South Dakota Pro-Abortion Indian Tribe President Files Impeachment Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Pro-Abortion Indian Tribe President Files Impeachment Lawsuit Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 30, 2006

Pine Ridge, SD ( — The president of the Oglala Sioux tribe who was impeached for fundraising to build an abortion facility on the Indian reservation has filed a lawsuit to be reinstated in the position. Cecilia Fire Thunder filed the suit with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Supreme Court after a judge temporarily reinstated her and then vacated her decision.

Fire Thunder said her lawyers will file the lawsuit this week.

"This is about constitutional violations, procedural violations and strengthening our tribal courts," she told the Rapid City Journal newspaper.

Her comments come after tribal Judge Lisa Adams temporarily reinstated her on July 17 but then recused herself from the case and reversed her decision.

A new judge and court date have not been assigned and Fire Thunder told the paper she believes she is being denied due process.

“We’re aware that this is a stall tactic,” Fire Thunder said.

Valeria Apple, court administrator for the Oglala Sioux Tribe said a judge and hearing date had not been assigned but would be soon. Apple said Fire Thunder lawyer Tom Blanco filed a motion on Friday to dismiss the case.

Apple told the newspaper that the tribal council’s judiciary committee will appoint a judge in the case from the two judges on the reservation or from one from another reservation.

Council member’s said they fired Cecilia Fire Thunder because she solicited donations for the abortion center without prior approval.

After the vote, Fire Thunder filed for an injunction in tribal court. She claimed the council didn’t follow proper procedures when it removed her from office.

The council voted 9-5 to impeach Fire Thunder and four members of the council were absent for the vote.

Fire Thunder argues removing the president requires the support of 12 members of the council, a two-thirds vote. She indicated the council also failed to file a sworn statement issuing the compaints against her before it held the vote.

She also claims the council violated her First Amendment free speech rights by prohibiting her from discussing the situation with the media.

On the same day as the impeachment vote, the council voted unanimously to prohibit abortions on the Oglala Sioux reservation.

Fire Thunder came under strong criticism from members of the Indian tribe when she proposed building an abortion business on the reservation after the state legislature approved a statewide ban on most abortions. The abortion facility would fall under national law in part and abortions would likely be legal there as long as the abortion practitioner was a Native American.

The impeachment vote came after a day of testimony on both sides and a two hour private meeting of members of the council. This was the third attempt to impeach Fire Thunder, as she upset council members on other issues previously.

Tribal councilman Will Peters filed the impeachment complaint. Peters said “massive national attention" led to Fire Thunder’s suspension last month in advance of the impeachment vote.

“Abortion is what got this ball rolling," he told the Rapid City Journal newspaper at the time.

"The bottom line is the Lakota people were adamantly opposed to abortion on our homelands. The president was involved in unauthorized political actions," Peters said.

Tribal vice chairman Alex White Plume was slated to serve as the tribe’s president until elections in November.

Fire Thunder is a longtime abortion advocate and formerly worked at an abortion business in California. She’s on the steering committee of the pro-abortion group hoping to defeat the ban at the polls.

”I got really angry about a bunch of white guys in the state Legislature making decisions about my body, again,” Fire Thunder said of the state legislature’s approving an abortion ban.

However, abortion in anathema to the Lakota tribe’s traditions and the tribal council, on the same day it suspended Fire Thunder, voted unanimously to ban abortions on the reservation.

Philomine Lakota, a language and culture teacher, told Indian Country Today that she knows of no word in the Lakota tribe’s language for an abortion because the values of the Native Americans don’t include taking the life of a baby before birth.

A group of tribal women are continuing Fire Thunder’s efforts to open the Sacred Choices Wellness Center. The facility will not promote family planning instead of operating as an abortion center.

TAKE ACTION: Voice your thoughts on the impeachment to: Oglala Sioux Tribe, P. O. Box H, Pine Ridge, SD 57770. You can also call 605-867-6074 or fax a letter to 605-867-6076.

Related web sites:
Oglala Sioux Tribe –