Oglala Lakota County to replace Shannon County


Last Tuesday’s election brought about a major victory for South Dakota Natives in the region previously known as Shannon County. Upwards of 80% of the county’s voters acted in favor of changing the county name to Oglala Lakota County.

Original namesake Peter Shannon, chief justice of the Dakota Territory Supreme Court, was influential in the removal of state land from Native hands. Natives have always disapproved of giving this honor to the territorial judge’s work, since it had such a devastating impact on the people inhabiting the very land named after him. As home to the the Oglala Tribe, the Oglala Lakota County is a name far more reflective of the county’s rich culture and history.

In the words of Shannon County Commissioner Anna Takes the Shield, the county name should stand as a representation of “our strong background and where we come from”.


This change falls in line with a recent trend of name changes in the state. From landmarks to state parks, South Dakota has been taking steps necessary to revamp their representation in the state’s heritage. This is a particularly important move as Shannon will be the first county to change names in over a century.

The transition from Shannon to Oglala Lakota is not over. There are several steps necessary to finalizing this change. County Auditor Sue Ganje has certified the validity of the election and must bring these results to South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard. Next, Daugaard will introduce the measure at January’s legislative session.

Once finalized, name changes within the county will take place. Everything from roadway signage to school district information must be adapted. Any inconvenience brought on by extra administrative work will certainly be well worth the effort to recognize the Oglala Lakota as the people of that county.

The Lakota People’s Law Project is extremely happy for the Natives within Shannon County. We hope this large scale change will impact counties throughout South Dakota and the United States as a whole to make similar moves that support accurate reflection of the nation’s origins.


Aljazeera America reports on foster care crisis in South Dakota

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The efforts of the Lakota People’ Law Project and other brave warriors fighting a racist and classist system were highlighted in a recent article by Laura Rena Murray for Aljazeera America.

The article details the travails of several Native American families ripped asunder by an intolerant system.

One of the victims, Lois Thunder, watched as her grandchildren were removed from their home after being neglected by parents struggling through the ravages of substance abuse issues. Thunder understood the necessity to intervene in the difficult situation, but immediately began to fight to have the children placed with her — to no avail.

Instead of being placed with Thunder or the tribe as mandated by the Indian Child Welfare Act, the children were placed in non-Native homes, an all too familiar story in South Dakota.

Laura Rena Murray not only details the tragedy of individual families but demonstrates the systemic nature of the persistent injustices, interviewing Lakota People’ Law Project Attorney Chase Iron Eyes and other leaders in the Native communities who have begun to fight back against a cruel and unflinching system.

Please read the story which can be found here.

The Lakota People’s Law Project will continue to work diligently to ensure this racist practice that undermines the cultural heritage of Native peoples ceases. We need the help of media outlets such as Aljazeera to disseminate the message about this unfortunate circumstance.

Reporters like Laura Rena Murray are instrumental in helping the Lakota people receive a reprieve from prolonged injustice.

Natives Come Out for Midterm Election

Yesterday’s midterm election resulted in resounding victories for the Republican Party. Though numbers have not been announced, recent campaigns have inspired Native Americans to take political action.The empowerment increased numbers of Native Americans are finding in the vote is an encouraging sign. Despite victories for candidates dissociated from Native affairs, this upward trend indicates the possibility of future successes.

The Lakota People’s Law Project is not affiliated with political figures represented in the election.

Read Indian Country Today Media Network‘s full report on the role of Native Americans in the election here. The outlet covers dissuasive social blockades related to voting prevalent on reservations such as Pine Ridge here.

Feds may intervene in Baby Dawn ICWA case

The United States Department of Justice must decide whether to get involved in an ongoing Alaskan custody battle between a Native grandmother and the state appointed adoptive couple responsible for her granddaughter. The DOJ’s decision deadline stands at November 24th.

Six year old “Dawn” was separated from her mother and placed in foster care as an infant. She moved in with the Smiths, the family currently fighting to finalize their adoption, after a year in the system.

Dawn’s mother’s parental rights were terminated three years after her removal and as next of kin, grandmother Elise was legally eligible for custody.

Elise has been fighting for her right to adopt since the beginning of the ordeal. Record shows that she vocalized initial interest when Dawn was first taken. Further correspondence was noted in August 2009. At a November 2011 placement hearing, Elise testified once again. Still, her rights and willingness have not been properly acknowledged due to an alleged lack of official documentation.

The Lakota People’s Law Project firmly believes that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was passed to support people like Elise in their attempts to adopt members of their family and Native community.

The most recent infringement of these rights was on display at a September 12 Alaska State Supreme Court hearing in which Elise was denied her right to adopt in a 3-2 decision. Whether or not federal intervention will alter this outcome is not known.

Baby Dawn’s case has been compared to the controversial Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl Supreme Court decision of 2013, more popularly known as the Baby Veronica Case.

In this case, Dusten Brown of the Cherokee Nation wasn’t alerted of his daughter, Veronica’s,  adoption as he was not in contact with her mother at the time. According to the Indian Child Welfare Act, adoptions are invalid if a biological parent is uninformed.

Initially, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of Brown, but the United States Supreme Court overturned the state ruling and eventually granted custodial  adoptive parents by the Supreme Court after a four year long process in which the outh CarolSina Supreme Court ruled in favor of Brown. Brown, along with Veronica’s adoptive parents, make an effort to keep the father in Veronica’s life however possible.

If and how private adoptions differ from state organized adoptions under the Indian Child Welfare Act is up for interpretation by the federal government. The Lakota People’s Law Project is committed to a future in which ICWA is honored and Native families are able to stay in tact.