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State Senate Formally Recognizes Legitimacy Of 1868 Treaty Of Fort Laramie

Melissa Hamersma Sievers


The South Dakota State Senate is recognizing the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie 150 years after it was signed.

This could be the first time a resolution like this has ever passed out of a South Dakota legislative chamber.

But not all agreed on the resolution.

Democratic State Senator Troy Heinert is from Mission. He represents portions of the Rosebud reservation. He says the treaty is a valid, legal document the tribes use to establish and maintain rights as native people

Heinert says it was a chance to educate the Senate body about the treaty.

“Some of the language in there is straight from the treaty and how that was not lived up to. It’s still not lived up to to this day. It was a bit of an education piece," Heinert says. "But also a chance for the Senate to say, ‘What happened wasn’t right. This isn’t going to change that, but we can go forward and it needs acknowledged that the federal government did not live up to it’s word.’”

Heinert says that by the Senate passing the resolution it’s a catalyst for more government to government relationships between tribes and the state, or tribes and the federal government.

The resolution passed out of the state senate by a 25 to 7 vote.

One of the nay votes was Republican State Senator Jeff Partridge of Rapid City.

He says he voted against the resolution because it had outdated language in it.

“And for the way the resolution was drafted was that we would look, honor, and really implement that treaty. So, the outdated language that’s there has really caused a lot of consternation in our state," Partridge says.  "So, for us to go back to that treaty, which frankly a lot of my Native American friends complain about their relationship with the government, or the contract with the government, or the lack thereof, or lack of follow-through, or whatever, seemed like something that was not in place for us to do.”

Resolutions are used to express the opinion of a legislative chamber. They’re not legally binding.

However, supporters say the resolution may help tribes in negotiations with the federal government.