Silence About Conditions at Pine Ridge Reservation

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Jun 122017
 

by Thomas F. Sullivan

For generations, the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation have lived with unemployment and poverty rates that have never been seen in the majority community even during the Great Depression.

According to an MSNBC Report on Pine Ridge on May 29, 2014, “Roughly four out of five residents are unemployed and well over half live in deep poverty…… Life expectancy is just 48 years old for men and 52 for women….. About 70 percent of the students will drop out of school before they graduate.”

That last statistic is especially troubling and is inconsistent with the claim frequently stated by tribal leaders that “Our children are sacred”.

According to that same MSNBC Report, “In a startling new draft report, issued in April 2014 by the Bureau of Indian Education which oversees 183 schools on 64 reservations in 23 states, focuses attention on BIE’s inability to deliver a quality education to its students. BIE schools are chronically failing. BIE operates ‘one of the lowest-performing set of schools in the country.’ During the 2012 – 2013 school year, only one out of four BIE-funded schools met state-defined proficiency standards and one out of three were under restructuring due to chronic academic failure…. BIE students performed lower on national assessment tests than students in all but one other major urban school district.”

Given these conditions which have persisted for generations as well as the almost total absence of any economic activity on the reservation, it is not surprising that there is a high level of dysfunction as well. This dysfunction is exemplified by the following health and social welfare measures:

* The infant mortality rate at Pine Ridge is one of the highest in the nation at 3 times the national average;
* The incidence of diabetes is 8 times the national average;
* Eight out of every ten people at Pine Ridge are alcoholics. Given this fact it is highly likely that most newborns on this reservation are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a severe developmental delay. Care of children with FASD requires an extended time commitment, great patience and resilience, none of which is in abundant supply in most reservation homes:
* Drug use and abuse, both prescription and illegal, is rampant;
* The teenage suicide rate is 150 percent of the national average. In the first 8 months of 2015. There were 19 completions by youth between the ages of 9 and 24 and more than 100 attempts by children from the same age group. Within the last week, a 12-year-old girl hanged herself on a tree behind the Sue Anne Big Crow Youth Center. Shortly before a 14-year-old boy recently completed, he was being counseled by one of his teachers. She told him that Lakota tradition teaches that a spirit set free by suicide is doomed to wander the earth in lonely darkness. “You don’t want that, do you?” His response was chilling, “Anything is better than here”.
* The level of domestic violence is at epidemic levels. In CY 2014 the Tribal Department of Public Safety prosecuted 470 cases of domestic violence. During the same period one of the Tribe’s domestic shelters reported they had responded to more than 1,300 cases of domestic violence:
* In CY 2016 there were 17 homicides on Pine Ridge, a rate 4 times the current homicide rate in the city of Chicago:
* For the last several years, the Pine Ridge reservation child protection staff has been investigating, relying on rigorous standards, every case of reported child sexual abuse and confirming, on average, 2 ½ cases per week for every week during each of those years. Considering that most estimates are that 10 percent or less of such abuse is ever reported, the seriousness of this level of child sexual abuse cannot be overstated.
* Research data are clear, children who are sexually abused are 2½ times more likely to attempt and/or complete suicide than children who have not been sexually abused.

On May 1, 2015, in the New York Times Ron Cornelius, the Great Plains Director of the Indian Health Service is quoted as saying, that “the recent suicides were an incredibly sad situation that IHS was committed to working with the tribe to address this heartbreaking problem.” It is not clear to me from the public record available to me just what the IHS has done to fulfill this commitment. At that time I was the ACF Regional Administrator in Denver and heard from friends on and around Pine Ridge, “There are a lot of ‘suits’ traveling to Pine Ridge. They are not meeting with anyone from the Reservation. They spend all of their time in a conference room talking with each other. They seem to make it a point to avoid any tribal members.”

However, former Pine Ridge Tribal Judge Saunie Wilson, in a power point presentation to a west coast conference on youth suicides in early 2017, described the 20 professionals sent to Pine Ridge by IHS to “solve” the reservation suicide epidemic in the following terms, “They had, No background checks, No licenses to work in South Dakota and No knowledge of reservation culture, mores or society.” Unfortunately, this is the same inept approach IHS used when there was a comparable burst of youth suicides on Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation several years earlier. I was invited by the Tribal Chair to sit in on the IHS meetings with Tribal staff as an impartial observer for the Tribe. As a result, I could observe what IHS was doing in response to the youth suicide burst on that Reservation. They were clearly not effective then. How could they believe they would be effective several years later?

