Beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year, high school students in South Dakota may chose one of three courses to satisfy their single U.S. history requirement: Early U.S. History, Modern U.S. History or Comprehensive U.S. History.
A group of 35 educators made up the South Dakota Social Studies Content Standards Revision Committee, which recommended the adjustments that were approved on August 24, after a year long approval process – the first changes to be made since 2006.
The changes effectively remove a large part of American historical context from the required curriculum, including colonialism, the American War for Independence, slavery, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War and women’s suffrage.
Students may still opt to take Early U.S. History, they also now have the option of avoiding it altogether, which makes it a “non-standard standard,” said Ben Jones, dean of arts and sciences for Dakota State University in Madison, as told to the Argus Leader.
The entire content standards report emphasizes critical thinking, inquiry, communication and problem solving skills.
“Rather than just having then memorize a list of historical events on a time line,” Michael Amolins, Harrisburg School District Secondary Curriculum Director, told KSFY, “We’re trying to get them to use that information in context so that when they’re looking at current events they can make good and informed decisions as citizens and as voters.”
But this leads to another concern – what happens when students get to college?
“What we’re going to get is students who don’t differentiate,” Michael Mullins, a history professor at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, told KSFY. “Say, Abraham Lincoln’s time period from George Washington’s time period from the Puritans. And it will get lumped together and we’ll wonder why.”
Jones told the Argus Leader, “It’s disabling their citizenship.”
According to the Argus Leader, instructors from colleges and universities around the state submitted a letter to the board opposing the lack of required history. This list included representatives from Dakota State University, University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, Northern State University, Augustana University, Presentation College, the University of Sioux Falls and Black Hills State University.
WASHINGTON — Tourists soon may be able to go to a South Dakota Indian reservation, buy a cigarette-sized marijuana joint for $10 to $15 and try their luck at the nearby casino.
In December, the Flandreau Santee Siouxexpect to become the first tribe in the nation to grow and sell pot for recreational use, cashing in on the Obama administration’s offer to let all 566 federally recognized tribes enter the marijuana industry.
“The fact that we are first doesn’t scare us,” said tribal president Anthony “Tony” Reider, 38, who’s led the tribe for nearly five years. “The Department of Justice gave us the go-ahead, similar to what they did with the states, so we’re comfortable going with it.”
The tribe plans to sell 60 strains of marijuana. Reider is hoping for a flock of visitors, predicting that sales could bring in as much as $2 million per month.
“Obviously, when you launch a business, you’re hoping to sell all the product and have a shortage, like Colorado did when they first opened,” he said.
Other tribes have been much more hesitant.
“Look at Washington state, where marijuana’s completely legal as a matter of state law everywhere, and you still have tribes adhering to their prohibition policies,” said Robert Odawi Porter, former president of the Seneca Nation of New York.
It comes as no surprise to Washington state Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, who says he works on tribal issues every day.
“Not once has anybody ever brought up that they wanted to go down this track,” he said.
Heck speculated on one possible reason: “We’re all aware of the painful history of alcoholism in Indian Country.”
Tribes won the approval to sell pot in December, when the Justice Department said it would advise U.S. attorneys not to prosecute if tribes do a good job policing themselves and make sure that marijuana doesn’t leave tribal lands.
But federal prosecutors maintain the discretion to intervene, a worrisome prospect for many.
“This administration is very pro-tribes, very supportive. What if the next one isn’t?” asked W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state.
He said many of the state’s 29 tribes also want assurances from federal officials that they won’t lose millions of dollars in grants and contracts if they sell a drug banned by Congress.
“We’re not getting definitive answers back,” Allen said. “There’s a number of tribes that are very aggressively looking into it and trying to sort through all the legal issues. The rest of us are just kind of on the sidelines watching.”
Trueblood said marijuana could give tribes an economic boost, much like gaming. He said tribes will have the best opportunities in states such as Florida and New York, where demand for pot is high but the drug has not been legalized for recreational use by state voters.
“Ultimately, I think you’ll see legal marijuana in every state,” Trueblood said. “I think that’s fairly inevitable, even in very conservative places like Florida.”
Reider said his tribe plans to sell both medical and recreational marijuana. Minors will be allowed to consume pot if they have a recommendation from a doctor. Under a tribal ordinance passed in June, adults 21 and over will be able to buy one gram of marijuana at a time for recreational use, no more than twice a day.
