THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES IN SLOW MOTION
After I was bailed out of jail, banned from the Reservation, I was determined to try retrieve what was left of my things, only to discover that the Honorable Judge Lisa Cook, had made no provision in her 5 page court decision as to how I was to retrieve my property and belongings. She gave my house and my things to Louise in her most outrageous 5 page court decision. It has been 20 days, and I still have not been able to recover my belongings.
The question still remains: how did Louise come to own this land? This land was declared submarginal when it was given to Florence Hernandez, an heir, to live on during the bombing range days. His son, Chancey and wife, Eleanor, then lived there for 25 years. Chancey built the cabin that I restored and have been living in. I visited with Eleanor and asked how Louise came to own that land, as sole owner, especially since she was not in the heirship. Eleanor said, "I wasn’t aware that Louise owned that land. How could Louise own it when we were told the land was declared submarginal, owned by the U.S. government, and it couldn’t be bought or sold?"
Back in the 70’s, Chancey was alcoholic causing Eleanor to leave him. Louise Big Boy was a big drunk and a bootlegger. In fact, she was evicted from the housing in Kyle for bootlegging. She went to stay with Chancey on 3 Mile Creek. The place became bootlegger heaven. It was the party spot of the Reservation. When I came to live there 8 years ago, I cleaned out 6 pick up loads of beer cans, wine bottles, whiskey bottles, bottles I didn’t even recognize, strewn all over that property from one end to the other. Even at that, I still didn’t get it all. Louise probably got Chancey to sign a paper giving her the land, which he couldn’t do, but he probably didn’t know what he was doing. But someone in the BIA knows. I have repeatedly asked to see the documents, proof of ownership. I have asked Frieda Marshall, BIA Land Officer, to show me the evidence. Her response was that she didn’t have to. When a lawyer asked her the same question, she said he was rude, and hung up on him. I asked Supt. Larry Bodin. He said I was a nonmember and not entitled to answers to these questions. Yet they want me to move out and leave everything to Louise?
As it turned out, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. On June 1st, 2004, when I returned home, I discovered Louise Big Boy, her son Robert Montileaux, and a postmodern goon squad at my house, breaking and entering, and stealing my things. I called the Tribal Police who came with an order from Judge Lisa Cook to "forcibly eject" me from my house, aided and abetted the thieves by Judge Cook. What better deal could a thief ask for? I was arrested, booked, and jailed for 2 days, while Louise and Robert were robbing me blind with police protection!
And this is the exact kind of freedom, justice and democracy that the U.S. wants to share with the Iraqi people! The U.S. is turning Iraq into another Reservation! Where people are helpless, while private interests rob them blind, thieves are given legal sanction to get by with theft, torture, rape, and murder. It has become lawless. Then the U.S. turns around and blames the Iraqis for the lawlessness. It’s the same situation right here on the Reservation, except that Indians are no longer scalped for bounty, instead they are robbed and denied access to justice by legal means. The modern weapon is the law and the justice system that denies people their basic rights, then greatly restricts their freedom.
I discovered that it is possible to be "free," and yet not have any freedom of movement, no freedom of employment, no freedom to access legal help, no freedom from want and fear, no freedom to protect or secure personal property, no freedom of my time. I was the victim of a crime and a fugitive at the same time. I, the victim of a robbery and an illegal eviction was jailed, while the thief was given my house and the police won’t let me in to get my things. And I am warned that if I return to the Reservation I will be arrested and jailed again. I guess Louise Big Boy and Judge Lisa thought of everything. They even had a plan for my belongings. Just keep me away from them long enough and Louise can claim them.
I went to the bank in Gordon the next day. I used their fax machine to get a copy of the court order, the first I had seen it. No wonder the Honorable Judge Lisa Cook was reluctant to let me have a copy. Five pages of crap; a hearing held on the 7th, the day she canceled court, with neither plaintiff nor respondent present! This was a hearing for a BIA eviction, and the BIA is not present. A very poorly worded BIA eviction letter was used to claim the right to evict me in tribal court. No proof that Louise owns that land, tribal judge Cook gave my house to Louise. In that 5 page document, there is not one word mentioned of my appeal rights, nor does Judge Cook spell out how I am to retrieve my belongings. Yet Judge Cook carefully worded her reasons for giving my house to Louise, and made sure to state that if I damaged my own house in any way, that Louise was entitled to all my belongings, or if I didn’t claim my belongings, then Louise would get everything, the works. And there is no time limit or orderly process spelled out here because it was handled by the Honorable Judge Lisa Cook instead of by CFR guidelines and the BIA. However Frieda Marshall, Head Land Officer in BIA Realty, proclaimed that I was located on Louise’s land, and not the deeded 2 acres of Catholic Church land, therefore as a nonmember, I have no rights whatsoever. That gives Louise the right to my house and all my worldly possessions. It appears that Louise and her son Robert have wasted no time to steal all my tools, my axes, chain saw, library of over 500 good (classics) books, my paint box with all my oils and brushes, skill saws, even my brooms, mop, pots, pans—in fact, in reminds me of the time in January, 1997, when someone came in a robbed me of everything. It has a similarity to it. Only this time, the stealing was done under the watchful eye of the police. How convenient. This was Wonderland ruling, with judge Cook just making it up as she went along.
