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Native American Nation Building Leader Talks To Sioux Falls Rotary

Kealey Bultena
Bush Foundation director of Native Nation Buliding Eileen Briggs speaks in Sioux Falls.

An Eagle Butte woman is encouraging Native American leaders in 23 tribal governments. The Bush Foundation is dedicating resources to Native Nation Building. A woman from Cheyenne River is six months into the job of supporting and promoting Indian leadership.

Eileen Briggs is the Bush Foundation’s director of Native Nation Building. She says the work includes a handful of large investments to empower American Indian communities instead of prescribing solutions.

"It’s really clear that, when it comes to solving core issues, progress is greatest when the tribes exercise their inherent rights for self-determination to create stronger, sustainable governing institutions that work best for their nations," Briggs says.

Across the room, Glenn Jorgensen listens to strategies to encourage rebuilding of tribal government and community. He says he spent time with people from different cultures during decades of work in substance abuse treatment and into retirement.

"So I still try to do awareness programs on the subject of addiction, which is of course a big problem for all people, including the reservations. It’s very actually kind of challenging and somewhat discouraging at times, but I think we’re making progress," Jorgenson says. "And she knew there were alumni from her area that had gone through our treatment, so we talked about that, and she was very grateful that that had happened."

Jorgenson walks with a cane. He has grey hair and is not Native American. Older white men dominate the Downtown Rotary Club. Jorgensen says many members have business backgrounds. He says they especially appreciate the education on Native Nation building.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB
Members of the Downtown Rotary Club in Sioux Falls listen to Eileen Briggs' presentation.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).