STELLA AND THE TRIBAL POLICE
I called my friend, Stella, who I really enjoy talking to because she knows all the news of whats happening on Pine Ridge. She always encouraged me to set up along side her in Pine Ridge, in Sioux Nation parking lot, for our cook sales, a place where Indians could have a huge yard sale. It was very difficult for me to continue having an ocassional cook sale, toward the end, because I was constantly harassed by Oglala Sioux Tribal revenue and OST tribal police, who were constantly insisting I needed a vendor's licence to sell vegetables or soup. They were desparately seeking a “legitimate” reason to remove me from the reservation, and they couldn't come up with any wrongdoing on my part, like they could with AIM in the old days. They just couldn't plant bombs that I might be building, when clearly it was tomatoes and cucumbers I was planting.
Stella would tell me to set up along side her. She always had Indian tacos and popovers. Although, these are 2 very good sellers, I would have something else, like soup and fry bread, sometimes even roast beef and hamburgers. People loved my homemade bread, especially the cinnamon rolls. One time when I had roast beef sandwiches, someone wanted to buy just the bread. So I started selling bread as well. We are not talking a huge profit. Sometimes, I would only make $20.00. On a couple of rare ocassions, I made over $100. But the ones who were the real venders, came from out-of-state with their loads of junk and would make two to five thousand dollars. And they would hog all the parking space with their big rigs. One time I counted only 3 poverty striken Lakotas sandwiched in between these monster rigs. The Tribal revenue workers, went through, instead of protecting the residents of poverty, who have no other place to set up, would charge them $15 a day. If some of us, myself mainly, protested, they would send the police. The police never arrested me or hauled me away, or closed me down, but they certainly threatened to do so. They were constantly harassing only me. They would park the cop car right in front of my table and sit there all afteroon, thus discouraging and preventing people from coming to my stand. That's when Stella told me to set up along side of her. I did. Along came the police. Stella said, “Let me talk to them.” The tribal police siddled up along side my car, being careful to try avoid Stella. They told up to close down and move out. Instead of doing that, I rushed over and told Stella, who said, "Let me handle this." Stella argued with the police who said it was the police chief's orders. So Stella directed him to take her to the Chief, and she got in the squad car. She told me to watch her stand.
Stella was about 65 years old, feisty, energetic. I wouldn't really want to be on her bad side. However, because of Leroy and the Chief, the real chief, Oliver, and because she personally liked me, Stella became a stauch supporter and protector of me, which is why she had me set up next to her. She took a personal interest in what happened to me. She directed me to marry the chief, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about his romantic enclinations. She approved of Leroy too, but thought I could do better with the chief.
People asked me if they took Stella away, as they sat with me under Stella's shade, a necessity from the hot July sun, awaiting Stella's return. I assured them it was more like Stella took the police away. The Indians, they liked that.
Stella returned in about an hour. And she said she got that cleared up for the time being. She said she was born and raised on the reservation, and had a right to set up where ever she pleased, and no one was going to tell her any different. And that goes for her friends. Stella is a remarkable woman in many ways.
I did go see Oliver. He was outraged at the Tribe trying to make Indian people and residents, poor people, pay a fee in order to try make a few dollars to pay their bills. He drafted a letter, which I then circulated for people to sign, getting over 100 signatures.
NOTICE TO: Pine Ridge Village
FORM: Oliver Red Cloud
ON BEHALF OF: The People of Pine Ridge Reservation who sell their homemade goods and rummage
I have been asked by the People to defend their right to have a Reservation wide yard sale, craft sale, cook sale, rummage sale and the right to meet peacefully to visit. The first of the month flea market is for all people.
The parking lot by Billy Mills belongs to the people. When the Tribe fails to protect the rights of the people, then I, Oliver Red Cloud, Chief of the Oglala Sioux Nation, must stand up for the poor people. When the Treaty was signed, it did not include half breeds to have or control the land. The land belongs to the people. We let you live and have a place in Pine Ridge Village. But you don’t own any land. Districts don’t own land. When did the District’s start owning land?
Now you have pushed the real People out. These People need to pay their light bills and phone. They need gas money. Why don’t you move out? Where’s your land? You have no rights and no land. How would you like it if we pushed you down to the pow wow grounds? If we kick you out? You would be cry babying all around. What kind of Indian are you? Shame on you.
People, the Ogalala and residents of Pine Ridge Reservation, are not to be taxed, or licensed, or required to report to anyone, just to be allowed to earn a few dollars. These People are the Oyate. They are not businesses. They are doing the best they can to survive. And you should come out and support them instead of harassing them.
The people can set up at the Billy Mills parking lot. They should be encouraged, not discouraged. I fully support them and their right to live and exist on the Pine Ridge Reservation. As Chief, these people come under my protection when Tribal government fails to act in their behalf. Don’t bother these people no more. If you want to bother someone, come and see me. If you want to run someone out, come and see me. If you want to send the police after someone, come and see me. I will tell you what your rights are and what the People’s rights are.
Oliver Red Cloud
Chief of the Oglalas
I saw to it that this was published in Black Hills Peoples News, and publisher Robert Clifford ran a big story on Chief Oliver Red Cloud as well. I gave Stella a copy and she said she was going to get signatures, which she did. People really loved this letter. And they loved their old chief for having spoken up for the people.
The tribal powers that be backed off for awhile, and things drifted back to how they used to be. Black Elk and Poor Bear would stop by, but mainly Black Elk with the security guard. I always called him that because that's what his t shirt said. He would never tell me his name. They were always mooching hamburgers. Poor Bear was too important to come over in person, so they would get some for him. I was paying the price for having once advertised, “free coffee to AIM supporters” in honor of Leonard Peltier, whom I knew little about. But I knew and respected his attorney, who had become my friend.