The first Secretary of Tribal Relations in South Dakota is resigning this summer. JR LaPlante says all appointed leaders reach a peak in their service and now is an opportunity for someone new to facilitate the state’s relationship with tribal leaders.
JR LaPlante is South Dakota’s first-ever Secretary of Tribal Relations. Governor Dennis Daugaard created the department and the cabinet-level position at the start of his term, and LaPlante’s taken the lead since his appointment. LaPlante says the department prides itself on beginning to build strong relationships between tribal communities and state leaders. He says that leads to more progress.
"We’re very happy that we’ve played a significant role in helping the State of South Dakota and the nine tribes in South Dakota gain a better understanding on public safety and what we can do to work together to make those rural areas, those reservation areas in our state, safer for everyone that lives there," LaPlante says.
LaPlante says the department has made strides in improving economic development opportunities and examining housing on the reservations.
When his time as Secretary ends in August, LaPlante says he’s taking a role with the United States Attorney’s office in Sioux Falls to focus on public safety in Indian Country.
LaPlante says he’s dedicated to his job for the next several months and sees specific work to do after lawmakers passed House Bill 1213, which creates an economic development task force.
"It’s going to be looking specifically at the challenges and the barriers to economic development in Indian Country, and I think that’s going to be some significant work in the interim between now and next legislative session," LaPlante says. "My office will have a seat on that task force, along with every single tribal chairman in the state, along with members of the legislature on the state tribal relations subcommittee and also the Governor’s Office of Economic Development."
LaPlante says that task force is possible due to the relationships the Tribal Relations department has built between leaders of South Dakota’s tribes and state government.