PINE RIDGE — The president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Julian Bear Runner, was not impeached during a hearing on Sep. 14 for a complaint of inappropriate contact with an underage boy.
The victim, an 18-year-old who made the allegations against the president, and Bear Runner were able to testify at the hearing and both were able to call witnesses to testify.
After council had gone into executive session, multiple motions were made and they needed at least 14 council members voting yes to pass. A motion to remove Bear Runner from office failed to garner a two-thirds vote at 12 voting yes, 5 voting no, and 3 not voting. Two motions to adjourn the meeting failed until vice president Tom Poor Bear finally called the meeting adjourned. A motion by council representative Chancy Wilson to send the complaint to the United States Attorney General and the Oglala Sioux Tribal Attorney’s office was not entertained.
The victim’s testimony began with his first contact with Bear Runner which was made on a student council trip to Bear Runner’s office. The victim stated that Bear Runner provided his Snapchat information and the two kept in contact via the app thereafter.
The night before Feb. 10, Karen Eagle, a spokesperson for the tribe, was organizing a political lobbying trip to Pierre. The victim, who was 17 at the time, expressed interest in the event and Eagle had arranged for Bear Runner to pick the minor up from his house in Porcupine and transport him to Pine Ridge for further transport to Pierre.
The victim then claims that Bear Runner pulled the vehicle to the side of the highway in the Wounded Knee District, began stroking the minor’s thigh, unzipped his pants, and performed oral sex on him. “After that I kept to myself,” he said. “I was ashamed of what happened.”
The victim was able to provide phone conversations with Eagle that showed time stamps of text messages. The phone conversations showed that Bear Runner and the minor left Porcupine shortly after 5:30 a.m. and then arrived in Pine Ridge at nearly 8:00 a.m. The drive from Porcupine to Pine Ridge normally takes less than 30 minutes.
The victim claims that Bear Runner and he kept in touch after the incident and Bear Runner coerced the minor to send nude photos via Snapchat.
A second occasion on June 17, after the victim had turned 18-years-old, claims that Bear Runner used his place of power and position to take advantage of him. After an argument with family members, he began walking through the Porcupine district and called Tiny DeCory for assistance. DeCory then called president Bear Runner and Bear Runner made contact with the youth in the early hours of the morning.
The victim claims that Bear Runner took him to his house and then to Rapid City to rent a hotel room. In the hotel room, which was arrived at around 4 a.m., he claims that Bear Runner laid in bed with him, spooned him, kissed his neck, and pressed his erection against his body. “That night I needed help because I was in a vulnerable state,” he said. “I was afraid to do something because I was scared.”
He then claims that Bear Runner and he proceeded to have intercourse. “After that I had to get out of the room and I tried to call a close family member of mine,” he said. “I was just trying to stay away from him because I was ashamed, I felt dirty, and I didn’t feel right.”
Bear Runner’s testimony began with raising issues with the proceedings of the tribal council hearing based on no criminal trial being held beforehand. “I feel that I cannot defend myself in this case because unlike the judicial proceedings where proper investigations can happen and law enforcement officials can investigate said accusations and effectively enforce the law,” said Bear Runner.
He went on to speak on both incidents. He said that he transported the minor from Porcupine to Pine Ridge in a timely fashion for the lobbying event with Karen Eagle. Furthermore, he detailed the trip to Rapid City with the youth but said that he had fallen asleep immediately, woken up to the youth missing, located him and then dropped him off at the Rushmore Mall.
Bear Runner called Karen Eagle to testify and Eagle said that the drive from Porcupine to Pine Ridge took a normal amount of time, but she could not produce any phone conversations with time stamps.
Tiny DeCory was not called to testify.