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Bills seek funding for liaison to investigate missing and murdered Indigenous cases

Tamara St. John
State Rep. Tamara St. John, R-Sisseton.

Two Native American lawmakers want funding for an office to investigate cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

A law was passed last year to create the liaison’s office. Republican Tamara St. John and Democrat Peri Pourier are both frustrated the liaison’s office has not been filled.

Peri Pourier
State of SD
Legislative Research Council
State Rep. Peri Pourier, D-Pine Ridge.

They’re each bringing bills to fund the position. St. John’s bill funds the office for one year, and Pourier’s bill funds the office for five. Both bills are before the Appropriations Committee.

The liaison would work with tribes and the state to assist and provide training for finding missing Indigenous people.

Pourier says there’s plenty of federal funding, including American Rescue Plan dollars, to fill the position.

“There’s funding out there all over. You've just got to grab it if this is your priority,” Pourier says. “Governor Noem has said this is her priority. She wants to see this funded and I applaud her efforts.”

Pourier wishes the attorney general had the same urgency.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg says there are no federal funds available for the position.

“I basically had an unfunded mandate,” Ravnsborg says. “So, I’m trying to fulfill the mandate by seeking the funds and by putting it in my budget.”

Ravnsborg says his office has made progress in working with tribes. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is willing to fund half of the position for two years. He’s also located some other funding.

St. John says she wishes the bill was funded last year, "instead of the intent that the tribes would provide and facilitate that finding of federal funding.”

“But, you know, more importantly overall it just needs a solution," St. John said. "I have to say the attorney general has been supportive of the issue from the very beginning.”

St. John says she ultimately wants the position permanently funded.

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