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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why the gridlock on hate crime charges?

The most frustrating aspect to the charges by Cheyenne River Sioux elder Vern Traversie that he was mutilated with a KKK carved into his belly while in Rapid City Regional Hospital for heart surgery is that no agencies with authority are taking any action one way or another. 

Vern Traversie says he is getting some help from the Cheyenne River Tribal Council officers:  

Traversie said he’s been working closely with Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Kevin Keckler and his District 5 representative, Robin LeBeau, to sort through the many incoming offers for legal counsel. He said their assistance is invaluable.

“I don’t know anything about this, and I don’t have the resources to do background checks,” he explained. “We’re getting calls from all over. I hope to have representation this week.”

Chairman Keckler confirmed that his office is working with Traversie to sort through the deluge of offers.

Yakima Tribal Chair Harry Smiskin

 A Yakima tribal chairman on the West Coast summarizes the puzzling inaction in a public statement he made in behalf of his tribe.  Chair Harry Smiskin said: 

As a former tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer, I am particularly disturbed by what has not taken place in the aftermath of the assault upon Mr. Traversie. Upon the Yakama Nation’s inquiry of his tribal leaders and other relatives, I understand that there has been a complete failure of any federal, state or local law enforcement agency to take any initiative on the matter – despite that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Police have determined conclusively that a hate crime has been committed against Mr. Traversie. In particular, the United States seems to ignore the trust responsibility it owes Mr. Traversie as a Sioux Indian. Like the assault itself, this federal and state inaction is grossly unjust.

To be clear, the federal Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for a person to be discriminated against based upon his race. In particular, private individuals and corporations who deprive a person the equal protection and equal privileges provided by law, based upon racial or other class-based motives, violate the Civil Rights Act. Likewise, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently signed by President Barack Obama, says that: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States