(Neb)-BIA Rejects Petition For Vote On OST Constitutional Amendments
PINE RIDGE, S.D. - The Bureau of Indian Affairs has ruled that a petition to reform the Oglala Sioux tribal constitution did not have enough signatures to be sent to tribal members for a vote.
The petition called for a single yes or no vote on a package of 50 constitutional amendments.
A task force that spent more than two years organizing and educating the public about the reform effort collected 3,564 valid signatures, but the BIA says they needed 4,094. The OST constitution has been amended 4 times since its adoption in 1936, the change coming in 2008.
Task force and tribal council member Nakina Mills told the Rapid City Journal that the petition drive began in April after the council tabled a request to send the 50 amendments individually to tribal voters, and referred the measure to its Law and Order Committee.
The OST constitution says the BIA must hold an election on proposed amendments if 1/3 of qualified voters - enrolled members who are 18 years or older who have lived on the reservation for at least one year - sign a petition.
The task force submitted a petition May 8 with 4,856 signatures, but the BIA rejected 1,292 of them as invalid. The agency ruled 633 were multiple signatures by individuals while 354 were on the eligible voter list and couldn't be verified by the tribe.
Another 181 names or addresses couldn't be ready, 78 were rejected because the petition sheet lacked a notary seal or the petition circulator's name, 41 signers didn't live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and 5 weren't old enough to sign.
The wide-ranging amendments would create an elder council, double the length of tribal council terms to 4 years but with term limits, impose educational requirements for serving on the council, and form a new tribal district covering the Rapid City area.
Supporters of the new package call it a grassroots effort with proposals coming from everyday tribal members, but opponents say the task force was run by council members and reflected their goals and desires.
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