A federal judge has ordered Lyman County, SD to come up with a plan for the November elections that gives the Lower Brule Tribe a chance to elect its preferred county commissioner candidates.
The tribe has been negotiating with the county to establish Native majority districts.
The commission came up with a compromise, but says it can’t comply until the 2024 election because of time constraints.
Federal District Judge Roberto Lange says that would leave a plan in place for 2022 that violates the federal Voting Rights Act.
Victoria Wicks reports.
For 30 years, Lyman County has been one voting district with five at-large commissioners.
That set-up clearly violated the federal Voting Rights Act because it diluted the vote of Lower Brule citizens, about 40% of the voting population.
To rectify the federal violation, Lyman County decided to establish two voting districts, one of them containing a Native majority and two commission seats.
But county officials said they couldn’t implement the new plan until 2024, and so Lower Brule filed a federal lawsuit to force the county to act in time for the November 2022 election.
At a federal court hearing in late July, county officials testified that they needed to reconfigure software and verify addresses of Native voters who use P.O. boxes or partial street addresses.
But Tribal Manager Tim Azure testified that the Lower Brule reservation contains primarily HUD housing, which has established addresses.
In an exchange with Michael Cotter, one of the lawyers representing Lower Brule, Azure said the tribe has the ability to match 911 addresses to physical locations, but the county had not reached out to the tribe for help.
COTTER: “The county has indicated that it may have a few hundred addresses to verify. How long would you expect it to take the tribe to verify that many addresses?” AZURE: “I think it would probably take us eight to sixteen hours.”
On August 11, Judge Roberto Lange granted the tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction and gave Lyman County commissioners seven days to come up with a remedial plan or have the court create one for them.
The Canadian government has apologized to a Saskatchewan Cree Nation for what’s being described as an assimilative colony scheme.
The Peepeekisis Cree Nation was at the heart of a federal scheme that breached treaty agreements by setting up an experimental farm colony that took over the community’s land and helped to assimilate Indigenous people.
It was called the File Hills Colony Scheme and between 1897 and 1954 participants in the colony were chosen for the experiment after graduating from residential schools and industrial schools.
They were forced to work on the community farm and were not allowed to return to their home communities where they originally lived.
Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller.
“At the time Canada claimed, wrongly, that this scheme would enhance agricultural productivity. But we now understand that this was an experiment that was invasive in nature and an experiment in radical social engineering. And for this we are deeply sorry.”
The apology was welcomed by the Peepeekisis chief and council.
Many of the band members had been trying, for years, to get that apology as well as compensation for the wrongs linked to the colony.
The band accepted a $150 million settlement in August of last year.
Many members are still searching for answers about their origins and with identity issues.
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