Native American Oyate Court is expanding to Tripp County

PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Mark Vargo announced Friday that the Oyate Court system, a criminal justice partnership between state prosecutors and local tribal communities in Pennington County, is spreading to Tripp County.

Oyate Court is a diversion program in which state cases are handed to a tribal court comprised of Tribal Elders who hear from all parties in a dispute or crime and work to find solutions that often involve restitution for the damaged party. The Oyate Court process is a direct outgrowth of ancient Peacemaking Circles, a tradition deeply ingrained in Native American cultures, according to the South Dakota Office of the Attorney General.

Zach Pahlke, the Tripp County State’s Attorney, has asked Pastor Jonathan Old Horse to advise him on how a program similar to Rapid City’s Oyate Court can be implemented in Tripp County.

“We have generations of data in this country that show simply locking people up does not solve our community’s problems,” said Old Horse, who is the pastor at Rapid City’s Woyatan Lutheran Church. “We have shown that using Peacekeeping Circles can be effective in a modern judicial setting. I am excited that other State’s Attorneys are interested in exploring our approach.”

Pahlke and Old Horse said they planned to begin soon the process of establishing an Oyate Court in Tripp County.

“Oyate Court is one of the most promising new approaches we have come across,” said Vargo. “I am pleased to see that it might be taking root beyond Pennington County.”

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News