PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP) – The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council has suspended President Julian Bear Runner for 30 days and lifted a three-day lockdown Bear Runner issued Monday to stop the potential spread of COVID-19.
Vice President Tom Poor Bear takes over the president’s duties during the suspension.
The 13-7 suspension vote came yesterday during an emergency meeting called by council members upset they couldn’t reach the president about the lockdown that prohibited nonessential travel to or from the reservation.
Bear Runner instituted the lockdown on Monday afternoon, sending all tribal employees, except emergency personnel, home on administrative leave. The council had earlier given him the authority to issue emergency coronavirus lockdowns
Pine Ridge District Representative Robin Tapio introduced the suspension order and told the Rapid City Journal she did it to give Bear Runner time to “rethink and re-visualize” the direction the tribe is going in.
Tapio said the president gave council members no warning he was issuing another lockdown, to they had no answers when they were “bombarded with questions” from their constituents about it.
She said no one knew where Bear Runner was, so they couldn’t get answers from him, leaving them to “pick up the pieces of mass chaos.
Tribal spokeswoman Karin Eagle disagrees to a certain point, saying the president had contacted Poor Bear, some council members, the tribal police chief, and the emergency director
Oglala Lakota County had 103 positive cases as of yesterday morning, but only 37 active. There have been no COVID-19 deaths on the reservation.
Bear Runner was already on shaky ground with some council and tribal members. He’s awaiting trial in tribal court after being arrested in May on charges of drunk driving and threatening a man.