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Old 06-30-2006, 07:19 PM   #1
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Arrow Pine Ridge Tribal President Impeached for Abortion Support

Pine Ridge Tribal President Impeached for Abortion Support
By Carson Walker, Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - 30 June 2006
http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com/a...9d00599f54.txt

PORCUPINE, S.D. (AP) -- The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted 9-5 Thursday to impeach the tribal president for proposing an abortion clinic on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Cecelia Fire Thunder survived two earlier attempts to remove her from office since she was elected in November 2004 as the tribe's first female president.

This time, the issue was over South Dakota's new abortion ban that does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

After Gov. Mike Rounds signed the bill, Fire Thunder vowed to work to open a Planned Parenthood clinic on the reservation, beyond the reach of state law.

Will Peters, a tribal council member who filed the impeachment complaint, said Fire Thunder didn't have the tribal council's approval to pursue the project.

"The bottom line is the Lakota people were adamantly opposed to abortion on our homelands. The president was involved in unauthorized political actions," he said after the vote, which came after two hours of private deliberation.

Fire Thunder said the two tribal members who brought the complaint should not have voted on the impeachment and the council did not follow the proper procedure in bringing the action against her.

"I'm OK," Fire Thunder said. "We're going to challenge it. It's not about abortion. A lot of them have personal stuff toward me."

Peters said the vote was over her stance on abortion and nothing else. "The council voted on the merits of the complaints," he said.

The day of testimony, questioning and comments was filled with applause and hollers from Fire Thunder's supporters and detractors.

After the vote, there was some confusion about whether the single action was final, which the lawyers concluded it was.

"She's done. She's not president anymore," one tribal member told people in the audience, who then clapped.

As council members cast their votes, some onlookers gasped at the no's -- indicating disapproval for that member's support of Fire Thunder.

While making his case, Peters said Fire Thunder also solicited donations on behalf of the tribe and embarrassed it nationally.

Lakota values teach that abortion is wrong and life is sacred, Peters told the tribal council and the dozens of others gathered in the community center, many of whom fanned themselves in the summer heat.

"Abortion is what has drawn our tribe into the national spotlight," he said. "She basically took the whole tribe into this with her. We sat back and it was like watching a train wreck."

The council suspended Fire Thunder May 29th and also voted to ban abortions on the reservation. When she entered the room Thursday morning, she greeted people in the audience and some tribal council members with smiles, hugs and handshakes.

Fire Thunder said there is no evidence to support removing her from office.

She once worked part-time at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in California that performed abortions and said her support for a clinic comes from concern for girls and women who are victims of rape and incest.

"We have a lot of 14 and 15 year-olds getting pregnant and it did not happen by strangers," she said during her statements.

Fire Thunder said she never asked for donations but people from around the country sent $14,463 without solicitation. That money is being returned, she said.

Fire Thunder said she is being punished for her vision.

"It was an idea. It was an opinion. Nothing is happening. There is no physical structure," she said.

American Indians had 72 of the 814 induced abortions in the state in 2004, or about 9 percent, according to the state Health Department. That's about the same percentage of Indians as in the state's population.

Alex White Plume, the tribal vice chairman, will serve as president until the November election. Some people in the audience applauded when he came into the room after the impeachment vote.

Opponents of the state abortion ban have gathered enough signatures to put it to a statewide vote in November.
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Old 07-18-2006, 12:56 PM   #2
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Judge temporarily reinstates Cecelia Fire Thunder
by Bill Harlan, Journal Staff Writer
Rapidy City Journal - 18 July 2006
http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/arti...top/news02.txt

PINE RIDGE, SD -- Cecelia Fire Thunder, ousted as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe last month, was back in office Monday afternoon. A tribal judge had restored her job, pending a hearing.

"This is about process," Fire Thunder said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon from the president's office at tribal headquarters. "No matter what the issue is, you've got to follow procedure."

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council suspended Fire Thunder in May, then impeached her in June in a controversy about a proposed abortion clinic on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

In April, after Gov. Mike Rounds signed South Dakota's new abortion ban, Fire Thunder told reporters she wanted to establish a women's clinic on the reservation. The clinic, she said, would be exempt from the state's new abortion ban. (The abortion ban later was referred to a statewide vote in November.)

Abortion opponents on Pine Ridge protested Fire Thunder's proposal, and the tribal council banned abortions on the reservation on the same day it suspended the president.

Now, the impeachment goes to a hearing in tribal court at 1 p.m. Friday, July 28, in Pine Ridge.

Meanwhile, Fire Thunder is back at work. The tribe's vice president, Alex White Plume, had been appointed president, and Fire Thunder said he shook her hand and welcomed her back Monday.

Fire Thunder and her attorney, Robert Grey Eagle, argued in tribal court that the impeachment was illegal. They said the tribal council violated its own procedures, failing to file a "sworn complaint" before the impeachment and failing to get a two-thirds vote of the 18-member council.

Fire Thunder and Grey Eagle also said the tribal council violated her civil rights. The council suspended Fire Thunder for improperly using her office to promote the clinic and collect donations for it. "She acted outside the scope of her duties," tribal council member Will Peters said when Fire Thunder was suspended.

Fire Thunder argued that she was speaking as a private citizen, not as tribal president. She has also said the donations were unsolicited.

The Rapid City Journal was unable to contact White Plume or tribal council members who voted for the impeachment.

Fire Thunder was elected in November 2004 and is the first woman to serve as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Last year, she survived two attempts to remove her from office on unrelated issues.

