Mike Rounds is steadfastly opposed to Indian rights

The Lakota People’s Law Office of Rapid City, South Dakota has been asked to provide information relating to the South Dakota citizens that a protest is being mounted at the site of Mike Rounds’ scheduled public press conference this Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The press conference will feature conservatives Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who are expected to give their endorsements to former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds for the South Dakota United States Senate Seat being vacated by ailing South Dakota U.S. Senator Tim Johnson.

Daniel Sheehan, the General Counsel for The Lakota People’s Law Office, wishes to inform the people of South Dakota that Michael Rounds’ record during his terms as State Senate Majority Leader and as the Governor of South Dakota graphically demonstrate that Rounds will not represent the interests of the Lakota people of South Dakota if he is elected to the U.S. Senate to replace Tim Johnson.

“Mike Rounds has been steadfastly opposed to the interests of Native peoples in South Dakota,” said Daniel Sheehan. “As State Senate Majority Leader and as the Governor of South Dakota, Michael Rounds first worked extremely closely with the most racially-insensitive administration in the history of South Dakota under then-Governor William Janklow and then headed up his own administration that carried on those same polices. His and William Janklow’s policies were responsible for removing over 7,000 Lakota children from their homes and tribes and forcibly placing those Indian children in non-Native foster care or adoptive settings in open defiance of the federal law.”

Mike Rounds was the State Senate Majority Leader from 1995 to 2000 working closely with his mentor Governor William Janklow who once said that the only way to deal with Indian activists is ‘to put a bullet in their heads.”

And then, as William Janklow’s hand-picked successor as Governor, from 2003 to 2011, Rounds  presided over a period when his and William Janklow’s South Dakota State Department of Social Services was seizing and forcibly removing from their homes and tribe an average of 742 Indian children every year, according to the United States Children’s Bureau.

Rounds appointed Debra Bowman, William Janklow’s “Special Executive Assistant”, to be the Director of the South Dakota State Department of Social Services and, together, Rounds and Bowman falsely claimed that the Federal Adoption & Safe Families Act trumped the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act and they continued to seize Lakota children at an alarming rate — even after the South Dakota Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2005 expressly declaring the Rounds Administration’s Indian child-placement policy to be unlawful.

Rounds and Bowman continued this unlawful policy by drafting and pushing through the Round’s-dominated State Legislature a specific statute granting to the DSS the non-reviewable discretion to refuse to place any children seized by the state with any “relative.”

Mike Rounds then appointed Marty Jackley (who, as the George W. Bush Administration United States Attorney had attempted to prosecute members of the 1973 American Indian Movement for a 35-year-old murder case) to be the South Dakota Attorney General in 2009… so Jackley could continue to pursue members of this Indian movement.

Marty Jackley then presided over the infamous “Mette Rape Scandal Case.”

“The Mette Rape Scandal is the most egregious case of a state cover-up of Indian child sexual abuse in South Dakota’s history,” Daniel Sheehan said. “Anyone associated with that horrendous dereliction of duty should not hold public office.”

The Mette Rape Scandal refers, of course, to the infamous case of Richard Mette, the 325- pound white man who repeatedly raped one, sexually abused two, and then physically abused the other Lakota Indian foster care children for a full decade who had been placed in his care by the Rounds DSS Administration.

Those Indian children cried out, repeatedly, to Rounds’ Department of Social Services, decrying this sexual and physical abuse, but they were steadfastly ignored until a medical doctor recognized the evidence of this abuse and alerted law enforcement authorities.

An Aberdeen Police Department search of Richard & Gwendolyn Mette’s home revealed a “virtual pornography store” and further incriminating evidence of outrageous sexual and physical abuse of these Indian children too outrageous to recount here.

Richard Mette was charged, by local law enforcement authorities in Aberdeen, South Dakota, with 23 felony counts of child sexual abuse and his wife, Wendy Mette, was charged with 11 felony counts predicated on her role as his willful accomplice.