“We really don’t want the stuff getting out to the street,” Reider said. “So we’re going to have like a bar setting where they’ll be able to consume small amounts while on the property.”
Kevin Sabet, president of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said the California raid shows that it’s still “an extremely risky venture” for any tribe to start selling marijuana. And he said pot sales would fuel more addiction.
“If we think alcohol has had a negative effect on young people on tribal lands, we ain’t seen nothing yet,” Sabet said.
As part of his homework, Reider said, he traveled to Colorado, the first state to sell recreational pot last year. He said he does not smoke marijuana but has concluded that it’s safer than alcohol, citing the behavior he witnessed at the Cannabis Cup, a marijuana celebration held in Denver in April.
“It was a peaceful environment,” he said. “Everybody was overly friendly, overly talkative to each other and respectful of each other. Where if you go to a concert where there’s a lot of alcohol, you typically see fights and arguments.”
Reider said the tribe plans to begin growing 6,000 marijuana plants in October and is renovating a bowling alley to house a new consumption lounge that will include four private rooms. He said the tribe may consider allowing marijuana consumption in its casino in the future.
Reider acknowledged that it’s “kind of an awkward feeling” to start selling pot, but he figures the tribe is well-equipped.
“When we started looking into it, it’s comical at first, but then you realize it’s an amazing business,” he said. “It’s highly regulated, and we’re used to the regulation from operating our casino. We’ve got security and surveillance.”
Reider said profits from pot sales will be used to help tribal members. He said that could include the construction of a facility for those addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs or methamphetamine.
“We don’t have a recovery treatment center on the reservation right now,” Reider said. “Potentially we could look to fund one of those operations, and not just for marijuana addiction.”
Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2015/07/29/6341934/indian-tribes-set-to-begin-marijuana.html#storylink=cpy
PINE RIDGE, S.D. — OUTSIDE the Oglala Lakota tribe’s child protection service office, staff members updated a police officer on the latest emergency: An 11-year old girl had texted her cousin that she wanted to kill herself and then had gone missing.
A damp breeze swirled smoke from the caseworkers’ cigarettes, and the sun flitted between mottled clouds, the advance guard of an approaching spring blizzard. The officer jotted down some specifics on the girl and the remote area where she was last seen, then pulled away from the curb. They didn’t want to lose another child.
Since December, nine people between the ages of 12 and 24 have committed suicide on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation — home to Crazy Horse’s Oglala band of the Lakota — in southwestern South Dakota.
They come to Pine Ridge every few years, these suicide epidemics, with varying degrees of national media attention and local soul-searching. What the news media often misses though, and what tribal members understand but rarely discuss above a whisper, is that youth suicides here are inextricably linked to a multigenerational scourge of sexual abuse, with investigations into possible abuse now open in at least two of the nine recent suicides.
I’m a wasicu (Lakota for “white person”) from Massachusetts, but I’ve spent about half of the past decade living on the rez, working mostly as a teacher and archery coach. Within two weeks of starting my first job teaching high school English here, a veteran teacher told me something he thought was critical to understanding life on Pine Ridge: By the time they reach high school, most of the girls (and many boys, too) have been molested or raped.
His anecdotal observation seems to track with the available statistics. According to the United States Department of Justice, Native Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other Americans, and the numbers on Pine Ridge, one of the largest, poorest reservations in the country, appear to be even greater. “We started two clinics for reproductive health in the largest high schools on the reservation,” said Terry Friend, a midwife who works at the year-and-a-half-old Four Directions Clinic, which specializes in sexual assault and domestic abuse. “When I take a sexual history of a patient, I ask, ‘Have you had sex against your will?’ At the high schools, girls answered yes more than no.”
Numbers are harder to come by for boys, but local medical professionals estimate that they are also high, and that such rates of abuse can translate to high rates of suicide. One recent study found that nationally, teenage boys who were sexually assaulted were about 10 times more likely to attempt suicide, girls more than three times more likely.
At some point, most local child sexual assault cases cross the tribal prosecutor’s desk. “Unfortunately, many of those same kids have suicidal ideations and attempts,” said the tribe’s attorney general, Tatewin Means. “I definitely think there’s a strong connection between sexual assault and suicide here on the reservation.”
THE BOY LOVED the sweat lodge. He was a troubled student but took solace in the traditional Lakota form of prayer, with steam hissing off big glowing rocks in the center of a small lodge made of bent saplings and canvas tarps. School and tribal officials said the boy showed up to school one day last spring when he was supposed to be on suspension, climbed a pine tree in the schoolyard and hanged himself from a thick branch. Teachers and students saw him, and he was quickly cut down. Struggling to breathe, he sprinted for the school’s sweat lodge, where he took refuge until the police and a relative calmed him down.
