Historic Lakota Oceti Sakowin Conference, July 8-10 in Rapid City, Addresses Enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Water Rights, Sacred Sites, and Health

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The nine tribes of the Lakota in South Dakota are meeting July 8 - 10 in Rapid City, SD to continue their collaborative efforts to improve the enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act, protect sacred sites, address uranium poisoning of the land and water, and discuss health care and water rights. The Lakota People’s Law Project is providing technical support to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe which is hosting the conference.

Bryan Brewer, Tribal Council Chairman, Oglala Sioux (Pine Ridge)

This level of inter-tribal cooperation...is unprecedented - Sara Nelson, Exec Dir Romero Institute

The People of the Seven Council Fires, the Oceti Sakowin, is the name the Sioux call themselves and it is the name of an historic conference to be held in Rapid City, SD, July 8 -10 at the Holiday Inn, Rushmore Plaza. The two and half day meeting will focus on joint policy solutions to key issues identified by the nine Lakota tribes in South Dakota. The conference will focus on improving child welfare, protecting sacred sites, and dealing with uranium pollution along with health care and water rights.

This level of inter-tribal cooperation across such a wide spectrum of issues is unprecedented according to Madonna Thunder Hawk, tribal liaison for the Lakota People’s Law Project. According to Thunder Hawk, the tribes have set an ambitious agenda that covers the key issues affecting the present and future welfare of the Lakota.

Tribal leaders are taking steps to develop their own social service programs to maintain the integrity of the tribes and their futures because of their concern with high placement rates of Native children in state institutions or with white families. A 2011 Peabody Award winning NPR investigative series by Laura Sullivan alleges that the State of South Dakota has not complied with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Concern about the taking of Lakota children by the State of South Dakota has caused the Oglala Sioux Nation (Pine Ridge Reservation) President Bryan Brewer to declare a state of emergency.

The meeting will focus on successful efforts that are already underway by Native American tribes. These include the LOWO Lakota Practice Model conducted by the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation. And, the Lakota People's Law Project will present on the Port Gamble S’Kallam Tribe from Washington State, which has succeeded in getting direct federal funding for its social welfare programs.

The Lakota are also concerned about saving their sacred sites from development or misuse. Tim Mentz, Sr (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) will discuss the Vantage Project and the discovery of sacred sites on the US – Canadian border. Russell Eagle Bear (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) will present an update on Pe Sla and the status of the purchase of this sacred site by the tribes. Waste’ Win Young (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) will talk about Nuclear Regulatory Commission uranium projects in Lakota / Dakota country and how to educate young people and get them involved in these issues. Members from the Oglala, Standing Rock, and the Cheyenne River tribes will discuss the Keystone pipeline.

Now on contract with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Lakota People’s Law Project has been partnering with tribes and leaders in South Dakota since 2005 from its offices in Rapid City, SD and Santa Cruz, CA. The Lakota People's Law Project is providing technical support for the tribes to gain direct federal funding for the development and operation of their own child and family service programs. The project combines public interest law, research, education, and organizing into a unique model for advocacy and social reform.

The Lakota People's Law Project is sponsored by the non-profit Romero Institute based in Santa Cruz, California. The Institute is named after slain human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. The Institute seeks to identify and dismantle structural sources of injustice and threats to the survival of our human family.

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Sara Nelson

Randy Pozos
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