On April 5, 2017, at a meeting of the Pine Ridge Tribal Law and Order Committee, the following statement was made by Richard Little Whiteman, a Council member and Chair of this Committee, “I haven’t seen this level of violence since the 1970s”. The Committee also heard reports that the number of law enforcement officers, once numbering more than 100 sworn officers, now was little more than 20, had the impossible task of policing a geographic area comparable in size to the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined 7 days a week, 24 hours every day.

What is especially puzzling is the deafening silence from both the media, those who by their titles and their government positions have direct responsibility to correct such problems and those who claim they are advocates working on behalf of the welfare of women and children.

For example, if either the city of Cambridge, MA or Berkeley, CA, each with a total population of approximately 100,000, had the same level of youth suicide completions as Pine Ridge, the following would be occurring:

1. There would be youth suicide completions just about daily in each of these communities.
2. There would not be enough curb space to park all of the media trucks providing a direct link to the community for their viewers. After all the media had ignored multiple detailed, factual reports about the dysfunction in these communities and predictions about what would follow from that dysfunction. Recognizing their prior error in not covering all of the dysfunction, media outlets were competing to provide the most offensive coverage. They characterized their coverage as “presenting the facts.”
3. Members of Congress would be convening hearings in these communities in an attempt to elicit some hints as to the cause of such dysfunction even though they had never mentioned these communities until the funerals began to be held when the dysfunction in these communities could no longer be ignored. Based on past experience the best that the local congressional delegation will be able to do is to appoint a study committee charged with reporting back on the cause of all the suicides within three years. No action would have to be taken to assist these communities until the study report was produced.
4. Advocates would be elbowing their way to get in front of any operating TV camera to push their unique solutions to such dysfunction even though they had not only known about the extreme dysfunction in these communities but they had also been silent about it until the funerals began.
5. State, county, and local officials would point at each other, claiming they had little or no responsibility to correct these problems. It was the responsibility of that “other guy” (whoever that unidentified person was) until federal funds were made available. Then the competition would be cut-throat. Each would cite their “expertise” on matters of this kind even though each had just established an extensive written record claiming they knew nothing about such matters in their efforts to avoid any responsibility (political punishment for refusing to deal with the dysfunction in their communities until the funerals began) for what was happening in these communities.
6. Federal officials whose organizations had been widely praised for formally adopting mission statements claiming they were responsible for the well-being of every citizen in their service area would initially deny any responsibility for such dysfunction, pointing at state, county or local officials as the parties responsible for addressing and correcting such behavior. When and if Congress appropriates funds to address and correct these problems, these same federal officials will distribute those funds without first establishing performance measures to determine the effectiveness of how these funds are spent. If the past is any guide, it will be several years before performance measures will be put in place.

If this is the response to the massive dysfunction and resulting epidemic of youthful suicides in communities like Cambridge or Berkeley, can anything better be expected at Pine Ridge?

Pine Ridge is a small, Isolated, rural community with little political power. They have been ignored and will continue to be ignored.

The sexual abuse of American Indian children should have resulted in a high-level commitment to stop the abuse once it had been uncovered years ago.

During the last two Administrations, I brought the twin epidemics of child sexual abuse and child/youthful suicides in Indian Country to the attention of the political leadership of the Administration for Children and Families and the Department of Health and Human Services with multiple, detailed, factual, written presentations. These presentations detailed the pervasive extent of the abuse, the long-term impact on the abused individuals, their families and the community at large and the substantial public cost of such abuse. They had no effect. It was as if they had never been read.

Until one is prepared to focus on and widely and continuously publicize the hypocrisy of those who know the facts and who deny or ignore them, thereby allying themselves with those who abuse children, nothing will be done to correct this barbaric situation. Until those who have chosen silence in the face of widespread child sexual abuse are publicly identified and shamed in all major media outlets for their alliance with sexual predators, attempting to stop the barbarism is a fool’s errand.

