OST presidential candidates face off in Kyle debate

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KYLE, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- The members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe have a stark choice before them this election day when they choose between two candidates for president.

One would be the youngest tribal president elected since 1970 and one would be the first OST chief executive with a PHD.

On Thursday evening in Kyle they squared off in debate. Dr. Richard Zephier, 73, touted his experience and education -- including a masters degree in business administration as the right tools for the tribe.

"The Oglala Sioux Tribe in my opinion is a multi million dollar business and because it's a multi million dollar business it needs to be managed properly," he said. "As a presidential candidate I believe I bring the work skills, skill set, knowledge and experience to bear on what we would like to in taking us into the 21st Century."

Bear runner, 33, an Army and Dakota Access Pipeline protest veteran said that the lack of traditional values and spirituality in the political realm was holding the tribe back.

"I want to bring the canupa (sacred pipe), our traditional values, our spirituality back to tribal leadership," he said. "Because that's who we were in the beginning and that's who we're going to be at the end of this world. No matter what we accomplish we're always going to be Lakota, always going to have those traditions, those values and today that's missing form tribal leadership."

There was little daylight between the candidates' policy positions -- they each support legalizing marijuana and hemp and greater support for veterans. But their remedies emerge from different directions. One traditional

"We are the only entity ever to defeat the United States government in combat," said Bear Runner. "So with being able to achieve those things through our spirituality and our traditions we can overcome anything. So it's very important that we bring that back."

And one more modern.

"We need a good management structure and I have the experience and I've earned some degrees that help me, prepare me to manage a large entity called the Oglala Sioux Tribe," said Zephier.

Six candidates ran for president in the tribe's primary election. Zephier and Bear Runner emerged as the top two vote getters and advanced to Tuesday's general election.