Brandon Taliaferro, the former Brown County Deputy State’s Attorney, was the original State Prosecutor of Richard & Gwendolyn Mette and he vigorously pursued the case against them. However, he was ordered to “back off” that case, as its prosecution threatened to publicly embarrass the DSS at a time when they were under intense investigation by NPR National Public Radio which had just aired a scathing public criticism of the State of South Dakota’s Department of Social Services’ treatment of Indian families and children.

Taliaferro refused to do back down and he was summarily fired – and then he and the State Court-Appointed Child Advocate for these Indian children, Mrs. Shirley Schwab, were falsely charged by Rounds-appointed Attorney General Marty Jackley. The false charges included felony counts of “witness tampering” and “bribery”, that were summarily dismissed by long-time State Court Judge Gene Paul Kean when Marty Jackley’s office failed to present any credible evidence whatsoever to support those utterly false charges.

This led Judge Kean, from the bench, to publicly attribute that utterly false criminal prosecution to “Pierre”….meaning to Marty Jackley and the Governor’s Office.

Moreover, state prosecutors under Marty Jackley then dropped all eleven felony counts against Wendy Mette, then dismissed 22 of the 23 counts against Richard Mette…and attempted to accept a plea from Mette to “One count of spanking.”

But when Indian advocates vigorously protested Richard Mette was allowed, by Marty Jackley, to plea to one felony count (for which he received a sentence that will allow him out within just two years) and the DSS and Jackley then placed those Indian children back in The Mette home with Gwendolyn Mette!

“The Mette Rape Scandal Case epitomizes South Dakota State Attorney General Marty Jackley’s and former state governor Michael Rounds’s approach to Indian people and their issues,” Sheehan said. “Rather than care for the young Indian girls who were being horrendously sexually abused, the state intentionally shielded the white perpetrators of these despicable crimes and attempted to destroy the professional reputations and careers of the only loyal State employees who tried to protect these Indian children. Rounds’ administrators were clearly more interested in covering up clear evidence of the systemic racism displayed toward Indian people than they were in serving justice or upholding the public good.”

It is, of course, entirely up to the people of South Dakota as to whether they wish to be represented in the United States Senate by a person who has made these types of political appointments and who was virtually appointed to his office by one of the most flagrantly racist anti-Native American bigots in American history,” Sheehan concluded. “Our office is simply conveying to the people of South Dakota, at the express request of representatives of the press, what Michael Rounds record reflects concerning his policies and practices with regard to the issue of Indian Rights, which is the specific area of public policy expertise of our office. Our Lakota Peoples Law Office, as a federally-authorized 501(C)(3) public interest law office, takes no position whatsoever as to whether people should, or should not, vote for Michael Rounds as the person to replace Tim Johnson in the United States Senate to represent them in Washington, D.C. It is up to the people of South Dakota to decide what policies and programs they wish to see implemented by our Federal Government toward Indian people.


28th Annual Black Hills Powwow


Last weekend marked Rapid City’s 28th annual Black Hills Powwow. Hundreds of Native dancers, singers, musicians, and artisans were brought together for the “Come Dance with Us” themed festivities.

Traditional performances, art shows, and sports tournaments made the powwow an event to be remembered. Many attendees view the event as the prime time to showcase their talents and celebrate their cultural identities. The prizes for competitions totaled over $85,000– the Northern Plains singing event alone awarded $27,000 to its winners .

Stephen Yellowhawk, board president of the Black Hills Powwow Association, said that, “It’s our dream to reach out to everyone, even if they’re not powwow dancers or singers, and make them feel welcome here in our community.” The powwow certainly accomplished just that— unifying Natives from across the United States and Canada, along with non-Native spectators, for three days of cultural celebration.

Joining that spirit of unification, Lakota People’s Law Project was happy to attend the powwow and meet with tribes who were recently approved for Title IV-E federal planning grants to begin the planning process.

