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Pine Ridge Store Closes After Health Violations

May 15, 2012, 10:00 PM by Derek Olson

Pine Ridge Store Closes After Health Violations
PINE RIDGE, SD -

The only grocery store in Pine Ridge remained closed Tuesday night after nearly a dozen major health violations involving raw meat.

"They'd take hamburger home and it would look all nice on the outside but when they dug on the inside it was all brown," Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele said.

That led to an inspection by Indian Health Services.

"They've got a picture of a piece of meat in their coolers that the expiration date was February 23, 2012.  And this is May!" Yellow Bird Steele said.

"We actually bought it and cooked it and I fed my daughters the meat and we ate it," Pine Ridge resident Kimberly Big Boy said.

Even the tribe's president claims to have gotten tainted meat.

"I bought some chicken and it was rank.  It smelled to high heaven.  I took it back and they said to go get another one.  I went and got another one and it was in the same condition," Yellow Bird Steele said.

"And I've gotten sick and didn't think anything of it until I heard," Big Boy said.

They're complaints that the store's attorney says his clients are taking seriously.

"Those violations were almost immediately corrected.  And with the exception of one they're all corrected at the present time," attorney Terry Pechota said.

The tribe shut down the Sioux Nation Shopping Center last Friday but not for the health code violations.  They were concerned about potential retaliation from the community.

"I put in for a restraining order against them to prevent a serious breach of the peace," Yellow Bird Steele said.

Tribal officials have even gone as far as positioning police at the grocery in case there's civil unrest when it reopens, which may be soon.  The restraining order could be lifted by tomorrow.

"We are not going to be open tomorrow, for sure.  And if we are in operation and a situation like that develops we will close the store.  I don't think that anyone wants anyone to get hurt," Pechota said.

The grocery store actually leases the building from the tribe, which is considering terminating their contract if the issues persist.

Pechota says that his clients are willing to discuss any concerns with the tribe and that nothing is off the table.

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