Lakota Nation Journal
Cal Thunder Hawk
Controversy at Rosebud draws counter protest to support judge Collins
ROSEBUD—A meeting was held at a residence in Rosebud concerning the last week’s protest march and the publicity it generated in local newspapers. The meeting was attended by seven supporters of Judge Brian Collins.
Tillie Black Bear, director of the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society, Inc., opened the meeting and went directly to the problems of collecting child support on the Rosebud Reservation. She said, “You know, totally, we have well over $450,000 that has been collected in tribal court. And 40% of that has gone to Pierre, the other 60% stays here, locally. So, this is a lot of money that is actually benefiting our children through child support.”
In support of Judge Collins, Black Bear said, This year, when they were having training in Pierre, Judge Collins was the first tribal court judge to be invited to make a presentation about child support at this training,” she said. The training was sponsored in June by the state and covered the issue of child support. Black Bear said, “Statistically, we’re finding that it’s just not a gender issue, it’s men and women. We know of cases where women, who can afford to pay, are having to pay for child support as well. One case in particular is a woman that entered the service and the military honored the tribal court for her to pay child support for her children. So, it’s not just a gender issue, that it’s only men, although I think sometimes that Judge Collins is referred to as a ‘man-hater.’ This falls right in line with the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society because we’re also stereotyped as men-haters, you know. He advocates or at least he bases his decisions on what he hears, on what he thinks is fair. Custodial parents are being held accountable and they’re having to be responsible for the financial support of their children. So that, for us, is one of the strengths that we also see in him. Because he’s a civil court judge he also deals with protection orders. Women come to him for protection from their abusers, often times from their intimate partners. He hears those cases as well,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the RST does not have a tribal code to address child support and so we have to go by what we call ‘Law Of Choice.’ We go by LOC when there is no tribal code and we use the state law that we follow as guidelines,” Black Bear said.
Black Bear continued, “We don’t have a code on alcohol. It’s very hard for us to send someone to treatment. When we have commitments for someone in mental health, someone who has to be committed to Yankton or sent to treatment, we use state law as guidelines. We use the same thing in child support. We do it in heirship as well.”
“So there are a couple of things for us that utilize the court system. We look at one of the things that happened before Judge Collins came in 1997. Our own people really disrespected our court system. Sometimes cases were thrown out or were not heard because people wouldn’t come for jury duty. Or cases were thrown out because people didn’t appear, or the cases were set back and didn’t get heard because somebody didn’t show up when they were supposed to. So, one of the things that was powerful for Judge Collins was that he really demanded respect for tribal court. And that if were going to show up in court you were held accountable for your actions,” said Black Bear.
Black Bear continued, “So, today, we don’t have people screaming and hollering around the courtroom because he has held them accountable. So, one of the things that has been happening, since 1997, is that people are more respectful of our court system. If you’re subpoenaed to appear in court, you come to court. If you’re on jury duty, you come to jury duty. Again, that’s one of the things that I’ve found very striking is that women finding relief in court. Children are finding relief in court.”
“... One of that comments that was made in the paper was that ‘He (Collins) appears to be rude.’ Part of that is when you’re disruptive in court, you should be held accountable. You should be asked to sit down and be quiet and to listen,” Black Bear said.
Diane Miether, the legal advocate of the WBCW shelter said, “I have observed Judge Collins to be very concerned about domestic violence and its effects on both women and children. At times, I’ve said a couple of things sometimes when I felt that I maybe wasn’t being appropriate. And when I’ve said something to him to that effect, then he doesn’t get angry with me and he doesn’t say anything back. It could’ve easily been that way because it is his courtroom but he doesn’t display any anger or impatience with me for saying something. He listens to what I say. That’s what I’m here to do, to advocate for those women. He listens to what I have to say.”
Black Bear said, “There are a lot of people that don’t like his decisions. There is this mentality here, among our own people that, for some reason ... say a man will say, “I just bought clothes for my daughter. I’ll be damned if I’m going to give the money to her, to the mother.’”
She continued, “They go and take the child and buy the child clothing but they do that more like a gift. They don’t see that the mother is paying for electricity, paying for rent, paying for food and that they should help support this child in that. The men will not give. They don’t want to give the woman any money. There are a lot of hard feelings around that issue. We have tribal leaders, spiritual leaders that believe this way. It’s all about the attitudes towards women. It’s the way they view the women in our own society ... It’s kind of like, ‘Well, she’s going to go and if I give her $160 she’ll go buy herself a pair of brand new shoes.’”
Black Bear said, “They don’t see the overall total cost of the care for this child. They don’t take into consideration that one pair of shoes, as a child gets older, costs $100. Sometimes a jacket is close to $200. You know, our children want to be like everybody else in other places and this is costly. Yet, we have people who are paying $80 a month. Some are paying up to several hundred dollars, based on their income. So, when you have those kinds of decisions made then there are some very unhappy campers out there. They don’t want to pay that money. They don’t want to support their children.”
Black Bear continued, “And we look at it as, ‘Gee, isn’t it nice that our grandchildren are actually getting additional money, they’re getting some kind of support’ because we find that our men here make babies. They play and they don’t pay. This is one way they can hold themselves accountable and responsible.”
Responding to allegations that Collins had a felony on his record, Black Bear said, “It’s a greater issue because here’s a judge who is also an attorney. Yet they’re taking old information and misconstruing it and making it look like ‘This thing should have been taken care of by the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council when it surfaced two years ago. Our tribal council should have been held accountable for what they saw surfacing back then.’”
