A tribal court injunction will prevent members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from voting on seven proposed constitutional amendments in Wednesday’s election.
Tribal members will go to segment polls starting at 8 a.m. to weigh in on tribal council positions, from tribal chairman to segment representatives. However, a series of proposed revisions to the constitution will not be included on a newly printed ballot.
Tribal court judge Michael Swallow ordered the injunction Friday, finding that the tribal council had failed to follow the tribal custom and tradition of using “eyapahas,” who would go through villages and spread important news.
Swallow found that even though the tribal council had properly placed the constitutional revisions on the ballot with a three-fourths quorum of the council earlier this month, it had failed to follow a preamble to its constitution, namely: “The tribe shall as a matter of right recognize the traditional laws and customs of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”
The judge said tribal member Verna Bailey and other elders in the courtrooms agreed it is customary and traditional for people to be informed and consulted on matters of great concern.
“Failure to follow customs and traditions destroys who we are as a people …causes irreparable harm and destroys who we are,” the judge wrote.
Tribal chairman Dave Archambault II said he thought the amendments had merit and were the result of a lot of work. He said the tribal council wouldn’t appeal the injunction because of the timing so close to the election.
“It will be up to the upcoming council whether to bring it back around and work on it, or continue to accept the judge’s ruling,” Archambault said.
The proposed changes were recommended by a Constitution Reform Committee that was authorized to meet from September 2015 to September 2016.
Among constitutional revisions that were removed was one to make the tribe’s constitution gender neutral and another to refer to individuals as tribal citizens rather than tribal members. A third proposed amendment changed how elections for constitutional amendments could be called by requiring signature of 50 percent of those who voted in the previous election for chairman, replacing a less clear requirement of 20 percent of qualified voters. It also would have required a two-thirds, rather than simple majority, of voters to approve constitutional changes.
Other amendments would have increased maximum court penalties from one to three years’ imprisonment and fines from $5,000 to up to a maximum of $15,000. Another amendment would have made a tribal council candidate ineligible if he or she was dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces or been found guilty by the tribal council of misconduct in tribal affairs. Yet another would have given the tribal council more flexibility in where it could deposit tribal funds by removing a requirement to deposit funds only in a state or national bank.
Lastly, a revision would have allowed the tribal council to continue four-year reappointments of tribal judges rather than open the position for election at the end of the term.
The request for an injunction was filed by Chase Iron Eyes, former Congressional candidate, on behalf of the Long Soldier (Fort Yates) segment, along with the Cannon Ball and Porcupine segments.