PORCUPINE, South Dakota – The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted 9-5 Thursday afternoon to impeach tribal president Cecelia Fire Thunder. The tribe’s first woman president has successfully challenged two earlier attempts to remove her from office, and her staff has stated that she will again work to overturn the suspension.
Fire Thunder was removed from office this time under a cloud of controversy. She announced her intention to build an abortion clinic on reservation land after the South Dakota state legislature passed HB 1215, which bans all abortions except where the life of the mother is immediately threatened, and does not allow for exceptions in the cases of rape or incest or the compromised health of the mother.
However, according to tribal councilman Walter Big Crow from the Wakpamni District, the president’s impeachment “Had nothing to do with the abortion issue, that was just a way to get it on to the floor.”
After HB 1215 was signed into law by Governor Mike Rounds, Fire Thunder made several statements to the press about her intentions to challenge the state law by building “A Planned Parenthood clinic on tribal lands,” and initiated fundraising efforts.
Immediately following her announcement, Planned Parenthood said that they had not been contacted regarding the tribal president’s intention. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council also was not consulted.
Will Peters, the tribal council member who filed the impeachment complaint, said Fire Thunder didn’t have the tribal council’s approval to pursue the project.
Councilman Big Crow said, “She’s outstanding and she’s vocal, but she’s still a rookie when it comes to politics. She’s not a politician.” Fire Thunder successfully challenged the other two attempts to permanently remove her from office, but councilman Big Crow, who has supported her in the past, said, “Were not going to let her back in. She’s made some pretty controversial statements that are her personal opinions and has created a war…and then she expected us to fight her personal battles for her.”
When asked about the abortion issue around which Fire Thunder was removed from office, he said, “That’s a personal issue, that’s a woman’s issue. I don’t think it should have even been on the council floor.”
Although Fire Thunder has vowed to challenge the impeachment, she was elected in 2004 and her term ends in October of this year.