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From Staff Reports

WHITE RIVER — For the second time in nearly four months, stray dogs are being hunted on a South Dakota Indian reservation following a fatal attack.

A woman died after she was attacked by wild dogs early Saturday morning, March 14, on the Rosebud Reservation, according to the Mellette County Sheriff’s Office. 

Julia Charging Whirlwind, 49, of Lower Swift Bear, which is just across the highway (83) from White River, was pronounced dead Saturday at Rosebud Hospital.

The 911 call came in at 6:07 a.m., said Mellette County Sheriff Mike Blom. An ambulance arrived at 6:17 a.m. Blom arrived two minutes later.

When he arrived, he saw two people trying to fend off two remaining dogs as they tried to approach Charging Whirlwind. She had already suffered life-threatening injuries, Blom said. 

The sheriff said he shot one of the dogs when he arrived, causing the other dog to flee.

The victim was reportedly breathing and had a pulse when she was taken into the ambulance. She arrived at the Rosebud Hospital at 6:55 a.m. She died shortly after arriving.

Charging Whirlwind apparently had been attacked by several dogs earlier that morning. Two dogs were returning to the victim when the sheriff arrived and shot one.

Just how it all happened is still being determined, such as when the attack initially happened.

Followup investigation was taken over by Rosebud Police Department since the attack occurred in Lower Swift Bear, which is on tribal land.

The Mellette County Sheriff responded first because Rosebud police are 30 miles away and the sheriff lives less than a mile from where the attack took place.

One man apparently tried assisting Charging Whirlwind and was bitten when he tried to cover her up. His injury did not appear to be serious.

RST Council members on Monday, March 16, quickly approved a motion by Rep. Calvin Waln, ordering tribal attorney Eric Antoine to draft an emergency resolution for immediate approval, authorizing tribal police to work with state Game, Fish & Parks officers, and round up stray dogs deemed dangerous. Dogs are to be killed or impounded.

The action gave official approval to an emergency dog hunt that apparently began Saturday in Swift Bear and other tribal communities where dogs have reportedly been a problem.

Rep. Kathleen Wooden Knife said Charging Whirlwind was a friend of hers.

“Can any of us look into the eyes of Julie’s children or her family and say we’re not going to deal with this?” Wooden Knife said at the meeting.

Charging Whirlwind is said to have five children and three grandchildren. On her Facebook page, she listed herself as a child care worker at Spotted Tail Children’s Home in Rosebud.

This is the second time in less than six months that a person on tribal land was killed by dogs. An 8-year-old girl, Jayla Rodriguez, died after being attacked by dogs on Pine Ridge in November.

Stray-dog hunts followed each death, as did guilt and criticism about longstanding stray-dog problems on both reservations. RST Council members were told of another attack in Rosebud just the day before. The victim reportedly was saved at the last minute by passing motorists.

Back in November, the dog hunt in Pine Ridge was assailed as brutal revenge by critics who accused officials of indiscriminately rounding up dogs and killing them. Tribal officials later denied those claims. Contracted tribal members pulled an old horse trailer around town filling it with dogs and killing them. Some were given to a rescue group.

In Rosebud, tribal officials promised their dog hunt would be more humane.

Officer Marlin Enno said they will only seize dogs that are stray or unclaimed and aggressive or diseased.

“We’re not killing people’s pets and shooting every dog in the neighborhood,” he said.

But Acting RST President William Kindle warned that pet owners should tie up their dogs. “Any dog found at-large, outside of the owner’s property, will be impounded,” according to an announcement.

Where dogs would be impounded was not clear, and still remains an open question that officials are hard pressed to answer.

RST Council’s resolution was described as a temporary, emergency measure.

“I thought I knew my community,” said Rep. Alvin Bettelyoun Sr., Swift Bear, “but I didn’t know the dog problems were like this.”

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