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Women's Bodies

Abortion Ban Overturned in South Dakota — Turmoil Over Oglala Sioux Elections

Fire Thunder

Cecilia Fire Thunder

South Dakota voters voted yesterday to overturn a ban on abortion which was a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and which would have forbade abortions even in the event of rape or incest.    Fifty-five percent voted to overturn the ban; 45 percent voted for it.  Voters turned out in record numbers;  one precinct reported an 81 percent voter turnout.

Many believe the Native American vote was significant in the overturn of the ban.  In the weeks before the vote, signs appeared on the Pine Ridge Reservation with the message, “Children are Sacred; Vote Yes on 6.”   In response, Native American opponents of the ban distributed posters with the image of a woman and the message, “Women Are Sacred. Vote No on 6.”  According to Mary Lou Greenberg via Stephanie Hiller of Awakened Woman and the Global Sisterhood Network, the following poem appeared on the back of the posters:

Women Are Sacred

It has always been that women are sacred
our mothers are teachers of our ways.Women take care of themselves,
our children, our elders
and we all take care of the family.The state legislature is
trying to apply rigid restrictions
on decisions that are sacred.
All women deserve to be safe from violence and
all children deserve to be wanted.

Tell the legislature to promote comprehensive
sex ed in our schools, tell them to work to
reduce domestic violence, and sexual assault.

Tell them to feed the hungry children we see every day

Vote no on 6 and tell our elected officials
to take care of families. Send a message to
the SD legislature that Lakota women and
their families can make their own difficult decisions.

Vote NO on Referred Law 6.

In a rally in Rapid City held last Friday, keynote Cecelia Fire Thunder, impeached president of the Oglala Sioux,  told the mostly-woman crowd:

“I want to be real clear, Christianity is responsible for the problems on Indian reservations, for 90 percent of the problems.  We have been Christianized. Men believe they have the right to say what they want about our bodies. As an elder Indian woman, it’s my job to set the record straight. It’s about choice. Indian women have been making choices about our bodies way before Christopher Columbus sailed.”

According to a report in the Argus Leader, Fire Thunder also said being impeached had been like a shower of gasoline on the abortion ban blaze, but had opened doors for her to speak nationally about the controversy in South Dakota.   “An Indian woman at Pine Ridge created a national discussion on women’s choices. Is that exciting or what?” Fire Thunder said. “I love it. That’s why the creator put me on earth.”

I’ve been blogging about the situation in Pine Ridge and with Cecilia Thunder herehere,  and here and had been anxious to see what would happen in the presidential elections. As it turned out, turmoil reigned.  A tribal appeals court had cancelled the elections because acting president Alex White Plume, who had taken over when Cecilia Fire Thunder was impeached, was found to have had a prior felony conviction.  Tribal law prohibits anyone with a felony conviction from appearing on the ballot.  However, the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s election board decided to simply remove Alex White Plume from the ballot and go forward with the election, with Cecilia Fire Thunder and John Yellow Bird Steele as the candidates.   As election day proceeded, conflict between the Election Board and the Executive  Committee intensified.  White Plume said he was prepared to ask tribal police to seize the ballot boxes and also reported having received an anonymous threat to take over the tribal building.




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