EAGLE BUTTE — On November 27, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe won a court case that involved a judicial appeal of a banishment order issued to CRST tribal member, Jorie Cavanaugh.
Meth use has been an epidemic on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for the past decade. The tribe has seen a huge increase in murders, burglary, and assault cases on the reservation related to drug use.
In an effort to fight back, the tribe instituted the traditional Lakota practice of banishment.
In July 2015, the CRST tribal council passed a resolution which banishes individuals who are convicted in any court of selling, trafficking, distributing, and/or dealing of meth.
According to the banishment resolution, there is no appeal process once an individual has been given a banishment order. Banishment from the reservation is a lifelong sentence, although a person may appeal the banishment after 5 years.
In May of this year Cavanaugh was convicted of Distribution of a Controlled Substance in federal U.S. District Court. According to court documents, Cavanaugh admitted to distributing methamphetamine on three occasions on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
Cavanaugh was sentenced to six months of home confinement, given a $500 fine, and 4 years of probation. During the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange, made special note that Cavanaugh could carry home confinement “at another home or shelter if banished from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.”
On May 26, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe issued a Notice of Banishment and Cavanaugh was served by tribal police.
In June, Cavanaugh appealed her banishment in tribal court, but the tribal council elected not to vacate the banishment and dismissed her appeal. Cavanaugh was still physically residing on the reservation at that time.
Court documents state that Cavanaugh “received Notice from the Tribe that she was to leave the Reservation by noon on July 26, 2017.” Again, Cavanaugh appealed in tribal court.
Cavanaugh was notified that her case was scheduled in November, but that her banishment order would not be vacated by the court. She was told that she could appear in court over the phone. Cavanaugh was immediately escorted off the reservation
On November 27, the Cheyenne River Sioux tribal court issued its written order denying Cavanaugh’s request for a stay and dismissed the appeal. The tribal court noted that there is no right to appeal a banishment order when convicted in federal court; therefore, no grounds for a stay exist in the case.
The court ruling affirmed the tribe’s strong policy against meth dealers on the reservation.
“It’s a good example of the courts working with the decision of our people to enforce traditional law. I am happy about this decision,” said Chairman Frazier.