I was supposed to go to State court on the 9th. I called my court appointed attorney to find out how I was supposed to remove my belongings. He told me that he was no longer my attorney since the charges had been dropped. I had been charged with failure to vacate. Why were the charges dropped? Did this include the ban from the Reservation? And by whom? Maybe it was because Louise didn’t want to appear in a real court. Maybe this was just a reason to get rid of me. A Member can use the Tribe to toy around with the State, and the State must respond. However when I ask the State to protect my rights, they tell me I have no rights because the Tribe is sovereign and can do whatever they want. I called ACLU who said that they didn’t deal with foreign countries. Wonderland.
I called the Sheriff and asked him how I was supposed to get my things, at least my medication and some clothes. He told me he had to escort me from the Reservation line to my house and back, said he would meet me Monday morning at 8:00. I wait an hour. He didn’t show up. I went to the Pine Ridge court house to try see a judge. The clerk tells me I can’t do that, that I must get an attorney first. I am relying on someone to take me around because I am not supposed to be on the Reservation. I wasted the whole day. Finally I call someone, a legal advocate, who tells me no one will help because I am too much a political hot potato. Anyone helping me is bound to lose their job.
Over and over I kept hearing from people, mainly the full bloods, that the same thing that happened to me, happens to them over and over. They get their land stolen by the BIA and find no justice in Tribal Court, just indifference and harsh penalties for the victims. All of this is meant to intimidate and control people, rob them, then leave them helpless and dependent with nothing to do but drink. Eventually, there is degradation and immorality and petty thievery, which the elite governing body condemns but secretly encourages. Why? There are several reasons I can think of.
First, immorality allows people to disrespect themselves and others, which leads to an I-don’t-care attitude, do whatever you want. Then people don’t care about each other. They do hurtful things to one another. They damage themselves. The victims of this immorality are the children and the elders, the history and the very Lakota tradition itself, a tradition that the great Chiefs of the past, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and others, fought so valiantly to preserve. With immorality comes a certain permissiveness, coupled with the scent of money, which allows people to turn the other cheek, which allows the elite to get by with theft, even murder.
Second, immorality causes people to lose their courage. They stand for nothing, and stand up and defend no one—not even themselves. They are easily intimidated and easily led. They "just follow orders."
Third, once you destroy the racial memory, the traditions and values, then it is possible to rewrite history. Why do we want to rewrite history? So as to remove blame from the United States of America for committing acts of genocide on a massive scale, then stealing most of the Indian land and resources to form an obscene nation based on fear and intimidation and capitalism, then have the nerve to call it a democracy. Whereas the only true democracy here was practiced by Indian people.
I call the Sheriff again. We arrange to meet. He called back and told me he was ordered to go to Kyle alone and meet with Judge Cook and the police. He called back later to tell me that I am to meet with Judge Cook first before I can get my things. I don’t understand. The time for meeting is over. I don’t want, nor do I trust anything verbal at this point. Besides, the instructions should have been in the court order. Why weren’t they? I would like written instructions which clearly outline what I am to do to recover my belongings. The Sheriff told me that he finally told them that they could not deny me assess to some clothes and my medications. So we made arrangements to go in again. This was already the 9th. Nine days without my medication. For what reason? The Sheriff said they wouldn’t say. But he told them they better start thinking about their liabilities.
Nine days later I rode in with the Sheriff to get some things. I pick up my car at the neighbor’s house. I take a quick look around and notice many things missing. But it is hard to tell since Louise moved much of my things in a helter skelter kind of way. It is also impossible to find what I need quickly since I don’t know where things are. Who is to blame? I find a lot of washing of hands.
