To deal with cattle thefts on Indian reservations, S.D. Brand Board considering tribal agreements

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Cow Cattle Livestock

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Proposed memorandums of understanding about enforcement of South Dakota livestock branding laws with the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are under review by the governor’s office, the director for the state Brand Board said Wednesday.

The remarks by Debbie Trapp came during a discussion about cattle theft on Indian reservations in western South Dakota, where the federal and tribal governments have jurisdiction over tribal members, while state government has it for non-Indians.

Robert Whipple, a rancher from the Rosebud area, distributed a letter from Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux inquiring whether state government had funds available to expand brand-inspection capabilities.

“Perhaps this is an area that we may be able to work together for the benefit of all South Dakotans,” the Bordeaux letter said. Whipple said the Rosebud Tribe’s attorney general, Lloyd Guy, could be interested in an agreement.

David Flute, the governor’s secretary of tribal relations and a past chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, said tribal governments might find acceptable short-term memorandums running 6 to 12 months that respected tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction.

Mellette County Sheriff Mike Blom said tribal members also might be willing to work with local sheriffs because they know those officers. “They feel like they voted for ’em,” he said. He added, “Most of the sheriffs I know that work in Indian country have a good relationship with the tribal police departments.”

The county is between the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations. Blom said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not going to pursue enforcement of state branding laws.

“Don’t ever kid yourself,” he told the board. “People that live within the boundaries of the Indian reservation use the fact that there’s jurisdictional problems to their advantage every day. And they’re certainly doing that with illegal drugs and they’re absolutely doing it with the livestock laws. There’s no question about it.”

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