Opening arguments are scheduled Tuesday in a federal lawsuit filed by a group of Native American inmates saying a state prison policy that bans the use of tobacco during religious ceremonies is discriminatory.
The Native American Council of Tribes based at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls wants the U.S. District Court to
prevent the policy from being enforced.
Inmate Blaine Brings Plenty said in the complaint that for Native American prayer to be effective, "it must be embodied in `tobacco' and offered within a ceremonial framework."
The state prison system went tobacco free in 2000 but made an exception for tobacco used in Native American ceremonies. It later reversed the exception, saying tobacco was becomingly increasingly abused and inmates were separating it from their pipe and tie mixtures.