Over the past eight years, I’ve had an opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with tribal leadership and members. We worked collaboratively on ways to improve the Indian Health Service, combat human trafficking, and expand economic development efforts in Indian Country. I’m hopeful that through this work, we’ve built a foundation of trust and mutual understanding, because as governor, I want to have a different kind of relationship with South Dakota’s nine tribes, one that truly embraces the meaning of Dakota, or ally.
Enhance the Department of Tribal Relations. The Department of Tribal Relations is an important tool state and tribal governments can use to build dialogue around areas of common ground. The Secretary of Tribal Relations will be an integral member of my cabinet, serving as an ambassador to tribal communities. Additionally, I would seek to further enhance the Department’s relationship with tribal members, employing pro-active Tribal Constituent Service Representatives, providing them with sufficient training, and instilling a culture of customer service.
Empower Tribal Communities through Economic Development. The Lakota Instructions for Living teaches: “The hurt of one is the hurt of all. And the honor of one is the honor of all.” To put that in an economic context, if the tribal economy suffers, as it does today, South Dakota suffers too. I believe the best poverty reduction tool we can offer is a good job, and there are a number of opportunities within Indian Country to expand employment opportunities. The agriculture, tourism, and even data center industries, for instance, have tremendous growth potential. Ongoing rural broadband expansion efforts offer an infinite number of possibilities as well. As a member of the U.S. House, I worked to champion the NATIVE Act, a new law that’s aimed at creating more tourism opportunities in tribal areas. I also inserted language in the 2014 Farm Bill, which established a permanent Office of Tribal Relations within USDA to expand agricultural opportunities in Indian Country. As governor, I will work to:
- Build intentional partnerships with tribal governments and tribal economic development entities to share best practices as we work to help existing businesses flourish while pursuing new growth industries in Indian Country that would create jobs on and off reservations.
- Support workforce development and recruitment, encouraging innovative programs, such as SDSU’s Wokini Initiative.
- Encourage communities on and off reservations to expand affordable housing opportunities.
Maintain Pressure on IHS to Address the Ongoing Tribal Healthcare Crisis. The care being delivered at Indian Health Service facilities in South Dakota is unacceptable. In Congress, I’ve worked collaboratively with tribes to offer better recruitment tools for medical and administrative staff, improve accountability requirements, cut red tape, and allow administrators to more easily fire bad employees. Ultimately, the federal government must be responsible for fulfilling its treaty obligations when it comes to healthcare. But as a state, we cannot sit back while tribal members lose their lives as a result of bureaucratic failings. As governor, I will:
- Aggressively pursue additional Care Coordination Agreements to increase access and expand the kinds of services funded at 100% by the federal government;
- Get proactive on mental health by working to ensure there are an array of mental-health options throughout the state and supporting ongoing pilot programs that divert non-violent offenders with mental illness through treatment programs, rather than the criminal justice system;
- Work to identify opportunities where South Dakota hospitals and healthcare providers can offer more guidance to IHS;
- Continue supporting local healthcare providers in their expansion of telemedicine, fostering collaboration with IHS where possible; and
- Support self-governance of IHS facilities by helping facilitate collaboration between tribes and healthcare providers.
Partner with Tribes to Enhance Public Safety and Reduce Substance Abuse. Because federal and tribal authorities have jurisdiction over many crimes that occur on sovereign reservations, I’ve worked to secure critical public safety resources for tribal law enforcement as a member of the House. This includes COPS grants to help address workforce challenges and support for the Sisseton Wahpeton Regional Justice Center’s construction. It’s imperative federal and tribal law enforcement entities have a strong relationship with the state. As governor, I would work to better collaborate with area tribes by opening dialogues on jurisdictional challenges, re-engaging on memorandums of understanding, and helping coordinate responses. Additionally, I hope to work together in addressing substance abuse. As proposed in my Safer Communities initiative, my administration will work to implement research-based meth prevention programs and expand residential and family-based treatment options.
Embrace Tribal Heritage and Culture. The Native American people enrich South Dakota’s culture and play an important role in the American story. As governor, I’m committed to fostering community between non-Native and Native peoples by building relationships around cultural events, such as powwows and the Lakota Nation Invitational. While we must acknowledge the past, I believe we must actively celebrate the ways in which Native American heritage continues to be woven into South Dakota’s story.