Means made the announcement at a press conference this week in Rapid City, South Dakota.
He said information gathered through the grand jury process would be turned over to state and federal officials. No arrests will be made, he said, since the Republic of Lakotah is a “peaceful, non confrontational” entity that would not use police powers.
Means said the corruption was so widespread, it was causing “the genocide of my people.” He said the dishonesty caused problems in housing, health, education and police service. Means said “police brutality” is rampant on reservations.
According to the Black Hills Pioneer Means said he also wanted to expose “racism and hatred” in communities bordering Indian reservations.
Means has in the past drawn attention — and was arrested — for leading so-called “beer blockades” in an effort to keep alcohol out of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where it is banned but still widely used. These blockades targeted border towns just off the reservation - towns which sometimes amount to nothing more then a whole bunch of liquor stores.
Earlier this month the Navajo Nation Council voted unanimously for legislation to establish a Human Rights Commission that will hear and address civil rights violations in reservation border towns.
According to the plan presented to the council, the Human Rights Commission will assist with complaint investigations, conduct hearings, and develop recommendations to address discrimination against Navajo citizens.
The commission will "serve as the primary Navajo Nation entity for issues involving race relations of the Navajo Nation," the plan states.
For an earlier OD article on reservation border towns click here.
Meanwhile, Means also said he plans to hold a “fish-in” either at the Pactola Reservoir or at Sheridan Lake and will notify South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long in advance. Means said he wants to show that Native Americans have, under treaties signed by the U.S. government, the right to fish without licenses and can keep the fish.
The following is from the Rapid City Journal.
Russell Means: Lakotah grand jury will not indict
By Andrea J. Cook
Grand juries convened by the Republic of Lakotah on seven reservations in South Dakota will spend several months gathering evidence of alleged abuses against the Lakota people, according to organizer Russell Means.
The grand juries will investigate allegations of graft and corruption on the reservation, police brutality and of discrimination against the Lakota people in housing, health and education, Means said during a Monday morning news conference in Rapid City's Memorial Park.
Means said the grand juries will be small and will go from community to community, beginning on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to hear testimony.
"This investigation is going to take a year or more to gather all the evidence to substantiate our charges of genocide against the United States of America," Means said.
Means said the grand jury will not issue indictments.
"We are a peaceful, non-confrontational republic," he said. "We don't attempt to use police power to brutalize anyone, either physically or mentally."
Means and others announced formation of the independent republic in December. The group has said its boundaries would encompass land in the Dakotas, Montana and Nebraska as outlined in the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty. The group does not have the backing of the Lakota tribes in South Dakota.
The grand juries will gather evidence that will be turned over to state and federal authorities, including Congress, Means said.
"More importantly, we're going to the international community," he said. "Even more important than that, we're going to the Web because that has been the Republic of Lakotah's strength."
Means said one hearing had been held in Chadron, Neb., and another is pending.
"We're going to be investigating the so-called border towns around the Sioux Indian reservations for racism and hatred," he said.
Statistics uncovered in Nebraska confirm there are income and education disparities for all racial groups. Incarcerations and police stops in Nebraska for Native Americans point to those disparities, he said.
With Means at the press conference were Earl Tall and Betty Janis of Manderson. The brother and sister's experiences with tribal law enforcement speak to the need for the investigation, Means said.
Tall said that he and other members of his family have been arrested and jailed on different occasions, but no charges have ever been filed against him.
Complaints filed against tribal officers have been ignored, Tall said, which is why he turned to Means for help.
After an accidental shooting at Manderson, Janis, who has rheumatoid arthritis, said tribal officers came to her home demanding to search the house for Tall's grandson. According to Janis, she was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer after she stepped between an officer and her grandson.
Tall's grandson was eventually located and spent eight days in jail before being released without any charges being filed.
People on the reservation are afraid to speak out against the abuses they have suffered, Janis said.
"They fear retaliation from police officers and their families," she said. "They're all tied together."
There are no checks and balances of tribal government of any kind or any of the programs the federal government sponsors on the reservations, Means said.
"There's lawlessness among the law," he said.
Some tribal police are running rampant, according to Means.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs refuses to live up to its federal responsibilities on reservations, Means said. "Congress is our only recourse."
Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or firstname.lastname@example.org