Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

SD Celebrates Native American Day

Kealey Bultena
Dr. George Eagleman, two sons, and one grandson comprise the Eagle Spirit Drum Group. They opened a discussion about Native American Day.

A visible member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe says work between Indians and the rest of the state is not done. While much of the country took Monday off for Columbus Day, South Dakotans celebrated Native American Day. Leaders made the decision to change the holiday years ago. One man says some people still don’t use the holiday’s proper name.

JR LaPlante spent nearly four years as South Dakota’s first Secretary of Tribal Relations. He says changes made in 1990 were not answers to Native-white relations, but starting points. He says issues still exist.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB News
JR LaPlante shares his opinions and answers questions about Native-White relations in South Dakota.

“What you really want South Dakotans, both Indian and non-Indians alike, to understand is that was loss, there was a loss of culture, that there was a loss of identity, and that we were all a part of this together, and we need to really heal from those things,” LaPlante says. “And it’s not simply a matter of saying, ‘Okay. I admit it. It happened.’ But it’s matter of admitting it, acknowledging it, accepting it, and then making the changes within oneself and within our systems within the state so that we can truly heal and move forward.”

LaPlante says everyday people can begin to shift cultural tensions. He says non-Natives should challenge their own preconceived notions of the Indian experience or take up a cause that impacts Native Americans.

“I think when state government starts looking more like our state population, when organizations begin to reflect the demographics of our state, when we begin to celebrate Native America like we do another holiday and we’re not afraid to call it what it is. So a lot of people don’t call Native American [Day] ‘Native American Day,’ even though it’s been a state holiday for 25 years,” LaPlante says.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB
Several dozen people attended Monday evening's forum.

LaPlante says discussions and efforts now are laying the groundwork for what he calls a watershed moment, where people clearly see the challenges between cultures and make meaningful changes.

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).