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....
Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor, With the much needed attention in the media on how the State of South Dakota violates the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), I would to remind readers how vital this struggle is to our tribes and future generations. Recently, a summit took place in Rapid City, SD, that shed light on this important issue. Judge William A. Throne conducted a presentation that gave us greater insights and statistics. Thorne’s presentation showed with 12 month’s of a study that was conducted: 54.4% of children were diagnosed with a mental disorder. 25.2% of that number was Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PSTD). That is twice the number of Vietnam Veterans. 16.8% are on public assistance. 33.2% live below the poverty line. 33% have no health insurance. I would like to offer readers another statistic that was not touched on, probably for political reasons: South Dakota houses 29% of Native American prisoners, which is the highest percentage of Native Americans incarcerated in the USA. Many readers need to know that the majority of them currently incarcerated were processed through abusive adoption homes, through discriminatory juvenile correctional facilities, and finally onto South Dakota’s prison system, Even here, the abuse continues through religious violations, discrimination, lack of educational opportunities. When I hear these stories and when I experience them firsthand, I think about our grandparents and their abusive experiences in Indian Boarding Schools. I wonder how much culture, language, and knowledge of our ancestors had been lost in these places? How much has been lost in Lakota, Dakota and Nakota behind these walls? Maybe if this summit took place a decade ago, would...
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...