Voting Rights in the State of South Dakota

Lakota Law

As you know, after the past election cycle, American democracy is in trouble. Not because of phantom issues with fraudulent voters, as some people would have you believe, but because far too many voters — especially those of color — continue to be discriminated against and disenfranchised through obscene voter suppression tactics. And that’s why the Lakota People’s Law Project is going to fight back in court.

We’ve joined a lawsuit — as a plaintiff — against the State of South Dakota. Because the state has consistently violated elements of the National Voter Registration Act, tribes like the Oglala and Rosebud Nations, organizations like us, and individuals like McLaughlin city council member Hoksila White Mountain have valid cause to sue. 

Lakota Law

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) will represent the tribal entities in the suit. We hope the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will also join as a plaintiff and seek monetary compensation from South Dakota for failure to offer voter registration opportunities in a way consistent with federal law. 

Lakota Law and Hoksila, among others, will be represented by Demos, a legal organization dedicated to winning voting rights justice. This will be a true team effort, bringing a number of great legal minds and passionate people together to fight for the community and expose the state for its litany of abuses.

As an example, you may recall that we have already shared quite a bit about the troubles in McLaughlin, the Standing Rock Nation’s second largest town. Hoksila was kept from mounting a valid mayoral campaign, and he was only granted a promised vacant city council seat in his own ward after intense pressure you helped us create.

McLaughlin also has suspicious zoning, seemingly designed to prevent its Native residents from voting in local elections. So NARF will provide support as we undertake an effort to improve voting access within the town. As you can see, access for people of color is an issue on our reservations in the Dakotas, just as it’s a national and statewide problem in places like Georgia and Arizona. Bottom line: we must fight, right now and on every level, to protect our democracy from those who want to move it backward. We’re drawing a line in the sand — and I’m so grateful you’re standing with us for fairness.

Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us make good trouble!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Staggeringly Ignorant

Lakota Law

In case you missed it, CNN commentator and former Pennsylvania GOP Senator Rick Santorum brazenly displayed his staggering ignorance once again last week. Speaking at a conference for conservative youth, he made sure to misinform young people by claiming that European colonizers “birthed a nation from nothing” and “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.” 

I know ratings are king — and that controversial comments beget ratings — but it’s past time this man was fired by CNN and removed from any position of influence. I urge you to watch Takin’ Out the Trash, a new segment we introduced on the most recent episode of “Cut to the Chase.” I discuss the former senator’s ridiculous statements and some of the many ways in which Native culture informs the larger society.

Because Rick Santorum’s racist rhetoric is obviously a steaming pile of hot garbage, we took him out with the trash on this week’s episode of “Cut to the Chase.”

As a Lakota Law supporter, you’re already aware of the breadth and depth with which Indigenous cultures of the Americas have long made and continue to make deep impacts. From Native cultivation of corn, to the world’s oldest representative democracy (demonstrated by the Iroquois nation), to the movement we birthed against the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, our contributions are legion. It’s no accident that the names of several states and countless cities, towns, and counties pay homage to the Native peoples who first inhabited these lands.

It sure would be great if media outlets like CNN would stop platforming people like Rick Santorum so we can move beyond harmful, whitewashed notions of history. To create a better future — one in which we consistently progress based upon lessons learned from our past — we must be willing to take previously subverted perspectives into account, revise inaccuracies, and understand the deeper implications. Because, while Native cultures have already given much to those who came to our shores, we still have far more to say to the ears that know how to listen.

Wopila — thank you for lending your ear!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director & Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

And it continues…

Lakota Law

I’m writing to thank you for supporting us water protectors here in the Dakotas, and to update you about my court case at Cheyenne River Tribal Nation near Standing Rock. Last year, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was in full swing through my homelands. So my allies and I created a protest camp, similar to the one everyone knows about at Standing Rock four years ago (only smaller). Two days before Thanksgiving last year, I chained myself to an oil pump station and got arrested for trespassing. I’m facing up to a year in prison and I will be going to trial soon.
 
We won our fight against KXL — Biden has shut the pipeline down — but my allies and I are still facing potential prison time for our civil disobedience. Please pray for us, as we continue to face down the Oil Industrial Complex allied with law enforcement, and decipher the best path forward to serve Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth.

Please watch this new video that explains my court case.

Jasilyn Charger

Climate change has become a dominant topic of conversation in recent weeks because of Biden’s strong pivot away from Trump’s denialism. Even more is needed. As the ice caps melt and coastlines face dangerous flooding, Indigenous people all over the world are leading the fight for eco-sanity. Some are in Minnesota resisting Line 3, while many of us are still pushing the White House to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
 
Last month, I traveled with other Indigenous young people to D.C. to make our ongoing commitment to Standing Rock top of mind for policymakers. As a 24-year-old Lakota woman, I look forward to many more years of movement building. We cannot let up, not while our waters, lands, and climate are endangered by fossil fuel extraction. Renewables work. There is no excuse.
 
I will work with my attorneys at Lakota People’s Law Project to keep you updated in the coming months. Thank you for keeping your attention on Lakota country. Your solidarity is appreciated.Wopila
Jasilyn Charger via Lakota Law