BISMARCK, N.D. _ Charles Murphy is not seeking re-election as Standing Rock Sioux Tribal chairman.
Murphy, 64, said he is not sure what his plans are for post-political life, but he hopes to “do some traveling.”
Murphy delivered the keynote address at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota’s third annual Tribal Consultation Conference on Thursday. In introducing him, U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon lauded Murphy’s commitment to creating a strong, independent tribal court for his reservation. Purdon said he wishes Murphy could be replicated across Indian Country.
Murphy’s current stint as tribal chairman began in 2009, and he previously served as chairman from 1983-93 and 1997-2005. He said he is proud of his efforts to work with other organizations and government entities to bring programs to the reservation in an effort to try to improve life for tribal members.
Murphy advised other tribes to be open to discussions and help from the federal government and state government. He thanked Purdon for his office’s work and said Brendan Johnson, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota, which houses much of the reservation, also has been helpful. The governors of both states visited the tribe together, and Murphy said he has been thankful for his relationships with those other entities.
“Open your doors to them,” he said.
But Murphy’s work on the issues of tribal court received the most attention during Thursday’s conference. Standing Rock’s court system often is held up as a standard for tribal courts because of its independence from the tribal council and its law-trained judges and attorneys.
The longtime leader said it’s important for tribes to have strong policies in place and follow them. Judges can’t be removed because the council disagrees with them.
“This is where tribes get in trouble,” he said.
Standing Rock has a judicial committee that deals with issues in the judicial system, keeping the tribal council separated from the judges and attorneys.
“We do not force our judges or any of our staff to do anything, because we have separation of powers,” he said.
Standing Rock still has serious problems, Murphy said. He said substance abuse issues abound, and a new jail is needed along with funding to run a juvenile center. The federal sequester hasn’t been felt too much on reservations because of historically shoestring funding, he said.
Murphy said he will advise his successor to keep the court system apart from the tribal council. He believes the system the tribe has built will remain strong and could be made
“There are always room for improvements,” Murphy said.