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Tribe ensnared in abortion battle


Here is an article by Tribune reporter Judy Pares.
KYLE, S.D. -- Cecelia Fire Thunder likes to recount the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who delivered the sacred pipe and its teachings to the Lakota nation. Long ago, the legend goes, two men encountered a holy woman who first appeared to them as a white buffalo calf. One man, awe-struck, prayed. The other had lustful thoughts and tried to grab the woman. He was turned into a pile of bones.

"The first teaching of the pipe is sexual respect for women," said Fire Thunder, the first female president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Fire Thunder told the story recently to the tribal council, which had convened to impeach her over her support for an abortion clinic on the reservation. It did no good: The formidable, outspoken president was found guilty of overstepping her authority and ousted less than five months before the end of her two-year term. Fire Thunder is challenging her removal on procedural grounds. In the meantime, the tribe is embroiled in the politics of abortion--an issue about which the Lakota almost never speak. The battle allows glimpses of how a proud people is struggling amid the influences of a dominant white society, legal trends in South Dakota and political forces buffeting America. A foreign import The "anti-abortion" versus "pro-abortion rights" conflict is a foreign import to Lakota country, the westernmost part of the Great Sioux Nation. Some experts say the Lakota language doesn't even have a word for "abortion." Others insist Lakota women have always had medicines to terminate a pregnancy.

Here's more of the article:
Some of Fire Thunder's opponents argue that a pregnant woman no longer has a choice, because abortion is murder. "We're killing babies in utero all the time with drugs and alcohol," Fire Thunder retorts. "Who's worrying about that?" The motivation behind her removal goes beyond anti-abortion sentiment. Council members have tried to remove her three times since her election in November 2004. (The first two times the charges were dropped.) Opponents say that she is arrogant and spends too much time traveling the country. "Change isn't easy," she said. Both sides in the abortion debate claim to represent Lakota values. Those opposed to abortion--or to Fire Thunder--argue that life is sacred to the Lakota and all unborn children deserve protection. Fire Thunder agrees that life is sacred, then adds, "I don't think the White Buffalo Calf Woman would approve of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest."

The article ends with a quote from Will Peters, the councilman who co-sponsored the impeachment charges saying,
"I know she's been victimized. She has reasons to be a man-hater. But slow down, sister. All of us men are not like that."

That guy really needs to join the 21st century . . .

Tribe ensnared in abortion battle | Chicago Tribune
Jacqueline Keeler
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