This year’s State-Tribal Relations Day at the South Dakota State Capitol focused on honoring veterans. The event is intended to expand cooperation between the state and tribes, but it’s not the first time that Native American issues have been at the forefront this legislative session. There is discussion about how Medicaid expansion could benefit the Indian Health Service, and earlier this session a tribal chairman delivered the first State of the Tribes Address. Leaders say state-tribal relations are moving in the right direction.
Governor Dennis Dauggard says when he took office, he knew that fostering relationships between the tribes and state had to be a priority.
“Certainly we have many areas where we have mutual interest, whether it be economic development, housing, law enforcement,” Daugaard says.
State Senator Troy Heinert says he applauds the Governor and his staff for listening to and caring about Native American issues. He says he commends current legislators as well.
“Many of them didn’t know the situation we were in, didn’t know about our healthcare, didn’t know about our education systems,” Heinert says. “And I think as a Native legislator, it’s my job, or it’s my role to let them know. And they’ve listened. We’ve worked well together. You know, it’s not just two bulls fighting anymore. We’re learning to cooperate, and how to address each other, and how to move forward.”
Heinert says those in tribal and state leadership are starting to recognize each other’s governments, and learning that it’s important to collaborate.
State Representative Kevin Killer says the State of the Tribes Address was an amazing accomplishment and a huge step forward.
“And I think it sets the right path for future generations and future lawmakers to set this precedence, and say ‘ok when is going to be the next State of the Tribes Address? How are we going to make State-Tribal Relations Day better,”’ Killer says. “And just having that ongoing dialogue about how do we make our community better for all South Dakotans.”
Leaders say it’s important to keep moving in this direction. Governor Daugaard says state and tribal leaders are currently working together on several projects.