Thomas F. Sullivan is a former Regional Administrator for the Administration of Children and Families under the federal HHS.  He was forced out of his job in May, 2016, after defying his DC superiors by repeatedly reporting on child abuse on several reservations. 

 

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From Elizabeth Morris, Chair of CAICW:

Watch this 20-minute video for more information concerning the ramifications of Native American heritage on Constitutional protections:

TOM SULLIVAN – FIRED for reporting Child Abuse

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May 062016
 

May 6, 2016

The BIA and ACF in Washington DC have finally accomplished their goal of firing Tom Sullivan for his persistent reporting of physical and sexual abuse of children on many reservations – most specifically Spirit Lake.

Our DC Bureaucrats are entirely unaccountable. When people get fired for actually doing their jobs, is it any wonder that so many federal employees are reluctant to stick their necks out against the status quo?

May 6, 2015 Termination letter: MU Tom Sullivan Termination Decision 5-6-16 

(Read some of the past documentation:)

 

Rampant Sexual Abuse on Reservations – BIA, ACF and US Attorney look the other way.

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Dec 122013
 

By Lisa Morris

December 2013

“…The Tribal Elder who observed two little boys engaging in anal sex in her yard did call police immediately. No one in law enforcement took her statement. She tried to tell her story at the February 27, 2013 hearing but she was shushed by the US Attorney, the BIA leadership and all of those on the platform. The US Attorney did say publicly that he would speak to her privately after the Hearing concluded. He did not. Nor did anyone from his office take her statement.” – Tom Sullivan, March 29, 2013

This is just one of 100+ events reported over a year by Tom Sullivan, Regional Administrator for Administration of Children and Families, to his Superiors in DC. Their response?  Transfer his duties to another department:

“I want to be clear with you that the Children’s Bureau is leading this effort for ACF and will manage work with both the Tribal leadership and the Tribal social services staff moving forward”…”It is my expectation that you will refer all future inquiries to the Department concerning Spirit Lake to the Children’s Bureau and respect the Bureau’s role in leading and coordinating the Department’s efforts to achieve the goal of protecting Spirit Lake’s children.” – Marrianne Mcmullen, ACF, Nov. 1, 2013

Ms. Mcmullen wasn’t alone. George Sheldon, former ACF Assistant Secretary, wrote Sullivan April, 15, 2013, to say the ACF doesn’t want to hear his reports. Mr. Sheldon also stated the ACF stands firmly behind the BIA, FBI & US Attorney at Spirit Lake, despite numerous reports from Spirit Lake residents and ACF’s own Sullivan that horrific child abuse has been ignored by those federal agencies.

YET – The horrific child abuse Mr. Sullivan reported to the ACF in 2012 and 2013 was supported by a recent CNN segment (Oct, 1013) entitled “Sexual Abuse Rampant on Indian Reservation” as well as a Front-line documentary “Kind-Hearted Woman” in Spring of 2013.

Worse – had ACF Assistant Secretary Sheldon listened to Mr. Sullivan – toddler Lauryn Whiteshield, murdered at Spirit Lake 6 months ago in June, might be alive today.

The situation for many children in Indian Country is at crisis and it’s time Congress quit pretending. Read some of Mr. Sheldon’s letters, Tom Sullivan’s reports, and other documents here – http://caicw.org/2013/12/04/letters-from-george-sheldon-ignore-tom/

We need your help. We need immediate hearings concerning the allegations Mr. Sullivan has made of negligence by the FBI, BIA, ACF and US attorney Tim Purdon in dealing with children at Spirit Lake.

We’ve also been told it’s well known among agencies that Spirit Lake is a microcosm of what’s happening across Indian Country. They know what is happening at Spirit Lake is widespread in Indian Country, but are playing political games anyway.

Our Senators need to know their constituents not only support them in confronting the problem, but expect them to.  Please contact them and let them know lives of children are far more important than politics.

NOTE: We’re told the Senate will not under any circumstances entertain releasing people from tribal jurisdiction. We’ve been told current Senate leaders unequivocally support tribal sovereignty. Noting this is not an attempt to be partisan. This is simply reality in Congress. A Senator’s office explained they were unable to find even one Democrat to support constitutional rights over the demands of tribal leaders when voting for VAWA last spring – and Democrats control every committee in the Senate.

