August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Strongheart Warrior Society: Elders threatened at meals program

Cante Tenza Okolakiciye - Strong Heart Warrior Society
Free & Independent Lakota Nation
Box 512, Hill City, South Dakota 57745 605-454-0449 or
Feb 13, 2011
Contact: Duane Martin Sr. 605-517-1547 or 605-454-0449

Conspiracy of Threats, Physical Intimidation, Tribal Council
Corruption Stops Investigations
Elders Fear Retaliation After Coming Forward with Revelations
By Strongheart Warrior Society

Porcupine Community, Pine Ridge Reservation, SD – The crisis of elder
abuse on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation has hit a shocking new low
as revelations are emerging about a series of abuses and illegal
activities uncovered at the Porcupine Elder Center and the Elderly
Meals Program.

On Tuesday February 7th, a group of elders contacted the Lakota Strong
Heart Warrior Society with concerns for their safety after being
threatened by self-appointed Elder Center leader Winifred Janis.
Janis, and several family members including daughter Geneva Quiver,
appear to hold an iron fisted grip over the Elder Center and have
threatened elders with violence and assaulted at least one employee to
conceal revelations about abuse and illegal activities being conducted
out of the center.

Earlier this week, Janis directly threatened a group of Elders,
including 91 year old Cecilia Martin, shouting, “If any of you elders
talk about me or my daughter, I’m gonna’ hit you in the mouth!”

When the elders asked whom she meant, Janis replied, “Any damn one of

Efforts to get relief from the abusive conditions of the center’s meal
program have been obstructed by corrupt officials. Elder Lorraine
White Face said that she had tried to address the lack of nutritional
meals and strong arm tactics used by Janis. She has previously used
the center along with her 88 year-old mother, Ester White Face, for

After physically intervening to stop an elder from getting hit in the
head by a center employee, White Face was slapped with a restraining
order to keep her away from the center.

“She [Winifred Janis] uses her position to go against the real
elderly, said White Face, who has been an outspoken advocate for
traditional Lakota language and culture. “I mean elders who are 88, 89
and 91 years old – she made them worry every day. And I am elderly

The elders who use the Porcupine center now fear retaliation as
details of the abuses and corruption emerge. Wilson Coleman Jr., an
employee of the center, was physically beaten by three members of the
Janis/Quiver family after he spoke out about illegal activities
including alcohol bootlegging and the selling of drugs out of the back
of the Elder Center.

“Elder abuse is against the law,” noted Duane Martin Sr., headsman of
the Strong Heart Warrior Society. He emphasized that in addition to
traditional Lakota Customary Law, the Oglala Law and Order Code, the
1948 Older Citizens Act and other laws make elder abuse a crime.

Martin also detailed how the Porcupine District Elderly bylaws are
being violated to prevent Elders from speaking out. He emphasized,
“Immediate action must be taken to remove Winifred Janis and her
family or the Warrior Society will act to impose justice through
customary law.”

Both elders and activists say the corruption in the Elderly Meals
Program is not just confined to Porcupine, but is present through the
entire reservation-wide system. For four years Elders have appealed to
the Oglala Tribal Court for investigations into Elder Center and Meals
Program activities but have been stalled by responses that the
investigation is “ongoing.”

“This is going on in all the elderly buildings on the reservation,”
said White Face. “Everyone thinks we are crazy, but we know what’s
going on.”

The quality and nutrition of the food being given to the Elders is
also a concern. Elders at the Porcupine Center have been served
undercooked meals that have made them sick and served meals that
contain only carbohydrates, without protein. Pictures have been taken
to document the poor quality of the food served there.

According to a 2009 Lakota Country Times article entitled Elder Meals
in Porcupine, the tribe receives money for Elderly Meals through
Federal Title VI grants, South Dakota Title III monies, and National
Relief Charities AIRC Food service. The article noted that meals are
cooked at “assembly line speed”.

Enoch Brings Plenty, 67, who was voted by a consensus of elders to be
president at the Porcupine Center before Janis assumed control
explained, “The elderly should be the number one priority of each
reservation. They should be uplifted and treated like an angel.”

Brings Plenty, who served 20 years as head cook for a Rosebud
Reservation elementary school, voiced concern the problems at the
Porcupine Elder Center have been “going on for some time” and that
Winifred Janis has “caused a lot of chaos for the elderly there.”

He added, “The elderly have an awful life here, I have to do something
about this.”

Brings Plenty also shared how is wife Della, who is 67 and handicapped
by seizures, was denied meals by Janis while at the same time members
of Janis’ family including her children and grand children were fed

Janis’ name also appears as a contact for the collection of clothes
and other support in the name of the Porcupine Elder’s center but the
elders have not seen this assistance. An October 18, 2010 entry for
the “Ashley’s Closet” Facebook page reads, “We at Heart Bridge are
glad to welcome Ms. Winifred Janis as contact for Ashley’s Closet. You
may send items to her at… c/o Porcupine Senior Center 1 Main St.
Porcupine, SD 57772.”

Lorraine White Face explained she has twice appealed for help from the
Oglala Tribal Council, contacted the Oglala Courts twice, and the
Treaty Council three times without any resolution.

Virgil Bush, Porcupine District President, confided that the previous
Oglala Tribal Council administration couldn’t deal with the abuses in
the Elderly Meals Program because they were not fluent Lakota speakers
like many of the elders. Bush’s admission highlights the large
cultural divide between many members of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
(BIA) tribal government and the traditional Lakota people.

Activists detail how a wall of corruption conspires between families
to sideline investigations and create a culture of retaliation for
people who try to fight for justice. For decades this corruption has
marginalized native Lakota speakers, traditional people, and others
who have tried to stand against those who are exploiting the BIA
system of Lakota government for their own gain.

In December, Strong Heart headsman Duane Martin Sr.’s dog was poisoned
and killed for his activism against bootleggers and drug dealers, many
of whom are protected by members of the tribal council and tribal law
enforcement. In January, a group of Lakota Elders were pushed and
threatened with a gun by Oglala District representative Deborah Rooks-
Cook outside of a secret council meeting. Rooks-Cook has gone


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