2017 Recap: Part II
Thu, 12/28/2017 - 1:58pm admin
Continuing the countdown for the top 10 local news stories this year (No.’s 5-1)
By Andrew Turck / Big Horn County News
Last week’s issue of the Big Horn County News examined some of the most sought pieces this year, as shown by the “read” count at bighorncountynews.com.
No.’s 10-6 of the top articles included a look at a burglary in the Kirby Saloon, the Jump Start Healing initiative, the construction of homes for tribal veterans by the National Guard, a family with six living generations and a community improvement effort in Lodge Grass.
For this week, here are the top five most read articles of the year.
5. "Incidents of elder abuse rising in Big Horn County” (2,207 reads) – published May 18
Drawing upon his experience as a Crow tribal member and then cabinet head for Crowland Security, Dr. Alden Big Man Jr. wrote a guest column addressing the rise of elder abuse in Big Horn County. Reported instances of elder abuse, he said, have increased by 250 percent from 2010 (14 cases) to 2015 (49 cases).
“However, the most troubling numbers are the unreported cases,” he wrote. “Estimates suggest as many as 250 cases per year never make it to tribal courts.”
The Crow Law and Order Code states that elder abuse is the mistreatment of people over age 60, or people over the age of 45 who can’t protect themselves due to mental or physical impairment. Dr. Lori L. Jervis of the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Anthropology, found that more female elders were victims of abuse when compared to men, and the leading causes of abuse were neglect and financial exploitation.
The rise in elder abuse, according to Big Man, “correlates directly with the increase of drug abuse” on the Crow Reservation, especially methamphetamine.
“In 2010, the Crow tribal courts reported 32 cases for possession of dangerous drugs,” he wrote. “In 2015, that number nearly tripled, with 98 individuals being convicted for the crime.”
Further difficulties, he continued, included a lack of funding for educational programs on abuse and underreporting of the crime due to fear of retribution from family members.
4. “Three Bulldog cheerleaders selected for East-West Shrine game” (2,597 reads) – published June 8
Three Hardin High School cheerleaders were selected to participate in the 71st Annual Montana East-West Shrine football game thanks to their hard work, honesty and ability to inspire others.
The cheerleaders – seniors Tyra Red Wolf, Kiara Bright Wings and Meena Black Eagle – arrived at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, where the east side football players claimed victory over the west 38-24 on July 15.
Each year, the East-West game helps raise money for the Shrine Children’s Hospital in Spokane, Wash., which provides free medical care to children ages 18 and under. The hospital specializes in spinal cord injuries or defects, burn trauma, orthopedics, and cleft lip and palate defects.
During their time at the game, the three Hardin seniors had the opportunity to practice with some of the most highly-regarded cheerleaders in the state, participate in a parade, have professional pictures taken, hold a kids’ camp, and attend a banquet with players and their families.
3. “‘Four suicides involved’ / Custer Battlefield Museum director seeks to ‘terminate’ BLM law enforcement function” (3,366 reads) – published March 16
Chris Kortlander, director for Custer Battlefield Museum in Garryowen, began speaking out against what he described as “intimidation and threats” by the Bureau of Land Management, following a fourth suicide correlated to their investigations. He hadn’t originally intended to stir up a past conflict with the agency, he said, but believed that through his speaking out, he might deter a fifth death.
Kortlander himself was investigated by the BLM from 2005-09 for allegedly dealing in fraudulent artifacts, though the government agency never pressed charges against him. Their investigation into his museum, he said, involved two raids with BLM agents. He described the first, in 2005, as a “‘raid’...conducted as a military style assault on a domestic terrorist cell” by 24 agents armed “with M-16s, shotguns and battering rams.”
“Since I was never indicted and never charged, they had a chance to persecute me for four years and eight months,” he said. “We were asking them to charge me with a crime, so we could get in front of a jury and prove my innocence, but they never, ever, ever did that.”
In an effort to halt BLM law enforcement incursions, Kortlander threw his support behind House Bill 622, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz. This bill is designed to “terminate the law enforcement functions” of the BLM and U.S. Forest Service. As of July 11, this bill has been reintroduced with Utah Rep. Chris Stewart as its first sponsor for the purpose of adding more co-sponsors and requesting reprintings of the document.
Kortlander’s new book on his dealings with the BLM, Arrow to the Heart: The Last Battle at the Little Big Horn, is available for preorder at Amazon.com and scheduled for release on April 24, 2018.
2. “‘New World Order’ / Transition process focused on reorganization, enforcing work culture” (4,396 reads) – published Jan. 19
Starting December 2016, the Crow Executive Branch began its transition from the administration of former Chairman Darrin Old Coyote to that of Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid. This shift, according to a press release from Crow Tribe of Indians News, focused toward finance and the reorganization of administration staffing. This strategy was called the “new world order” model.
For the staff, the release said, the tribe intended to improve their work ethic on a cultural level. For finances, they intended to develop a “self-correcting” system to fix the mistakes of the past. According to Crow Tribe Certified Public Accountant Miriam Smith, this included an internal assessment to determine “real numbers” in the tribe’s finances.
“There is a lot of room for errors and, over the years, those errors compounded,” she said. “When we stepped in, we weren’t just flat broke, we were in the negative.”
“The tribal government was utilizing federal funds for so long that the tribe’s general fund is now supporting federal programs,” added Crow Tribe CEO Paul Little Light.
By Jan. 5, more than 500 tribal employees had been laid off due to budget constraints and the administration was running on a “skeleton crew.” On Oct. 3, after struggling to keep the government functioning, Not Afraid shut down nonessential tribal operations not funded by federal grants.
Despite the financial difficulties, tribal government continued with inaugural ceremonies on Dec. 4 for elected members of the Legislative and Judicial branches, and December per capita payments of $260 to enrolled members.
1. “Terrifying trade-off / Low point in proud history of Crow people attributed to meth invasion” (9,690 reads) – published April 20
For his first column of 2017, then cabinet head for Crowland Security Dr. Alden Big Man Jr. explored the reason why methamphetamine has infiltrated the Crow Reservation. He began with a microcosm of the situation: empty basketball courts outside the tribal administration building.
“Why have they gone silent, especially at a time when the game has become so popular in Indian Country?” Crow Tribal CEO Paul Little Light asked him, with the courts visible outside his window. Noting an increase in vandalism due to a spike in drug abuse, especially meth, Little Light said: “I think the problem is that parents are apprehensive about letting their children come play ball at the courts.”
The bigger question, he continued, is “how has the reservation ended up at such a low point in the proud history of this tribe?”
Over the course of the column, Big Man tracked reservation meth use from its origin point – a Mexican cartel member named Jesus Martin Sagaste-Cruz – to its current status as the greatest drug threat in Indian Country, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Sagaste-Cruz, the column notes, read an article in a Denver newspaper about a white liquor store owner who made a fortune selling alcohol. His method for making money was to target Sioux tribal members on the reservation line. Sagaste-Cruz took this concept and used it to sell meth on the Wind Reservation in Wyoming.
“This new drug invaded many homes, most never experiencing this type addiction before. The abuse of alcohol, which was substantial, now seemed minimal compared to meth,” Big Man wrote. “Sagaste-Cruz created a new type of ‘terror’ on the Wind River Reservation, triggering an epidemic that has since spilled onto other reservations across the nation, like the Crow.”
This problem, he wrote, logically requires an “aggressive, proactive approach” that might include banning drug dealers from the tribe, long-term treatment and/or traditional healing. With limited funding, he continued, “many of the ideas put forth will not progress until more money is spent in the war on meth.”