Tribal leaders tell BIA director of crime problems 6-2-07

LOWER BRULE, S.D. (AP) - Chairmen from five tribes pressed the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for more funding and less red tape for jails and officers.

The testimony came Friday at a field hearing organized by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., for the House Natural Resources Committee.

Witnesses criticized BIA procedures and budget practices and complained about delays in certifying police officers.

Mike Jandreau of the Lower Brule tribe and Lester Thompson Jr. of Crow Creek walked out of the hearing, saying nothing they heard from the BIA eased their concern about the lack of jails on their reservations.

“Bureaucratic lip service,” Thompson said.

Lower Brule recently finished a $13 million jail but it has yet to open because the BIA hasn't certified it for staffing, Jandreau said.

Lower Brule has been without a jail for five years and $1.2 million allocated by the BIA for the new facility was diverted to other tribes, he said.

“What we are asking, more than anything else, is to be treated fairly,” Jandreau said.

The Lower Brule jail was scheduled to open in September but was delayed until April, which came and went with no progress, he said.

It will be operating soon, said BIA Director Patrick Ragsdale.

“My understanding is it should be able to open and operate in a couple of months,” he said.

Herseth Sandlin replied: “With all due respect, that was the response I got a year ago.”

The BIA in January 2006 closed the jail in Fort Thompson, home of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. The reason given was safety, in part because of low staff numbers.