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TRIBAL VOTERS DESERVE MORE THAN WHAT CANDIDATES ARE FEEDING THEM

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By Gregg Bear

The Sicangu Sun-Times Newspaper is Sicangu-owned and has been publishing on the Great Rosebud Sioux Reservation (Sicangu Nation) since Aug. 20, 1990, an entire quarter of a century (25 years).

But after all these years, I finally found myself in a dilemma regarding tribal candidates, particularly those running in the upcoming Aug. 27 RST General Election.

If you’re a regular reader of the Sun-Times, you might recall in the last edition, with consent of my editorial board, I made a rare overture to candidates.

I announced that I was donating FREE newspaper space (250 words) to campaigners—especially those too broke to buy ad space or pay someone to paint a sign for them. I made the offer to even things up a little and to give candidates a much needed avenue to expand on their ideas to voters. The offer included Internet access on the Sun-Times’ website.

But after asking around and meeting with those running, I soon learned that most candidates already believed they’d done all they could to reach voters. They were now planning to kick back, do nothing more, and wait and see if any of their efforts were going to pay off for them. Some believed “enough” was simply knowing their names were listed somewhere, and hoping name recognition alone would do the trick.

And, of course, this being the age of social media, a number of them tried putting their computer or cellphone to work, and heralded their candidacy on Facebook and other Internet outlets. Others attended a couple of government-run forums, got their names flashed briefly on RST Channel 93, or caught a momentary mention on tribal radio.

Some even tried venturing into the neighborhood to shake a few hands or spoke at a community meeting or two. Still others got creative, putting up highway signs or writing their names on car windows. Most of the ones we talked to believed what they were told, that their efforts would give them all the exposure they needed to succeed in the primaries.

Political observers say these candidates often find themselves disappointed after an election, and some probably found they were.

Of course, some paid the Sun-Times to design and print flyers for them, but that by itself is not enough.

It’s a battle to get attention. Most voters would rather watch a favorite TV program than a boring candidate forum; or sit through a listing of names flashed on the screen; or even look over a flyer, assuming they could find one.

These days, hand-painted road signs are the new rage. Everyone erects a sign, creating big clusters at highway junctions, and hope motorists briefly see their names in passing, and remember them at the polls.

People who buy newspapers usually buy only one, which they take home, where they’re likely to look at its contents before throwing it away; frequently, passing it along, so someone else can read it, too.

What they look at in the paper may be brief, to be certain, but they do take time to look, even read or study pertinent parts of it. And, believe it or not, that is about the best any candidate can hope for.

But hey, if you’re really serious about serving the Oyaté, you try to get as much exposure as you can, in whatever outlet is available, even if it is a newspaper. At least, the “look” is longer than a passing road sign.

“You leave no stone unturned,” as one political observer clichéd it.

Some predictable reasons that candidates gave for not taking advantage of FREE space in the newspaper included: they forgot; they didn’t expect to win (primary); they didn’t have time; or they didn’t care and thought it a “waste of time.”

Mm-hmm. Perhaps.

They had an entire month to extend a short “thank you,” win or lose; or even a note saying: “Hey, I’m running, remember me?”

Anything to let more voters know they truly wanted and appreciated their vote, and maybe say a little something extra about themselves and their platform to help voters make up their minds.

Last time voters gambled on a name-only candidate, we got Cyril Scott as president. RST Council finally impeached him earlier this year for his horrendous conduct in office.

People who watch these things say another reason candidates may have hesitated, sidestepping print media, was to avoid displaying lack of writing skills.

Maybe.

Several political observers mentioned that some candidates had outstanding financial obligations, and appearing in a popular newspaper could have brought them unwanted attention from creditors. One tribal candidate actually promised voters on Facebook that he would not accept a paycheck if elected. He wasn'r serious, of course. It was a dumb political stunt aimed at undermining his opponent, the incumbent. The deadbeat lost big-time in the primary; local creditors are now hot on his tail.

Democracy, whether in traditional or modern form, only works if everyone is on board. Not just voters, but fearless candidates as well. Voters need to be inspired to vote, and they need to be informed. Our candidates, even the sincere ones, are not doing enough to generate more inspiration, nor are they saying much about themselves.

The reason I offered FREE newspaper space was to see if some candidates would break free from the herd and express something of substance about themselves and their political platform. Nothing substantial was being seen or heard anywhere else, except in a couple of flyers, and voters deserved to hear more than candidates were telling them in so-called “forums.”

Something seemed to be holding them back. They were getting free advertising through a government agency, RST Channel 93. The supposed free access channel is donated by Golden West Communications, a business with political interests in our election outcomes.

Political observers bravely wonder if tribal candidates are under any outside influence or obligation. Can winners be preselected? If they are under any secret influence, would they know it if they were?

At times, it may seem like we live in a world dominated by fear. Nationally, some politicians will go to extraordinary lengths to create and exploit fear, and it works. But we know that you learn to battle fear if you ever hope to achieve a life of decency—for yourselves, for others, and especially for your children.

Despite this common fear, you must embrace the awesome responsibility bestowed on you: uncovering as much truth as possible about the candidate for whom you want to cast your all-important vote; picking someone you truly believe will do his or her utmost for you and the Oyaté, and will continue to answer your questions after being elected.

And free of outside influence.

Your vote was reverently handed down to you by the blood and diligence of tribal ancestors who have gone on before. That makes your vote sacred, and it should never be abused, misused, nor ever given lightly.

My dilemma now must wait through another election cycle, until a fresh batch of candidates springs onto the political field. Perhaps they’ll have the will and desire that many of today’s candidates seem to lack.

We can always hope, neh?

Mitakuye Oyasin.

 

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