The powwow kicked off on Friday with the Youth Day Symposium, which brought in over 4,000 Rapid City School District students to hear a speech from Olympic medalist and Pine Ridge native Billy Mills. The 1964 Olympic medalist spoke to the youth about the importance of diversity and perseverance.

Thirteen-year-old Sancha St. John admires Mills’ accomplishments, saying, “He’s inspiring us to do better and achieve more. He’s showing us how we can do good in life.”


To find out more about Billy’s charity foundation, check out his initiative Running Strong for American Indian Youth.

The 28th Black Hills Powwow was a massive success, celebrating tradition, spirituality, and, above all else, community. We are both encouraged and excited to move forward with our efforts developing tribal child and family service programs with this renewed sense of unity and commitment!

Indigenous People’s Day?


In a unanimous decision, Seattle has opted to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day this coming Monday (October 13th). The city will join Minneapolis, which voted in April, in their revamped recognition of North America’s roots.

As it stands, several states do not recognize Columbus Day at all. Hawaii recognizes the day as Discovery Day.

In South Dakota, the state started calling the holiday Native American Day in 1989.

The movement to either change or dispense with the holiday altogether has begun with indigenous populations in the United States. Native Americans have long viewed Columbus Day as [being] disrespectful to their long and rich heritage.

While evidence of mass genocide, sexual enslavement, and general racism certainly lends credence to the movement to change the holiday, the vilification of Columbus as a historical figure has [paused the discussion] given some pause.

Many Americans remains unsettled by the idea of completely reconstructing his holiday.

Jerry Newcombe of the Christian Post describes Christopher Columbus as being, “reviled by the politically correct elites in our culture” while Italian-Americans mourn over possible denouncement of the symbol of the explorer. The question stands- can any religious or cultural sentiment override immoral realities behind Columbus’s legacy?


Indigenous peoples across the country retort with a resounding “no” as they demand increased representation in the celebration of early America. While Christopher Columbus did, of course, sail the ocean blue back in 1492, he was not met by a vast expanse of empty earth.

Rather, his ships were received by Native tribes with abundant traditions and complex cultures who called the land home long before the age of European exploration. If anything, Columbus can be credited with solidifying European awareness of the Americas. However, any holiday that recognizes North American history should undoubtedly acknowledge both sides of its “discovery”.

As we approach the federal holiday, it is vital to consider your personal relationship with the Columbus Day tradition. Do you view the holiday as a celebration of our country’s symbolic beginnings or a literal remembrance of Columbus as a revolutionary individual? Should indigenous Americans be honored separately from this figure or represented beside him? We are interested to hear the value you place on the second Monday of October and how you believe it should be celebrated.

New Development in Mette Rape Scandal

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There has been a development in the Mette Rape Scandal in South Dakota. The scandal involves the highest levels of the executive branch of the state government including South Dakota attorney general Marty Jackley. The Lakota People’ Law Project Chief Counsel Daniel Sheehan describes the scandal as, “the most egregious case of a state cover-up of child sex abuse in this nation’s history.”

The latest development involves Brandon Taliaferro, the former Brown County Deputy State’s attorney, who initially charged Richard Mette with 23 felony counts of child sex abuse and his wife Wendy with 11 counts for allegedly abetting the crimes.

After pursing the case that had to potential to cause embarrassment for the South Dakota Department of Social Services, Taliaferro was accused by prosecutors of tampering with witnesses and evidence, bribery and perjury.

The case never made it to trail because Judge Gene Paul Kean tossed the case out of court before it made it in front of a jury, while Kean lectured the prosecution about letting inter-office politics spill into the state’s judiciary system. As South Dakota Public Radio broadcaster Vicky Wicks revealed on Wednesday, Oct. 9, Taliferro was attempting to get his arrest record expunged so he can answer truthfully when asked if he has been arrested.

Read Wicks excellent and incisive article here:


The Lakota People’s Law Project believes unequivocally that the Mette Rape Scandal emphasizes the corruption that is inherent in South Dakota’s Department of Social Services (DSS). The state clearly believes it can destroy the lives of young Native children and shield child rapists with impunity. Anyone who dare question their method of operations will be subject to retaliation and have their careers and reputations sullied.

