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Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate chairman focuses on education during State of the Tribes Address

Delbert Hopkins Jr.
Delbert Hopkins Jr., Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate chairman, delivers the 2022 State of the Tribes Address to the Legislature.

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Chairman Delbert Hopkins Jr. called on state legislators to promote and pursue Native American history, culture and education in schools during his 2022 State of the Tribes Address on Thursday in Pierre.

Hopkins covered a variety of topics affecting Indian Country, such as social and economic challenges, tribal tourism and green energy.

He stressed the historical trauma, loss of culture and language, and the long-term effects of U.S. Indian boarding schools and the importance of teaching that history. He also said it's pivotal to teach Oceti Sakowin values to future generations.

“First and foremost in our hearts and minds is the wellness, education and the future of our children,” Hopkins said. “Preserving and promoting Native language is crucial to the advancements of Native education. Native language and culture immersion programs have been shown to provide Native children the chance to build a strong foundation and a future success and education and life. Native language immersion helps counter these challenges with nurturing experiences that young children need to thrive.”

Hopkins asked legislators to support federal funding for the construction of Bureau of Indian Education schools and to work together to promote cultural tourism as a way to create new jobs and opportunity.

“In Arizona, the Grand Canyon brings the nation-tribes and the state tremendous tourism opportunities," Hopkins said. "The same opportunity for cultural tourism is here in South Dakota, including our reservations, lakes, rivers, the Badlands, and the Black Hills. Naturally our Native nations must take the lead on culture tourism, because otherwise it's not cultural. It's not tourism, but simply exploitation.”

Hopkins also touched on the importance of public safety and law enforcement and how tribal, state and federal authorities need to reach across jurisdictions to battle drug trafficking and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic.

The State of the Tribes Address is delivered annually to the Legislature to provide lawmakers with a tribal perspective of the issues that are impacting tribes as they enter the legislative session.

2022 State of the Tribes - Delbert Hopkins, Jr., Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal Chairman