Former tribal president Fire Thunder to present lecture

Associated Press

Associated Press

Cecilia Fire Thunder, the former tribal president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, will present the Harding Distinguished Lecture February 14 at 7 p.m. in the Peterson Recital Hall of Lincoln Music Hall on the SDSU campus.

Fire Thunder’s address is entitled “Re-Imagining American Indian Traditions: Lakota Women and the Tribal Decision-Making Process.”

Fire Thunder was elected as the first female leader of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and served as Tribal President from her electoral win Nov. 2, 2004 until her impeachment on June 29, 2006.

She became the subject of wide public attention in March 2006 when she declared her intention to create a Planned Parenthood clinic on sovereign reservation land if the state’s legislative ban on almost all abortions became law.

Controversy about the proposed action came from inside as well as outside the reservation, and her duties as president were suspended by the tribal council in May 2006.

Fire Thunder was born near the community of Kyle, grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation and attended Red Cloud Indian School before moving to Los Angeles in 1963 as part of BIA-sponsored program to move Indian families from economically disadvantaged reservations to large, urban areas.

She returned to Pine Ridge in 1986 and worked as a nurse helping organize efforts to combat child abuse, domestic violence and alcohol abuse. She was one of the founders of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) and a group called Sacred Circle that addresses domestic violence.

“After watching what has taken place in the past month here (November 2006), the rules are different for men on the rez,” said Fire Thunder about her lecture topic.

Fire Thunder’s early work founding community-based health clinics in Los Angeles and San Diego taught her how to maneuver in the world of white politics. She continues working for women’s health care in the political realm of the reservation.

The Harding Distinguished Lecture Series was established to honor the memory of one of South Dakota State University’s most beloved and faithful teachers, Albert S. Harding. He graduated from SDSU in 1892 and taught history and economics for 47 years.

Harding believed it was important for students to hear great speakers, and he kept a journal of those he heard, including Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and Edward Everett Hale.

The tradition continues by bringing to the SDSU campus people of national and international reputation and importance to speak on timely topics of the day.

For more information on the Harding Distinguished Lecture Series, contact Laura Wight at 688-5955.