However, many well-meaning Senators have heard only the lobbyists for tribal sovereignty. They’ve never heard the stories of average tribal members and others who’ve been hurt by Indian law.  They’ve never heard the other side of the story.

If Senators were to request hearings concerning Mr. Sullivan’s allegations – it would give the other side of the story a chance to be told and educate those who have never heard it. It would also show the Senate’s concern for constitutional and civil rights.

Our strongest hope, though, is that comprehensive hearings will save lives. We have no choice but to insist on oversight hearings based on the documentation we have linked to above.

We are asking 1) for hearings on Tom Sullivan’s allegations, and 2) that all federal agencies to be instructed to uphold law pertaining to child protection, immediately. Further, we want our Senators to:

  • Repeal the Indian Child Welfare Act – which is hurting children and families across the country.  ICWA protects tribal governments and sovereignty – NOT children.
  • Change the VAWA to give victims of all heritages the right to be heard in country courts if they choose.  Some women have reason for not wanting to tell their stories in tribal court.  The current VAWA forces victims to choose between tribal court or keeping silent.  U.S. citizens of every heritage have constitutional rights that are not always recognized in Indian Country.

Thank you so much for your willingness to consider this and help.  Our children have been viewed as collateral damage in DC’s ongoing political games for far too long.

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Elizabeth (Lisa) Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of “Dying in Indian Country”- a true story. Website: http://DyingInIndianCountry.com

ICWA results in Child Abuse and Murder: 3-yr-old Girl Dead

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Sep 222013
 

September, 22, 2013

– Have you heard yet that due to horrific child abuse and even murder on the Spirit Lake Reservation, the BIA has had to go in and take over tribal children’s services?  Did you know that despite the presence of the BIA, FBI and US attorney at Spirit Lake for almost a year now – very little has changed, and another little girl – just 3 years old – was murdered in June, 2013?  She and her twin sister were thrown down an embankment, then kicked in the head while their care-giver stood aside, smoked a cigarette and watched.

Did you know the 16-year-old grandson of Roland J. Morris, former CERA board member, was shot and left bleeding in a field at Spirit Lake in July?

– Have you read the report from an ACF regional director that despite the BIA takeover at Spirit Lake, nothing has changed?  Children are still being placed with known sexual offenders?

– Have you heard how the new version of the “Violence against Women Act” forces women of all heritages into the jurisdiction of corrupt tribal courts?

Did you know that despite the violence toward and sexual predation on children at Spirit Lake, Federal officials have refused to give Tom Sullivan, Regional Director of the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) permission to meet with Spirit Lake residents on August 27 in Bismarck, and a state official has stonewalled as well.

Federal and state bureaucrats continue to act as it this is a non-issue. Despite numerous pleas for help, the BIA, FBI and U.S. Attorney feign assistance while the abuse continues.  Despite the numerous – yet ignored – documented reports Mr. Sullivan has sent to DC detailing the atrocities and calling for change, permission to act is refused.

WHY are our state & federal gov’ts NOT addressing the severe abuse occurring on many reservations? Why does DC continue to set up roadblocks? We can NOT stand by and allow this to continue.

Mr. James Murray, Acting Director of HHS/ACF/ORO (Note the alphabet following his name – denoting both importance and governmental concern for families) stated in an email to Mr. Sullivan,

“…ACF’s response to the concerns at the Spirit Lake Nation will have to be generated through a collaborative effort by leaders from multiple ACF offices. Representatives from those offices will have to be included along with you in meetings like the one proposed below, to maximize ACF’s response. Your leadership will be critical in the work of the larger ACF group to address the issues. That being said, I have to deny the travel request at this time. We can revisit the topic once ACF has a chance to mobilize the larger leadership group to begin moving things forward. Let me know if you’d like to discuss it further and I can set up a conference call for tomorrow or early next week.”

(James Murray || Acting Director || HHS/ACF/ORO || Desk: (202) 401-4881 || BlackBerry: (202) 253-0217 || Fax: (202) 401-3449 || Email: james.murray@acf.hhs.gov)

It bloviates that a meeting is possible – but whether or not anyone makes any real effort to gather “leaders from multiple ACF offices – when it has been so clear that the DC office has ignored every single report that Mr. Sullivan has sent – is another question. Mr. Sullivan holds a non-refundable – taxpayer purchased – plane ticket to Bismarck this next week.

