Courtesy Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)
Brother Francis Chapman, or “Chappy,” (labeled “12”) and Paul Frey (“27”), both deceased, were accused of abusing children in their care at St. Francis Mission, on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, in South Dakota. Recently, Father Clarence Vavra, now of Minnesota, has confessed to abusing boys while at St. Francis in 1975, according to Ken Bear Chief, a paralegal and investigator with Tamaki Law Firm, in Washington State.

Are Pedophiles Getting Free Pass in South Dakota?

Stephanie Woodard

A bill in the South Dakota legislature that appears intended to give several dozen Native American childhood-sexual-abuse plaintiffs their day in court may do just the opposite. According to several legislators, Senate Bill 130 is supposed to fix problems caused by a 2010 law that retroactively blocked the Native lawsuits against the Catholic Church, which ran the boarding schools where the abuse allegedly took place.

However, others claim the new proposal makes matters worse by reinstating the statute of limitations in effect “on the date the abuse occurred,” according to the bill’s language. For the plaintiffs in question, that was the mid-20th century, when the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse shut the courthouse door three years after the abuse, or one year after the victim turned 18—a birthday that’s long past for them.

SB 130’s final sentence slams the door and locks it, according to attorney Michael Shubeck, of the Law Offices of Gregory Yates, in Rapid City; he and Yates have Native clients whose cases were terminated under the 2010 law. Shubeck noted that in a kind of circular logic, this part of the bill says that if a legislative action (like the 2010 law) killed valid cases, SB 130 would revive them.

But, said Shubeck, the short mid-20th-century statute of limitations that SB 130 puts into play means the lawsuits can never be valid. End of story.

Dr. Barbara Charbonneau-Dahlen read SB 130’s draft language and was also concerned. Charbonneau-Dahlen is Chippewa and filed a suit alleging abuse at St. Paul’s Indian Mission School, in Marty, South Dakota. She e-mailed the South Dakota Legislative Research Council, which had written the bill, saying, “If SB 130 stays as is, we would go back to the 1960 rule, and we would again be denied our day in court.”

Charbonneau-Dahlen contends the bill should be rewritten to make the applicable statute of limitations the one in effect when a lawsuit was filed. For her and other Native plaintiffs, that would be the longer time span South Dakota legislated in 1996, since all their suits were filed after that date. A nursing PhD and scholar, Charbonneau-Dahlen called the 1960s understanding of the psychology of childhood sexual abuse, and the shorter time frame that accompanied it, “antiquated.”

A state official who was close to the situation but authorized to speak only on background, insisted that the draft version of SB 130 did not reinstate the restrictive 1960s statute of limitations, though he said the bill could have been better written. He added that it might be kinder to advise the plaintiffs to forget about their lawsuits.


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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Disgusting isn't it! The RCC controlling even the legislators as they write laws! There is a reason the RCC is also called the Catholic Mafia. More lives have been destroyed for untold centuries all the while the RCC hushed people up through whatever means necessary. We know how they destroyed various civilizations where ever the Conquistador's landed with the blessings of the king & the pope. Instead of the blessings of royalty or some religious figurehead, now they attack by their vast supply of lawyers, legislators, supplied by untold billions in funds from the RCC. This new attack of hushing these survivors of abuse is so shameful any lawmaker who votes to accept this shameful document should be defeated in the next state elections in South Dakota! Shame on you lawmakers for even proposing such legislation to victimize survivors one more time! We won't forget those of you who are behind this all come election time!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
So, the God that was brought to us by the Europeans enlists men who sexually abuse children, AND they get away with it! When our land was first colonized most Native Americans lived their lives according to spirits. We believed that everything around us was alive. We gave thanks every day for the things the Creator provided us. Then came the Europeans. Their God required devotion and money. Entire villages were wiped out to bring us "news of the Saviour" while they stripped us of our culture, our land, our languages and our beliefs. When we resisted (at least here in the Southwest) they cut off our feet. So, us "savage-heathens" went from respecting nature and all living things, giving daily thanks, and treating all men with respect to the Christian way - worshipping once a week, doing whatever we want and expecting to be forgiven on Sunday, being more judgemental when dealing with others and hating those our church our our pastor tells us to.