More of Temple’s cattle were confiscated in June of 2016. This time more than 200 were rounded up, and many were killed in the rushed operation. The surviving cows were eventually bought back by Temple. Finally, in April 2017, the tribal government arrested Temple for continuing to graze his cattle, and charged him with ‘Depredation of Government Property.’
By Marjorie Haun
On April 17, the Federal Government dropped its case against Curtis Temple, a Native American cattle rancher from South Dakota who has been dogged by federal agencies and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for years. Last year Temple was arrested by his own tribal government for purported ‘destruction of government property’ related to grazing his cattle on tribal lands. The motion to dismiss was issued by the U.S. District Court and contains no specifics other than it will best serve ‘the interests of justice.’
Earlier, on April 6, the court filed a recommendation for dismissal citing the fact that, as an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Temple acquired his grazing allotments legally and his case did not meet federal criteria for ‘destruction of property.’
As was recently reported, Temple inherited his ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota from his grandfather. In the early 1940’s Temple’s grandfather and his family were forced off the land so the Department of Defense could use it as a bomb testing area. After World War II, the family again acquired the land and moved back to the ranch. In 1999, Curtis Temple took over the ranch and by 2012 had 1,500 head of cattle. Along with his own ranch, he had 60,000 acres of Indian Reservation allotments bordering the Bad Lands National Park.
In 2011 the Oglala Sioux Tribe undertook an effort to create a new ‘Tribal National Park,’ and as a result local ranchers’ allotments were limited to 1 year terms instead of the customary 5, and became subject to tribal eminent domain. Despite the fact that Temple had put significant effort and money into improving the allotments, his grazing rights were revoked. He appealed the decision and fought to keep his cattle on the range.
Without a court order in May of 2015, the BIA seized 138 of his cows. Because livestock barns in South Dakota deemed the confiscated cows as stolen livestock, the BIA was unable to sell the cows they had rounded up. The BIA faced the same problem in Gordon, Nebraska. The cattle were kept at a feedlot in the meantime, but Temple never saw them again.
Throughout this time Temple was paying his grazing fees, and had retained an attorney to help him keep his cows on his allotments.
More of Temple’s cattle were confiscated in June of 2016. This time more than 200 were rounded up, and many were killed in the rushed operation. The surviving cows were eventually bought back by Temple. Finally, in April 2017, the BIA arrested Temple for continuing to graze his cattle, and charged him with ‘Depredation of Government Property.’
When Temple’s lease was ended illegally, the BIA seized his cattle because they said they were on range units not leased to him. Temple challenged the BIA’s actions in tribal court and secured an injunction ordering the BIA to stop stealing his cows. The BIA ignored the tribal court and seized more cattle from Temple despite a standing injunction prohibiting them from doing so. The BIA’s response is that they are not bound by any action taken by the tribal court. If they are not bound by the actions of the tribal court, than who is? Is this a failed state?
For those of us who grew up here we understand just how difficult it is to get ahead. For our ranchers who live on the reservation and actually contribute to our economy they deserve first preference to these range units. It’s an absolute joke that this lease ended up in the hands of non-residents. The councilman who sat back and watched his brother steal this lease should seriously consider resigning from his post if our people living on this reservation are not his first priority.
According to Jeffrey Whalen in Indianz.com, the Oglala Sioux Tribe was out of bounds, and BIA overreached in this case, having no authority to revoke grazing rights or arrest Temple for damaging government property. He states:
The United States Magistrate Judge in court case 5:17-CR-50062-JLV has recommended that the defendant’s motion to dismiss the Indictment be granted. The court has totally recognized that the Bureau of Indian Affairs does not have any authority to claim that Curtis’s Temple’s cattle damaged federal property. The allegation did not prove at all that there was any federal property damaged. Curtis was facing 10 long years in prison, has had several years of worrying about his future. He fought hard and was extremely determined to prove the United States government wrong.
This decision is a game changer. The BIA must change their evil way of thinking and even more important the Oglala Sioux Tribe must revise their unconstitutional and illegal Grazing Code to actually benefit the ranchers and land owners as it is spelled out in AIARMA [American Indian Agricultural Resources Management Act].
*Featured photo by Thara Lynn, Curtis Temple Facebook page
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