Mr. Scott J. Davis, Commissioner of North Dakota Indian Affairs [mailto:sjdavis@nd.gov] also sent an email to Mr. Sullivan refusing to meet unless “all of the stakeholders” are at the table and “[i]t is important to me to have everyone (federal agencies) who has a role in the solutions to these problems at such a meeting. Please let me know when you can confirm you have everyone lined up to attend.”

Others responsible for the inaction include George Sheldon: Acting Director of ACF ~ 202-401-5383, and MaryAnn McMullin, Director of Public Affairs for the SCF 202-401-9216

We NEED to let our Senators know that this is not OK in America. It MUST stop!  Children need to be protected.  Please press your Senator for hearings on the issue of child welfare and protection in Indian Country. Our children are not chattel for tribal or federal government.

1) ASK YOUR SENATOR to ask Senator Cantwell to put ICWA on to her agenda for this session. If ICWA is NOT put on her agenda for the session – it will not be discussed for changes this year nor probably next. Parental rights, equal protection, due process are all important factors in why ICWA is wrong – but subjecting children to abuse for the sake of tribal sovereignty is that most egregious factor.  ‘The best interest of the child’ is paramount and should not be subject to politics.

2) ASK YOUR SENATOR to contact Senator Cantwell’s office and press for hearings on Spirit Lake and other reservations where abuse of children is rampant! Spirit Lake is not isolated.

3) Please ask your Senator to repeal the provision in the VAWA that robs victims of their right to choose county courts over tribal courts – thus victimizing them a second time.

Health Crisis? Liberals Push More Nurses to Quit

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Jul 262009
 

July 26th, 2009

Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse from Brooklyn, was forced to assist in an abortion last May. Her supervisors told her that it was a medical emergency, and that if she didn’t participate, she could lose her job. Turns out that there was no medical emergency. For Cenzon-DeCarlo, this was tantamount to murdering a baby, and she’s struggled with it emotionally and spiritually ever since.

And can you believe this? Liberal commentators are saying she shouldn’t have taken the job if she didn’t want to do the work.

Let me get this straight. Obama is all over the place complaining about a so-called health crisis, while at the same time, lefties commenting on the above article are saying things like, “if preforming termination of pregnacy is not you line of work then leave the job,” and “Don’t we file this one under “It comes with the job, toots?

So…those of you that believe Cenzon-DeCarlo should have gotten another job: Do you honestly think that this nurse is the only one that doesn’t want to participate in abortions? Do you think there aren’t any doctors that feel the same way? Do you realize that a large number in the medical profession are Christians? If you are willing to mandate they participate, do you know how many people will walk off the job? Doesn’t matter if you don’t think it’s murder. The people that will walk away from the medical profession do.

I am a former RN. I left the field 16 years ago after I got tired of the way nurses were treated. For one example, I was told I couldn’t tell any of my staff if there was an AIDS patient on the floor due to “patient confidentiality.” My LPN’s and Nsg. Assts were allowed to know any other diagnosis. Patient confidentiality didn’t matter with any other disease. Aids was the only illness they weren’t allowed to know. This was on a unit where an AID’s patient was wiping his feces all over his bedroom walls. People that aren’t responsible for cleaning up that type of thing can say what they want. I stuck up for my staff.

That’s just one of many examples. I’m not the only nurse to walk away over such issues. Others have obviously stayed in the field. But mandating participation in abortions – that’s a major line to cross over.

If you want Canadian style Health Care, where the staff to patient ratio is a fraction of what it is in the states, keep up your rhetoric. Pay your medical professionals less, and tell them they don’t have any rights. Keep it up and see what happens. Then be happy with yourself when someone you love has to wait for days or weeks to get the medical care they need.

Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo is right to be upset and file suit.  She wasn’t abandoning a patient.  MT Sinai had plenty of time to find a replacement.  Mt Sinai abandoned its staff.  I hope she gets everything she is asking for.  Hospitals should not be allowed to do that to people.  Here in America, we still have Freedom of Religion.  At least for now.
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