Black Bear continued, “And it was taken care of by them ... when the Judiciary Committee met with Judge Collins, they got the correct information. This was something that happened when he was in college, back in 1964, I believe. That has since been corrected. For some reason it was never expunged from his records in Kansas. I know that he does have documents to that effect, that they were misdemeanors. They’re not off of his record yet.”
Faith Spotted Eagle, Collins’ wife, said, “We came back (to the Rosebud Reservation) in 1997. Brian was hired by the court. He also works for TLE. But he came here from the Colville Confederated Tribes court whish is recognized as one of the best courts in the nation, but, anyway, when we came back here, he began getting into child support and protection order issues. We did receive some threatening phone calls. People called and said that they knew where we lived and my children have been threatened ... they have been threatened here locally because of their dad, in both the schools and the neighborhood, by their peers. This happened with my son about two years ago and the same with my daughter.”
When asked if the threats were reported to the police, Spotted Eagle said, “No. I think what has happened is that in this community – the reservation – those kinds of things have become normalized. Threats and violence are normalized. Regardless of all of that, it was not the primary thing because I know that he believed in what he was doing and that we believe in what we, as a family, are trying to do. We are trying to live in a good way. We told our kids to not get involved in it because it wasn’t their problem. That it didn’t have anything to do with them.”
Spotted eagle continued, “As time went along, I always received feedback from women who will say, ‘Tell your husband that he’s doing a good job.’ I’ve had men come up to me and say that he’s doing a good job. And so I usually say, ‘Tell him.’”
Spotted Eagle said, “I’ve gotten numerous emails from all over the country and we’ve also gotten phone calls from various people who are really upset. Some called Brian, encouraging him. But it is just mindful of how destructive such actions could be, for somebody to do that. I think a lot of it is based on a lot of the rage that we have here. I’m doing a lot of training on what I call ‘Red Rage’ because of all the trauma that we’ve faced over the last 500 years. We’re taking that out on each other.”
Black Bear said, “I think that there are some factions of people who haven’t dealt with that anger. They don’t know how to channel it. Unfortunately, there is always somebody there that they can target their anger on. Right now it’s Judge Collins.”
“You know, we have men who have fathered children with three or four women. We always hear about the ‘Coyote’ stores. Men call each other “Coyote of the Year.’ We hear stories about two women at the same hospital who are delivering babies to one guy. So, we have to go back to that whole attitude about the children.”
She continued, “Courts in the area are beginning to recognize court decisions from Rosebud. We had a woman that got a child support order from Rosebud Tribal Court. In Winner, in the District Court there, when the judge saw the order from Judge Collins, rather than going through the whole process of what the State does, he just accepted Collins’ decision. What that says is that people respect our Court jurisdiction, honoring a decision that came out of our tribal court. The kind of publicity that’s been created around Judge Collins comes with a risk, that they may not accept our tribal court’s decisions. And we all know that prior to Judge Collins coming that, with all due respect to our tribal court system, again, our women were finding relief in our tribal court system. The children were not finding relief.”
Black Bear continued, “Today, when a woman goes in for a protection order, for a restraining order, for a custody hearing, she knows that the court will take the time to listen to both sides and that it will be fair.’”
Sherry Red Owl said, “Brian came in and he started enforcing child support. Fathers have to go to jail for child support because they don’t accept any responsibility for child support. It’s their responsibility to pay that child support. If they are paying then there’s no reason they have to go to jail. I know that there’s been times when he had made arrangements if they were working to spend that jail time on the weekends. So I don’t think that he’s inflexible in enforcing child support laws.”
Red Owl said, “I know that something that we deal with all the time, as a tribe, is that so many fathers won’t claim their children. They won’t sign paternity papers. And in many cases it results in the child not being able to be enrolled with the tribe. So a tribal member is denied tribal membership. That’s one of the things that we try to really pursue is the fathers who are denying paternity to their children. Because there’s been a denial of basic rights.”
She said, “What they’re doing up here is protesting Brian’s actions in enforcing child custody They have brought up charges against him that they have no idea about. I told Brian to sue them for slander or libel in tribal court. They have no idea whether those (allegations) are real or not real. They’re just allegations. On reservations we’re tending to really operate a rumor mill and gossip. Nobody ever substantiates anything or ever says, ‘Well, can you prove that?’”
Red Own said, “I always really get angry whenever I hear everybody referring to Alfred Boneshirt’s organization as a grassroots organization because I don’t know follows him. I don’t see a lot of people following him. Then talks about AIM coming in to help him protest and ACLU coming in. Well, those organizations need to be looking who actually is following him. Who is actually out here behind him. I don’t see that kind of a population behind him. He doesn’t have any support locally.”
Black Bear said, “When we advocate on behalf of women, on behalf of children, we always have to be prepared to be attacked because, when you look at the construct of oppression, there are children on the bottom then women. Now as men are being held more accountable for their behavior. Whether it’s when they send out a sperm or when they hit a woman, beat up a woman, they are being held accountable. We’re finally getting to that point here at Rosebud so when they’re not accountable they fight back. And it’s personal attacks.”
She said, “I think the bottom line is, if our men would just ‘warrior-up’ and we are talking about these warriors, if they would just ‘warrior-up’ or ‘man-up’ our children would then be considered sacred, as would the would the women. Until that happens there’s going to be need for the services of the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society and there’s going to be need for services of people like Judge Collins and the prosecutors.”