Fire Thunder said she would hold a news conference today in Rapid City.
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:26 PM   #3
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In the days of old, what happened when a young girl was raped and became impregnated? Or did this even happen back then? Just wondering....?

In this day & age, we have problems that probably didn't exist back in the day. It's difficult for tribal leaders to make decisions in the best interest of their tribes. My hats off to all tribal leaders, trying to serve their people with today's issues, drugs, alcoholism, rape, murder, etc.
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:42 PM   #4
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Update

....and the saga continues. Fire Thunder was reinstated on Monday, July 17.

http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096413344
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:52 PM   #5
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[QUOTE=Veon]In the days of old, what happened when a young girl was raped and became impregnated? Or did this even happen back then? Just wondering....?
QUOTE]

May I venture a supposition?

The rapist would have been tortured to death by the women of the tribe, and the child would be welcomed into the tribe in whatever way was most practical (adoption, etc.).

Am I anywhere close?
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:55 PM   #6
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on a personal level i oppose abortion -- BUT, women should have rights over their bodies, not a governing body of a nation --- even in a 'communal' culture! anyway, her (Firethunder) vision wasn't some 'abortion' stop-n-go - it was a comprehensive clinic that looked at things holistically - abortion was only one of the proposed services.....it will be interesting to see how this plays out???????
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Old 07-19-2006, 08:15 AM   #7
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Fire Thunder ousted again
by Bill Harlan, Journal Staff Writer
Rapid City Journal - 19 July 2006
http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/arti...cal/news03.txt

RAPID CITY, SD -- No sooner had a tribal judge reinstated Cecelia Fire Thunder as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe than the same judge revoked the reinstatement.

Tribal Chief Judge Lisa Adams issued both orders Monday in Pine Ridge, within hours of each other, according to documents provided by the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

The Rapid City Journal was unable to reach Judge Adams on Tuesday.

Fire Thunder, who worked in the president's office in Pine Ridge on Monday afternoon, didn't learn of the second order until a tribal council member's unexpected news conference Tuesday in Rapid City.

"We were surprised by the ruling," Fire Thunder's attorney, Robert Grey Eagle, said.

Fire Thunder's impeachment was over her controversial proposal to build a private women's clinic on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The clinic, she said, would be beyond the reach of South Dakota's new abortion ban - if the ban ever took effect. (The ban has since been referred to a statewide vote in November.)

Fire Thunder's proposal got national attention, but abortion opponents on the reservation protested.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council suspended Fire Thunder in May for allegedly using her position as president of the tribe to promote the clinic and collect donations for it.

Fire Thunder and Grey Eagle argued in tribal court that the council's June 29 vote to impeach Fire Thunder was illegal - partly because the 9-5 vote did not carry a two-thirds majority of the 18-member tribal council. They also argued that the grounds for impeachment and an earlier gag order violated Fire Thunder's civil rights, in particular, her right to free speech.

"How is it that people need to live in fear for expressing their opinions?" Fire Thunder said Tuesday during a news conference that she called at the offices of Sacred Circle, a women's advocacy program based in Rapid City.

Fire Thunder told about a dozen reporters that her challenge of the impeachment was based on the council's failure to follow proper procedure. "The law is the law," she said. "They have to follow it, and I have to follow it."

Impeachment procedures aren't directly addressed in the tribe's constitution, Grey Eagle said, but a 1941 tribal ordinance calls for a two-thirds vote of the entire council.

Fire Thunder emphasized her challenge in tribal court was about procedures, not abortion.

But Fire Thunder remains a co-chairwoman of South Dakota Healthy Families, the group seeking to overturn the state's abortion ban. She did not back away from her position on the law, which doesn't make exceptions for rape or incest. "How dare someone make a decision for a woman who has been raped," she said.

Will Peters, a tribal council member who voted to impeach Fire Thunder, attended her news conference Tuesday, remaining quietly at the back of the room until it concluded.

Then, Peters announced his own news conference. Half a dozen television cameras were quickly turned to the other side of the room for his announcement.

"Now, the official word is the president has not been reinstated," Peters told reporters.

Peters said he and other council members, assisted by an attorney for the tribe, got the reinstatement revoked by citing a tribal law that prohibits injunctions against tribal officials.

The council members also argued, successfully, that the tribal council had not been allowed to defend its position.

Adams rescinded Fire Thunder's reinstatement, according to documents provided by Peters and by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, but the July 28 hearing at 1 p.m. in Pine Ridge stands.

Grey Eagle said he expects that hearing to be "packed."

Grey Eagle also argued that the law that Peters cited applies to permanent injunctions, not temporary injunctions. He said he would file a "memorandum of law" in tribal court in support of the temporary restraining order, but he said Fire Thunder would not directly challenge the most recent ruling. "We'll wait until the hearing July 28," he said.

Meanwhile, Alex White Plume, who was vice president of the tribe, will continue to serve as president.

One key issue in the dispute is whether a president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe can make political statements without council approval.

Peters said, "She is free to do so as long as she is speaking in a positive manner about the tribe." But Fire Thunder should not have spoken about abortion without approval of the tribal council, he said. He called her clinic proposal "a slap in the face to the tribal membership," and he said that Fire Thunder had "engaged in unauthorized political activity."

Fire Thunder argued she was speaking as a private citizen and exercising her First Amendment rights. "I'm a real strong proponent of health care," she said.
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