Crow Creek leader begins protestThe chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe says he will take whatever peaceful action he can to reverse a land auction that involved disputed tribal land. Brandon Sazue this week vowed to set up teepees on the land, where he will live, fast and pray until the disagreement — involving some 7,100 acres on the Crow Creek Reservation — is settled.
By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic
FORT THOMPSON — The chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe says he will take whatever peaceful action he can to reverse a land auction that involved disputed tribal land.
Brandon Sazue this week vowed to set up teepees on the land, where he will live, fast and pray until the disagreement — involving some 7,100 acres on the Crow Creek Reservation — is settled.
“I am the chairman of my tribe. I’m not going to just sit back and not do anything,” Sazue told The Daily Republic. “I’ve got to do something.”
Sazue’s response comes after the IRS last week auctioned the land to pay off more than $3 million in back taxes, penalties and interests. The tribe has sued to block the sale, saying the sale was illegal under federal laws protecting American Indian land.
Although U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange allowed the sale to proceed, a March trial was set to hear arguments.
Sazue said his protest hasn’t exactly gone to plan. At present, he’s residing in a trailer on the land and won’t move to a teepee or fast until the tent arrives.
He has, however, braved frigid temperatures since Monday, surviving on the food and support provided to him by a steady stream of visitors.
According to a news release from the tribe, a representative from the tribal council was told in 2002 that the tribe did not owe any back taxes. The sale sets a dangerous precedent, Sazue said Thursday, and he’s hoping members from other various tribes will eventually join him at the protest site.
“It’s hurt us tremendously,” Sazue said. “If they can do it to us, what would stop them from doing it to them?”
Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin expressed concern Thursday about the methods and the reasoning behind the IRS’ decision-making process on the issue.
“They have not used this kind of authority much in the past and we’re concerned about the precedent that it sets,” Herseth Sandlin said. “We are raising questions about their authority to do so.”
She said she will look into the matter.
Until the dispute is resolved, Sazue said he will continue his protest on land near Mac’s Corner, about 12 miles north of Fort Thompson.
“I don’t care what the IRS says. It’s not for sale and it never will be,” Sazue said. “I could stay here forever.”