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South Dakota tribe ‘not anywhere close’ to banishment for meth sales

PICKSTOWN, S.D. -- Methamphetamine abuse is widespread problem among South Dakota's American Indian tribes, but a representative of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is offering one method to combat the drug's influence on the reservation.Kurt Spilk...

PICKSTOWN, S.D. - Methamphetamine abuse is widespread problem among South Dakota’s American Indian tribes, but a representative of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is offering one method to combat the drug’s influence on the reservation.
Kurt Spilker, an attorney for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, gave a presentation to Yankton Sioux tribal members Thursday regarding his tribe’s recently approved resolution to banish enrolled members convicted of distributing narcotics.
Spilker’s presentation at the Yankton Sioux Tribe Substance Abuse Summit at the Fort Randall Casino in Pickstown was heard by dozens of tribal members, including Yankton Sioux Vice Chairman Jody Zephier.
Zephier, who lost his oldest brother to meth in 1996, said the drug affects every tribal member on a daily basis, but was hesitant to express support or opposition to banishment without more discussion with the tribe as a whole. Zephier said the most difficult part about the drastic punishment is the idea of banishing a neighbor.
“These are our people, these are our friends, our cousins, uncles and aunties this would be happening to,” Zephier said. “So it’s tough because those are family members.”
Last year, the severity of meth abuse among tribal members in Eagle Butte led to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s resolution banishing enrolled tribal members convicted of narcotic distribution, but the tribe added a safe-guard to ensure tribal members had the opportunity to return after rehabilitating themselves.
After five years, Spilker said, the banished tribe member is offered the option to apply for a return to the reservation. This safe-guard appealed to Zephier, but he wasn’t ready to throw his support behind a similar resolution for his tribe.
While he appreciated the ability to learn from other tribes, Zephier wants to focus on rehabilitation before banishment.
“After we find them if we can try to get them help, and if they still don’t learn after a couple tries, then I believe (banishment) might be something that could possibly be used,” Zephier said.
Spilker’s presentation Thursday was his third given at the North American Inter-Tribal Drug Task Force-sponsored series of summits. He spoke at the two-day meeting alongside officials representing the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Yankton Sioux Tribal Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
After his presentation, Spilker said he’s heard positive responses from every tribe he’s spoken to about the banishment resolution.
“I’ve honestly gotten nothing but support,” Spilker said. “Even when people know it’s their own family that could possibly be affected, it’s such a tragedy for the tribes that the tribes are really determined to try to address it.”
Spilker admitted some have issues with the resolution, including neighboring non-tribal communities who may inherit the banished tribal member or what happens if a single parent is banished, but he gave credit to the tribes for making the tough decision to consider banishment.
“When you’re talking about banishing family members, neighbors and people you’ve grown up with and known your whole life, that’s a big step and it takes a lot of courage,” Spilker said.
Spilker said the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe could be on the verge of its first banishment as a tribal member who was convicted of drug distribution may soon be released from prison. Once the tribal member is released from prison, the clock would start ticking on the five-year banishment.
For now, Zephier appreciates the presentation from Spilker and hopes to use the information to consider what might work best for his tribe to fight meth use on the reservation. He said the presentation stirred a lot of discussion with tribal members, but said the Yankton Sioux Tribe is nowhere near approving a similar resolution.
“Our tribe alone, we have a lot of discussion about it yet,” Zephier said. “We’re not anywhere close to doing a resolution like Cheyenne Eagle Butte.”

Related Topics: CRIME
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