life as a young adult, free man. “I partied a lot. I used to like to do heroin and other drugs. I drank a lot too,” he said....
Problems of liberty and justice on the Plains

Problems of liberty and justice on the Plains

Foggy Mount Rushmore: Leaders and residents alike believe the cycle of crime, accusations and prison time is costing them yet another generation of Native Americans. And they believe no one has noticed, including the candidates running for president of the United States. The problem in Todd County, South Dakota, is that too many of their young men end up behind bars. There are many well-documented underlying factors leading to crime and imprisonment, that minorities have higher poverty rates than whites. The broken trailer windows and cars in disrepair on the Rosebud Sioux reservation give a clue that the lack of an economy is inextricably woven into the culture and society of the area. The United States currently leads the world in incarcerations, both in sheer number and in rate. And those numbers have been going up. The number of people in U.S. prisons nearly doubled in the 1990s, according to the Census Bureau. It has continued to go up, though by less sharp of an increase, in the past decade. It’s gone up more than 2½ times in South Dakota in that time. “I think every family on this reservation has (a family member) in prison. It’s beginning to be normal now, when people used to be ashamed of it.” –Rose Bear Robe “Tribal leaders have been raising this concern of the use of over-incarceration,” said John Dossett, general counsel to the National Congress of American Indians. “They really want to find other solutions to what is actually social dysfunction.” At an average cost for all prisons state and federal, of $30,000 per inmate per year, according to data...