Salazar distribution brings many people home
by Ross DuBray
For just a day or two last week, the population of Eagle Butte doubled as CRST tribal members from near and far made their way to the CRST tribal headquarters for the long awaited CRST vs. Salazar settlement distribution.
The distribution took place at the C-EB High School gymnasium on Wednesday and Thursday, May 15 and 16, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Despite the early morning rain on Wednesday, members began standing in line about 4 a.m. At 6 a.m., the line began to stretch along the main street sidewalk about 100 yards long. By 7 a.m. the line had reached as far back as the tribal office. Officials had begun to form a second line along the high school parking lot south fence; soon that line had stretched around the corner.
Elderly members and the handicapped were transported to the front of the line where a special line was set up to get them through quicker. Tribal employees in “side by side” ATV’s drove up and down the lines scanning for the elderly to provide a ride.
Karlys Swan-Black Eagle, a tribal member living in Billings, MT was the first in line along with her niece, Marquel Shepherd, and Danelle Newman of Rapid City. Swan who was back for her nieces’s graduation and stayed the three extra days to get her check before heading back to Montana.
For Swan, being first had its rewards, as she was able to move through the gym and get her check in about 20 minutes, after standing in line for five and a half hours. Others weren’t as lucky as people stood in line close to eight hours to get their checks. On Thursday, not as many people showed up and by 11:00 a.m. the lines were minimum.
The overcast morning kept the Wednesday morning temperatures cool, but soon the sun came out and it began to heat up as the temperature reached about 80 degrees. The CRST Health Department along with other personnel passed out water to those who needed it.
Tribal members from as far as Florida, made the trek back to Eagle Butte. One group of traveler’s caravanned together from Oklahoma City after meeting up with family from San Antonio, TX. Other’s were reported to have traveled from California, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Oregon.
For most, the distribution was a very welcome relief. “I can pay off my fuel bill,” said a woman standing in line who wished to remain unanimous. “I’m going to buy my kids summer clothes.” Anthony Potter of Eagle Butte, plans to take his daughter on a vacation.
For Tony Cook, a homeless man in Eagle Butte, he was going to use his to pay back family that has helped him out. “I might get a room for a night,” said Cook, “take a hot shower.”
CRST Chairman Kevin Keckler, was pleased how the process went. “I’m really happy how things turned out. I’m lucky to have the staff I have,” said Keckler, “They did a fantastic job. It’s one thing to plan it, but it’s another thing to pull it off.”
Keckler stated that there were a few problems, mostly with people trying to cut in line, but law Enforcement was able to take care of that.
According to Keckler, nearly 4,200 checks were distributed on the first day alone with approximately 3,000 on Thursday. As of Monday morning, around 7,500 checks had cleared the tribe’s bank account.
The tribe had hoped to start mailing checks out last Friday, however about 500 people showed up in person to the tribal office to collect their checks and it slowed down the process. “We weren’t anticipating that many people to show up on Friday,” said Keckler
The tribe had received nearly 4,000 requests for checks to be mailed, and as of today (Tuesday) the first batch of checks have been mailed.
“We had to bring in more staff,” said Keckler. “We have six full time staff dedicated to mailing out the checks and we are hoping to have the process complete by the end of the week.”