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Year after lawmakers ordered it, still no liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons

Jason Ravnsborg
Lee Strubinger
Jason Ravnsborg

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said Wednesday that he has not hired anyone to serve as a liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, even though the Legislature passed a law last year requiring him to create the position.

Ravnsborg briefed the Legislature's State-Tribal Relations Committee during the panel's first meeting of the 2022 legislative session.

He said on any given day, there are 30 to 40 missing Indigenous people on the South Dakota Missing Persons database on the attorney general's website. Half of the missing Indigenous people on the list do not have a current or recent photo.

Last year, House Bill 1199 was signed into law to establish the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.

“That passed, and it put the requirement on my office to staff this person, but it talked a lot about federal funding,” Ravnsborg told the committee. “And so come July 1st, it went into effect, but we have not received funding in any fashion. When I've talked with the various tribes in other discussions, and my office, we always bring this up to see what they're doing to try and find funding for that, so I have basically an unfunded mandate right now.”

The attorney general said it would cost about $70,000 to fill the position. He went on to say that a new missing person website should roll out in April with improvements and better search capabilities.

Ravnsborg is facing potential impeachment this session for his role in a 2020 car accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian near Highmore.

Other topics discussed Wednesday by the committee included Tribal tourism, Oceti Sakowin teaching standards and efforts to fund and erect a World War II Code Talker Memorial at the Capitol.