A faction of members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe wants the tribal council to distribute a $48.9 million settlement to all tribal members on a per capita basis.
The group called Active Citizens for Tribal Truth of Bismarck and Mandan protested Monday morning outside Bismarck’s William L. Guy Federal Building and plan to take their protests to Fort Yates Tuesday, where the tribal council is set to decide what to do with a settlement over federal mismanagement of tribal resources.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe was one of 41 tribes to receive money in a settlement of a lawsuits earlier this year against the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Treasury. The lawsuits had alleged the federal government had mismanaged monetary assets and natural resources held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the tribes. Standing Rock received $48.9 million of the $1.023 billion involved in the settlement.
The protesters outside the courthouse Monday morning mostly were enrolled members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who live off the reservation. Cheryl Kary, acting as spokeswoman for the group, said the tribe uses the number of enrolled members, whether or not they live on the reservation, to apply for federal funds or grants.
However, she said, the tribe does not offer services to non-resident members, and they do not get to vote in tribal elections. Kary and other protesters said they would live on the reservation if there were homes or jobs there.
“The off-reservation people shouldn’t be forgotten just because they don’t live there,” said Velma Little Eagle, a ACTT member living in Minneapolis.
Kary said the system of government on the reservation is broken, with no separation of powers to maintain checks and balances. She and other protesters worry that the settlement money will not help anyone out, on the reservation or off. They believe the money would be better off in the hands of tribal members.
“Right now, we’re afraid that $48.9 million is going to come and go with nothing to show for it,” she said.
She said the purpose of the protest was to ask federal agencies to intervene in the situation. She said ACTT members have started a letter-writing campaign, in which they have asked for assistance from the North Dakota and South Dakota congressional delegations as well as Bureau of Indian Affairs officials.
A message left at Chairman Charles Murphy’s office Monday afternoon was not returned.