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Ex-president Fire Thunder on the offensive

Indian Country Today published an article. Ex-president Fire Thunder on the offensive by David Melmer about the corruption in tribal government on the Oglala reservation.
A tribal court hearing was scheduled to hear Fire Thunder's complaint against the tribal council, and then canceled when Chief Tribal Judge Lisa Adams recused herself and ordered that a new judge be appointed and a new hearing date set. No date has been set as of press time.

At a July 28 press conference, Fire Thunder - the day her canceled hearing was to be held - said Adams was pressured to recuse herself under threats of job security. She had not spoken with witnesses that said any threats occurred, but said she could find some.

''We know that goes on; it is a common practice to influence a judge,'' she said. The alleged threats would have come from the tribal council or judiciary committee. The tribal council appoints all tribal judges.

Alex White Plume, Oglala Lakota president, the former vice president, said he was not aware that any decisions had been made to appoint a hearing judge or a new hearing date for Fire Thunder.

The complaint filed by Fire Thunder is against the tribal council - the body that impeached her and the same body that will appoint a new judge and hearing date. Fire Thunder said she believed the council will try to drag the issue out so a hearing may not be held before the elections in November.

Fire Thunder said she filed an order with the Tribal Supreme Court to expedite the situation and appeal to regain her position.

''I encourage the people to ask how this has gotten so out of hand. This is now about the separation of powers,'' Fire Thunder said.

''I am asking the people to ask for a separation of powers. The council interferes with the court. We must ask for accountability,'' she said.

Fire Thunder said the disarray within the government has affected outside interests that may have been negotiating on business investments on the reservation. A reliable source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that negotiations for a business in the million-dollar range were halted after the shake-up with tribal government.

Fire Thunder's mission is to hold the tribal council accountable for not abiding by the tribal constitution and bylaws. She said her rights were violated from the very beginning of the process. A motion to impeach made at a regular meeting was out of order because a complaint must be filed first; the complaint was filed after the motion was approved, she argues. She claims the motion should not have been accepted by then-Vice President Alex White Plume.

She did not receive documented evidence against her until the day of her impeachment hearing, June 29, she insists. Fire Thunder and her attorneys also maintain that a two-thirds majority of the entire council is required to impeach a sitting president and not a two-thirds majority of those present, as happened.

Three council members were absent and one was not recognized by the tribal secretary at the time of the vote. The two council members who brought the complaint forward participated in the negotiation process and al
so voted, which Fire Thunder said was ''a violation of tribal law.''

''They violated the tribal constitution, they violated my rights; do they know what they are doing?''
Jacqueline Keeler
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