Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Cause For Celebration This Native Americans’ Day

Cause For Celebration This Native Americans’ Day
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Since 1990, South Dakota has celebrated Native Americans’ Day. We were the first in the nation to establish Native Americans’ Day as an official state holiday, done at the urging of Gov. George S. Mickelson as a part of his “Year of Reconciliation” efforts.

A crowd of South Dakotans gathered at Crazy Horse Memorial to celebrate the state’s first Native Americans’ Day. There were prayers offered by the Keeper of the Sacred Pipe of the Sioux Nation and an Episcopalian bishop, the Sioux Anthem and Star Spangled Banner were sung, and speeches were given by Oglala Sioux Tribe President Harold Salway and Gov. Mickelson. Also at the event, Ruth Ziolkowski, the gracious hostess of the celebration, was presented with a reconciliation award.

This event was just one of the highlights of the Year of Reconciliation. Gov. Mickelson spent those months trying to form new partnerships with tribes and bridge gaps between Natives and non-Natives. He reactivated the Commission on Indian Affairs and put in the effort to work directly with individual tribes and consider each tribe’s unique issues and needs. Mickelson called on South Dakotans of all races to focus on areas of agreement, which led to successes in tribal tourism, health care and small business development.

Throughout my time in office, I have tried to mirror some of Gov. Mickelson’s efforts. In 2011, I established the Department of Tribal Relations as a cabinet-level agency within state government. Every year, Tribal Secretary Steve Emery and I schedule tribal visits so we can meet with tribal presidents and council members to better understand the specific issues affecting each tribe.

In the last few years, Tribal Relations has worked diligently to facilitate partnerships among state agencies and the nine tribes. For instance, we have tax collection agreements with eight tribes and gaming compacts with eight tribes. In 2016 and 2017, the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks signed cooperative Memorandums of Understanding with the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe to improve communication and management of wildlife and lands. And the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has dedicated millions of dollars for the operation and maintenance of tribal drinking water systems.

Legislatively, Tribal Relations holds an annual forum where tribal members are able to discuss their legislative priorities with current state legislators. I also signed a bill allowing for the exemption of elected tribal leaders from having to register as a lobbyist in order to testify or lobby for or against legislation.

On the corrections front, we have implemented a tribal parole program with the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate that has been very successful. As part of the Criminal Justice Initiative of 2013, the program returns parolees to their tribal communities where family and community supports help parolees remain compliant. This joint supervision program has resulted in higher parole completion rates, fewer instances of absconding and culturally relevant support systems for parolees returning home.

Relations between the tribes and the State of South Dakota have improved over the last 27 years. It’s normal to have diverse viewpoints and some disagreements, but we continue to move in a positive direction. That’s cause for celebration this Native Americans’ Day.


5 thoughts on “Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Cause For Celebration This Native Americans’ Day”

  1. Proud to celebrate Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota. These efforts are what make South Dakota stand out for the better!

  2. Wow! What strides have been made b/w Natives and non-Natives over the course of Mickelson and Daugaard’s time in office. Since 1990, SD has been working diligently to bridge the gap… Why then do Natives currently deal with many of the same issues? Government, that’s why.

    I wonder if Natives agree their lives have continued to move in a positive direction by working with govt? I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say…Not so much. A Prager U video gives insight about how the BIA continues to Boss Indians Around. With millions of $ in funds available, maybe SD govt could put more effort into issues destroying the Native communities: poverty, garbage hospitals, higher child abuse rates or the economic hold govt has on their land ownership.

    Some view the name change as insulting, Native American Day is now just known as The Day America Used To Pay Homage To Christopher Columbus. Natives should’ve been given their own day of recognition.

  3. This is my thoughts:

    We have what I’ll call national celebration/holidays:

    Memorial Day (May)
    Independence Day (July)
    Labor Day (September)
    Veterans Day (November)
    Thanksgiving (November)
    Christmas (December)

    And we have national days to honor a person:

    Martin Luther King (January)
    George Washington (February)
    Christopher Columbus (October)

    The three which stand-out as being out of place are and could become “Local Wild Cards”:

    MLK: As significant as he was to me and the country, the current reality half our population prefers to practice identity politics vs the principles of a color-blind, etc., his legacy was short-lived. Even Black Americans are rejecting the basics of MLK’s guiding principles. Personally, I think we should honor Sitting Bull or Black Elk.

    Labor Day: For our state and region, I think recognizing Farmers and Ranchers is more appropriate for us. We should be able to do to this day what we did to Columbus Day.

    Columbus Day: Honoring the people who were here before European immigrants came makes total sense. I would call it something besides Native American Day and in particular use Sioux or Dakota or a specific person like Sitting Bull. If we don’t rename MLK, I’m bigger on this being Sitting Bull or Black Elk Day.

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