Tim Giago, the president of the Native American Journalists Foundation, was also the founder and publisher of the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today newspapers. In 2004 he briefly made national headlines by announcing he would run against Tom Daschle for Senate, but dropped out before the primary. I emailed him to ask about his column, and he wrote me back the same day:
My column is distributed weekly by Knight Ridder and by Native Times and it is picked up every Tuesday by indianz.com. The quotation is correct. […] It was in a private conversation and Cecelia told me to go ahead and use it in my column. The quotes were in support of a column I wrote 3 weeks ago about the SD legislature passing the bill to outlaw all abortions in SD.
So, somewhere in between: It was a private conversation, but one the record and willingly made public.
I intended to follow up today, but LiveJournal user kathrynt beat me to it. She tracked down contact information for Cecelia Fire Thunder and contacted her directly. “She was frankly kind of surprised that a white girl from Seattle was calling to express support, and even more surprised that the news had spread so far so fast,” Kathryn wrote. Cecelia gave her permission to post contact information so people could send donations or letters:
Oglala Sioux Tribe, ATTN: President Fire Thunder, P. O. Box 2070,
Pine Ridge, SD 57770
OR (and this may be preferred, due to mail volume):
ATTN: PRESIDENT FIRE THUNDER , PO BOX 990 , Martin, SD 57751
Make checks out to OST Planned Parenthood Cecelia Fire Thunder.
In a followup post, Kathryn noted some past controversy regarding Cecelia Fire Thunder:
While I believe strongly that President Fire Thunder and her council are good and honest people, there have been charges of fraud and malfeasance levelled against her in the past. She was found not guilty of all those charges, and unanimously reinstated to the presidency after the investigation.
Do your homework. Don’t send money blindly off to an address because some Internet yahoo said to. Yes, I am trustworthy and yes, the source for these addresses (snail and e) is President Fire Thunder herself, but do some independent confirmation anyway
If you want to do your own research about Fire Thunder’s background and views, you may find this recent profile of her in the Amerind magazine Well Nations useful. It includes a passage from a speech she gave after losing an election for Oglala Sioux President in 1990 (she came in 3rd out of 8).
[Edit: dailykos user SarahLee, who lives on the Rosebud reservation “next door to the Oglala reservation”, comments:
Consider the problems a Democratic president might inherit after 2 terms of Bush. President Fire Thunder inherited a similar situation. She needed money to pay off tribal debt. Instead of going to China, she went to another tribe. Some tribal members fear that she leveraged some tribal land as collateral for that loan. I donât know if she did or did not. She says that she didnât and right now I tend to believe her.
News Coverage, Legal Issues…
Today, Tim alerted me to front page article in the Rapid City Weekly News, “Oglala Sioux president mulls opening Planned Parenthood clinic.” Although Dan Savage quoted Giago’s column on his blog on Wednesday, this is the first time as far as I know that someone in the press followed up independently of the quotation Giago transcibed, and reported on the issue:
On Tuesday Fire Thunder, a former nurse and health-care provider, reiterated those comments in an interview with The Weekly News. If a clinic were placed on allotted land on a reservation, it would be “out of the reach of the South Dakota state Legislature,” she said. South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long said Fire Thunder’s claim isn’t entirely accurate.
The Attorney General explains that jurisdiction under tribal sovereignty varies depending on whether one, both, or neither of the crime victim & perpetrator are members of the trible, or whether it’s a “victimless crime”:
If however, both people involved are not tribal members, or it’s a victimless crime involving a non-tribal member, than it’s a state crime, Long said. In that case, if the abortion law withstands challenges in court and on the ballot, and a non-tribal member performs an abortion on a non-tribal member in Indian Country, it would be a violation of state law, he said.
Long went on to point out that the abortion ban is not yet in force, and may eventually be defeated at the ballot, or struck down by a federal court. For her part, Fire Thunder said she favors opening a clinic that would be for all women, Native American and non-Native.
Even if the abortion ban never becomes law, this is an important challenge on a political level. It could also be an extremely valuable service. Currently, South Dakota has only one clinic providing abortion services, and that one only does so one day a week. It’s in Sioux Falls, SD, near the southeastern corner of the state. Pine Ridge Reservation is in the west, over 300 miles away. If Fire Thunder follows through, the irony may be that South Dakota’s attempt to ban abortion will result in a doubling of access to abortion services in the state.
P.S. a comic for your amusement (relevant)