Above: Two male dancers at a recent wacipi on the Rosebud. SST Photo/Bonnie Young
ST. FRANCIS A small activist group calling itself Sicangu Lakota Grass Roots Oyate (SLGRO) has begun protest demonstrations against the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservations powerful Jesuit and Catholic community. Protests here began in early September in front of the Jesuit-owned KINI-FM Radio Station, located one-quarter mile south of St. Francis Community, and in front of Rosebud Educational Societys building in St. Francis, which houses the Jesuit communitys nonprofit corporate offices. According to SLGRO coordinator Alfred Boneshirt, of Grass Mountain, the demonstrations composed of about 25 people so far are designed to bring attention to KINIs policy of not allowing tribal individuals or groups to voice political and traditional Lakota views pertaining to the reservation over its airwaves. According to policy, the radio station tries to avoid political and emotional views, fearing political retaliation against the station if it does. KINI employs local tribal members to operate the station, with guidance from RES, whose board of directors is composed of a majority of hand-picked tribal members who subscribe to the Catholic faith. Sister Mary Van Winkle is currently the executive director. But that is not the only complaint SLGRO has against the 110-year-old Jesuit community and Little Sioux, the fund-raising arm of RES. Their illegal fund-raising activities in the name of the Rosebud Educational Society to provide services for the people of the Rosebud Indian Reservation; the people haven't given their permission to do this, Boneshirt said. Other matters that need investigating are violations of FCC codes and law, plus their IRS 501(C)3 nonprofit status. Protesters so far have not been specific about alleged FCC violations, though alluded to in speeches and letters published in local newspapers. The radio station has enjoyed long-standing support from the tribes IRA government i.e., Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council and administration for the last 30 years. Occasionally KINI will broadcast live council meetings at the request of the tribe, but not during campaign season which comes every two years when council representatives and the president and vice president are elected to office. However, the station will broadcast election results. In the last year, KINI has been broadcasting the South Dakota-based, pro-Republican Jim Thompson Show, a syndicated daily one-hour live call-in talk show that permits tribal members to call-in their political views on any topic they choose, though limited by time. Boneshirt, known for his local activism, has already called in his viewpoint to the program, prompting some call-in critics on the reservation to say he rarely follows through on projects. Boneshirt ran unsuccessfully for election to the tribal council last year, admitting he did little campaigning for the job because of his work with human rights issues in Rapid City at the time. Other radio stations off the reservation, such as KWYR-FM in Winner and KVSH-AM in Valentine, NE, have few reservation listeners due to limited range and format, while KINI, started in the 1970s, enjoys wide listenership on the reservation due to an eclectic format including Indian drum groups, rock n roll, country-western, rap, local announcements and some advertising, plus Christian programming. A long-time AIM medicine man and chief has stepped forward in support of SLGRO, Boneshirt said. The group also boasts wide support on the Internet through the Dakota-Lakota-Nakota Advocacy Coalition, he said. Chief (Leonard) Crow Dog was there to remind the Catholic church that his grandfather Jerome Crow Dog donated 464 acres that the radio station and Catholic church sits on today in good faith. Yet, there is no monument or recognition in honor of Jerome Crow Dog. That he was there to stand up against the human rights violations, such as the rights of freedom of speech, media suppression, ethnic cleansing, exploitation, and other crimes against the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Nation. These crimes must stop now, Boneshirt said. Other key demonstrators included: Robin Bair (Ponca), Frances Zephier (Yankton), and Bill Thunder Hawk (Sicangu). Boneshirt said the group would keep coming back to protest against KINI until the radio station allowed more dialogue or turned the station over to tribal members. SLGRO also alleges that corruption exists in tribal government on the Rosebud and has called for investigations into various programs. What happened in Pine Ridge must happen here, said Boneshirt in a news release. Now is the time for the appropriate international as well as federal agencies to get off their butts. We will continue to protest ... until the world takes notice and justice is served.