Starting with the Catholic Church. Now there is a veteran at the washing of hands. Three years ago, some honest BIA employees discovered a deed in the Church land records that showed that I had located my house on 2 acres of deeded Church land, which meant that I could buy it or lease it from the Holy Rosary Mission. I wrote a letter describing my house and the situation I found myself in and offered to lease or buy the 2 acres. I stopped over to see the Fathers. They talk very nice. But they seem to be confounded. I gently remind them that the reason that the Church is in the mess it is today is from these kinds of indecisions and failure to do the right thing. I also pointed out that I was the only one here with a vested interest. This drug on for 4 or 5 months. Finally they wrote me a letter stating that they neither sold nor leased their land. Which was a lie. To them, maybe a little white lie, so it didn’t count.
Then Louise started to make threatening sounds at me. She now wanted me to lease the land from her for $800 a year. At it turned out, she was leasing the same land to Calvin Clifford for $800 a year. In both cases she was leasing out land that didn’t belong to her, and double leasing at that. The next year when she came down for the lease money, I told her that was too much for me to pay. Besides I said I wanted a legal lease from the Land Office. She refused. I asked her to just lease me the land I lived on and lease the rest to Clifford. She refused. Then she said if I didn’t lease it for $800, I would have to move. I told her I only had $600. She insisted that I make the check out to Toby Big Boy, her brother. I didn’t want to do that, so I went to the jail and had the police chief witness signatures and the statement that this check was for the lease of land. Then she went and leased the same land to Clifford.
All summer long Louise kept hounding me for that $200 she felt I owed her. Finally in August outside of Kieffe’s store in the rain, she told me she wanted me to move out because she was selling her land. "All of it?" I asked. "Yes," she said. She did sell 80 acres to Calvin Clifford. How could she sell 80 acres of submarginal land? No one wanted to answer that question. Certainly not the Land Office. They just wanted to wash their hands of the whole affair.
I contacted Senator Tim Johnson. He said the Tribe is sovereign, and washed his hands of the whole affair.
I contacted the State’s Attorney. He said that the State did not have any jurisdiction over the Tribe, and washed his hands of the whole affair.
I contacted the Federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney McMahon, who said that it was a civil matter, and washed his hands of the whole affair.
I contacted ACLU who said that the Tribe was a foreign country, and washed their hands of the whole affair.
I wrote another letter to Father Peter Klink at the Holy Rosary Mission, outlining the urgency of my situation. I begged his protection and offered to buy or lease the 2 acres. No response. I call. No response. I call and call. No response. Finally I make a surprise visit in person. Knock on his door. When I tell him who I am, and why I came, he looks about as glad as if a mountain lion had just entered his office. Then he says he just sold the 2 acres back to the Tribe in a quit claim deed. "Why didn’t you have the decency to contact me first?" I asked. "When did you do this?"
"Yesterday," he said.
"Then it isn’t too late to rescind your decision," I said.
"I can’t do that," was his lame response. "It is best for you and Louise to decide this in Court." Yeah. Right. And he washed his hands of the whole affair.
When it comes time to sort out who is to blame for all the losses and damages I have suffered, I think the spineless Church will be first in line. And believe you me, there is lots of blame to go around. Amen.
To date, June 21st, I still have not been allowed access to my belongings. There is more to this crazy story, but for now I would like to tell you real Lakotas what you can do. Over and over, I discover that my problem is your problem. There is a petition circulating. You should sign it and add your testimony of wrongs done to you. One person alone can be broken. When you stand together, it becomes the will of the People whom the government is sworn to SERVE. If they fail to do as you petition them, they can be removed from office in Federal Court, if Tribal Court fails to do their duty to the People. You hold all the power. You just don’t know it because you have been too busy bickering and backbiting. That kind of thing leads no where, except to further bondage. It’s time to take the first step. Go to your brother. Tell him you were wrong (even if you know you weren’t). Tell him that more than anything in this world, you love him. You want him to stop doing harmful things to himself. Wake up! Sober up! Return to traditional ways. Did you forget what those are? Go to some meetings that are taking place. Tell them you want a say, that you want to help. Ask for help. (But don’t start conning anyone for drinking money.) If you need help with your drinking problem, ask for it. When you get yourself sober, you will discover that there is a truly beautiful world out there, and you are a part of it. I promise you, this is true. I made a vow last winter, after I had the dream of the 7 coyotes, that if Tunconsila would spare my life and give it meaning, I would dedicate my life to helping the Lakotas preserve, restore, and retrieve their history and traditions. A dream is emerging out of this nightmare.
Art has always been the repository for the culture. Art has always been the place where the truth has been stored for safe keeping. Out of this hellish experience I had, I find a kernel of goodness and decency still resides in the hearts of the Lakotas. And with some careful planting and tending, the traditional culture might have a new growth, a fresh chance, and a hope for the future, that this Nation might live, and live on as real Lakotas living the beautiful life that was meant for you.