September 20, 2014

UPDATED: Thieves target Caddo Nation complex; inflame leadership dispute

Along with smashed windows, pulled and cut wires and two doors ripped off of their hinges, several items were taken in the Tuesday morning raid.

BINGER, Okla. – Caddo Nation citizens are searching for answers and cleaning up the debris after their complex was broken into twice in two days.

Around 4:45 a.m. Monday and again around midnight Tuesday, security alarms were tripped at the Caddo Nation’s complex on U.S. Highway 281 in Caddo County.



Along with smashed windows, pulled and cut wires and two doors ripped off of their hinges, several items were taken in the Tuesday morning raid, including the tribe’s enrollment records, its internal servers, keys to all of the tribe’s buildings and cars, tribal car tags and 300 tribal decals. DeLita Butler, the tribe’s treasurer, said the complex’s employees are still sorting out what files are missing.

The Caddo Nation has about 5,500 enrolled citizens. Both Brenda Shemayme Edwards and Philip Smith currently claim to be the tribe’s legitimate chairman and each side maintain that the other is responsible for the break-ins.

“I just saw this hooded man with a black mask running down the hill with a rifle,” business committee member Christine Noah said. “The BIA law enforcement officers were trying to tell us it was this little tear gas bomb that went off, but you’re talking to folks who grew up in the country. We know what a gun sounds like when it goes off.

“I know I saw the guy all decked out black on the hill fire at the building and they’re trying to say we shot from the inside? No. It was your goon on the hill. She [Edwards] might have gotten the records, but this is home. We’ll regroup.”

In a Monday interview with the Lawton Constitution, Edwards said she only found out about the first break-in by listening to a police scanner and went to go investigate herself. She maintained that tribal citizens affiliated with the Smith administration made the mess and she sent security guards into the unmanned complex to respond to the break-in.

Despite initial published reports that Edwards found out about the first break-in by listening to a police scanner, she maintains that she found out about both break-ins when contacted by a security company hired to monitor the tribal complex.

An employee of Elite Security, a private firm based out of Oklahoma City, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that it had been hired by Brenda Edwards to provide security for the Caddo Nation complex. However, the firm declined to provide any additional information about the contract and would not confirm or deny whether it responded to either break-in call.

Edwards acknowledged that she did take some boxes from the building Tuesday morning after the Bureau of Indian Affairs police officers finished their investigation, but that they were personal effects that she had not been able to retrieve since the complex’s locks were changed in September.

“I went in with the security guards for a few minutes to get items,” she said. “I carried my boxes out that were in my office before the takeover – my own personal things that were already boxed up.”

The Caddo Nation has a three-man security detail for its complex, but does not have its own law enforcement agency. At the time of both break-ins, none of the security guards were armed. Two of the three guards were forced into a maintenance office at gunpoint and were held hostage for more than an hour. Despite being threatened with guns and a sledgehammer, the third guard escaped into the wooded area near the complex.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ law enforcement office, located 15 miles south of the complex in Anadarko, refused to release a copy of the police report or confiscated surveillance footage Tuesday afternoon. A receptionist who answered the phone would not confirm or deny whether officers came out to the complex Tuesday morning.

Butler and Noah confirmed that the Smith administration is planning on pressing charges, but are not optimistic will anything come of it.

“Question is are they going to do anything about it,” Butler said. “The BIA cops never asked for my statement or hers (Noah’s). Didn’t ask me for my ID either.”

While tribal members board up the windows and assess the damage, the Caddo Nation government faces the potential loss of federal funds in the near future due to questions over the tribe’s legitimate leadership.

According to a letter dated Dec. 9 from the BIA’s acting regional director Terry Bruner, the tribe is now designated as a “high risk contractor/grantee,” thanks in part to the intra-tribal dispute, along with its failure to account for funds missing from its account with BancFirst.

“This dispute has led to each faction opening accounts at separate banks for both tribal and federal funds,” Bruner wrote. “This situation raises the issue and concern about the tribe’s ability to receive federal funds and account for them properly. This allows for BIA funds to lose their identity and as a result, be used to pay for other (federal and non-federal) program costs. This is a form of misapplication and/or misappropriation of federal funds.”

The dispute has also led to the tribe’s post office box being frozen by the U.S. Postal Service, prohibiting the tribe from receiving documents and correspondence needed to conduct business.

Additional allegations in Bruner’s letter include:

insufficient background checks on the tribe’s social services and ICW staff;

an inappropriately staffed finance office with no employees who have the necessary skills or qualifications to perform the duties required in order to account for federal funds;

programs using systems that are non-compliant, non-existent or simply ignored.

The letter was addressed to Edwards, but several members of the Smith administration were carbon copied on it, including Smith, Butler and Noah.

The BIA will monitor and review the tribe’s financial management systems under the terms of the new designation. The tribe must now have written documentation for all draw downs and all program and financial reports must be submitted to the BIA’s Southern Plains office in Anadarko. 

With its new designation as a high risk contractor, the tribe also stands to lose programs funded through self-determination grants and contracts. As of Dec. 13, the BIA is beginning the process to reassume those programs if the tribe does take not corrective action within the next 45 days, including documentation that the tribe’s employees are fully qualified and vetted for their positions.

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