For more background of the Mette Rape Scandal please read the following:

The young Lakota foster children under the care of Richard and Wendy Mette repeatedly told the DSS about the abusive acts Richard Mette committed for more than a decade from 2001-2011, but the state did not want to believe them.

It was not until a doctor noticed marks of abuse on one of the children and alerted the police, that something was finally done. Taliaferro, a young prosecutor in the Brown County State Attorney’s Office, brought 23 counts against Richard Mette and 11 felony counts against Wendy Mette for a prolonged series of crimes too despicable to recount here.

The state, which stood to suffer embarrassment due to the case, did not allow the Mette case to go to trial, instead dropping 22 of the counts against Richard Mette and all counts against Wendy.

Richard Mette got 15 years in prison and is eligible for parole in 6½ years, instead of what should have been a life sentence.

However, the state’s malice did not stop there.

Instead of rallying around the children and prosecuting Richard and Gwendolyn Mette to the fullest extent, the state of South Dakota pushed back against Taliaferro and Schwab. During the trial the children were removed from the Mette home and put under the care of their older and capable sister, but the state of South Dakota chose to put the Lakota children back in the care of Gwendolyn Mette.

Help us combat the racial bias and corruption in South Dakota.

Hospital abuse, another example of S.D. racial injustice

The Lakota People’s Law Project has spent the last eight years attempting to convince the general public about South Dakota’s egregiously racist attitude towards Native peoples.

This is not to say that every South Dakotan is a racist, but systemically, the institutions and mechanisms of power are established in such a manner to abet the repression of the Lakota people.

While our focus has remained primarily on the Department of Social Services and the other state agencies that have marshaled resources to protect it and shield it from scrutiny, the case of Vern Traversie further underscores racist attitudes toward Indian people.

Traversie is a 71-year-old blind Lakota man who underwent heart surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital in Rapid City on August 26, 2011. His lawsuit was filed on July 16, 2012 by a team of lawyers that includes Lakota People’s Law Project Attorney Chase Iron Eyes.

In the suit, Traversie claims he was subject to abuse, denied pain medication and suffered “severe emotional trauma” during his time at the hospital.

After being released, Traversie’s relatives noted that he had several scars and flesh wounds across his abdomen, some of which appeared to form the letters “KKK.”LO-RES-FEA-Photo-Hate-Crime-Vern-Traversie-04_Facebook

In July 2012, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, who has been at the center of several controversial decisions relating to Indian relations in the state, declined to prosecute the hospital on Traversie’s behalf.

The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court, District of South Dakota, Western Division and will go to trial after the summary judgement filed by the hospital’s lawyers was denied by a federal judge.

From the perspective of the Lakota People’s Law Project, the incident provides yet another example of how the South Dakota justice system routinely fails to protect its Indian citizens and demonstrates how they are often left with expensive federal lawsuits as their only form of redress.

We will continue to follow the Traversie case.

For more information visit:


Welcome to the official Lakota People’s Law Project blog! The Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) is an organization dedicated to bringing justice to South Dakota’s Native population. Every day, Indian children are separated from their families, often without justification, and placed in non-Native foster homes. These devastating violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act have inspired our mission to facilitate the development of foster systems run by Natives for Natives. We hope a long-overdue sense of peace will be brought to these fractured families. Beyond South Dakota, this campaign is concerned with the general rights of indigenous people across North America.

Our blog will serve as a forum for discussions revolving around current events relevant to our cause. From environmental issues such as the Keystone pipeline, to the legal developments in Washington D.C., a vast realm of phenomena affects the work done in South Dakota. We encourage you to participate in this discussion by commenting and expressing your thoughts on the topics at hand, and contribute to bringing much-needed attention to this important issue!

Thank you for visiting and check back soon to join the discussion!

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