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Politics

Native group funds liaison for cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people

Native hope.jpg
Lee Strubinger
/
SDPB
Rep. Peri Pourier speaks during a press conference about Native Hope donating $85,000 for three years to fund the missing persons specialist.

A Native American outreach center is funding a liaison to coordinate investigations of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

The state-government position has been vacant since it was created July 1.

The Native Hope outreach center in Chamberlain is issuing a grant to the Attorney General's Office to fund the liaison for three years. The grant is for $85,000 each year.

The missing-person specialist will focus on missing and murdered Indigenous person cases. The specialist will also coordinate with the U.S Attorney's Office, Department of Justice and state and tribal law enforcement agencies to bridge any jurisdictional gaps in coordination and training.

Jennifer Long is executive director for Native Hope. She says the decision to fund the position was the logical next step for the organization.

“When we learned about the difficulties we wanted to break down any barriers that existed,” Long says. “Breaking down barriers for Native America is central to Native Hope’s mission. We want to impact this critical issue in our state. No more missing sisters. No more missing Indigenous people.”

The bill creating the position was passed during last year's legislative session. The position has been vacant since July 1, which is when the office was established by law. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has called the office an unfunded mandate.

Democratic Rep. Peri Pourier is Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge. She got the bill passed last session.

“You look across the news and you don’t ever see good news stories. Today, let this be a good news story that we work across sectors. We work across aisles,” Pourier says. “When there is an important issue that needs to be addressed, we work in partnership together.”

Supporters say grant dollars mean the position can get filled right away and won’t get stalled under the typical budgeting process.

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