It wasn’t the first time he had attempted suicide in or around school grounds, administrators said. He’d been depressed, and behaving erratically, with signs that he was using drugs and “huffing” gasoline. There had also been signs of sexual abuse, involving not only him but also a younger brother and male cousins he lived with. Every time one of the boys showed new signs of abuse or talked about suicide, school officials said, they called the tribe’s child protection unit, and every time they were told the same thing: “It’s still under investigation.”
The child was not removed from the home. Then in December, two weeks after his 14th birthday, the boy hanged himself at home and became the first in the recent string of nine suicides.
His case was lost, it seems, in the web of tribal bureaucracies and federal oversight bodies that are long on backlogged cases and short on funding. The tribal child protection unit, for instance, currently has two investigators for the entire reservation, which the federal census puts at more than 18,000 total residents (though tribal officials say is closer to 40,000). The two investigators are responsible for handling upward of 40 new cases a month, and hundreds more in the long-term case management system.
About a month after the boy died, a 14-year old cheerleader killed herself. Soon after, rumors of an all-too-familiar detail started to spread: Before her death, the girl told friends that her stepfather, a longtime teacher and coach at her school, was sexually abusing her. What followed broke the usual mold, though: Her friends came forward to tell school officials. Charles Roessel, a member of the Navajo Nation and director of the federal Bureau of Indian Education, which oversees the school, said administrators acted quickly to suspend the accused teacher and refer the case to federal investigators. No charges have been brought.
Shortly after his suspension from the federal school, the cheerleader’s stepfather was brought on, according to school officials, as an unpaid intern by the reservation’s Shannon County school system, which is overseen by the state. His job was to shadow one of the system’s principals so that he could learn to be a school administrator. The stepfather did not respond to requests for comment.
TRIBAL LEADERS and experts are struggling to understand the recent suicide epidemic (specifics on many of the cases aren’t widely known), but there’s general agreement on one underlying cause: the legacy of federally funded boarding schools that forcibly removed generations of Native American children from their homes. Former students and scholars of the institutions say that the isolation and lack of oversight at the mostly church-run schools allowed physical and sexual abuse to run rampant.
“My grandmother used to tell me that she didn’t think she was pretty,” said an E.M.T. friend of mine who responds to a suicide attempt every week or so, “because when the priests used to sneak into her dorm and take a little girl for the night, they never picked her.”
Left untreated, such sexual abuse can lead to elevated rates of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide, said Dr. Steven Berkowitz, director of a center on youth trauma at the University of Pennsylvania.
One sad irony of the recent suicides is that they come in the middle of new initiatives to address sexual assault. The Four Directions Clinic is treating young abuse victims who were previously sent to distant hospitals off the reservation. Tribal and federal law enforcement officials now confer regularly to better coordinate investigations. High school students recently petitioned the Pine Ridge school board to create health classes for vulnerable middle school students, and the board unanimously voted to find necessary funding.
Still, the challenges are enormous. Six days after the 11-year-old girl went missing, protection services still hadn’t located her, though a caseworker says the hope is that the girl and her mother have gone to a domestic violence shelter somewhere — the reservation doesn’t have its own.
Shortly before the 14-year-old boy committed suicide, a school administrator tried to counsel him. Lakota tradition, she told him, teaches that a spirit set free by suicide is doomed to wander the earth in lonely darkness. “You don’t want that, do you?” she asked. He looked her in the eye, a minor taboo for Lakota children to do with their elders, and said, “Anything’s better than here.”
(Note: This column will appear before the Senate votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The House has already approved the construction of the Pipeline)
South Dakota’s Republican leadership of John Thune and Kristi Noem always march lockstep with the other Republican robots. Neither of them care that South Dakota’s largest minority, the people of the Great Sioux Nation, diametrically oppose the Pipeline and they also fail to understand the determination of the Indian people to stop it.
The House vote was 252-161 favoring the bill. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who is trying to take the senate seat from Democrat Mary Landrieu, They are headed for a senate runoff on December 6 and Landrieu has expressed a strong support of the bill in hopes of holding her senate seat.
Two hundred twenty-one Republicans supported the bill which made the Republican support unanimous while 31 Democrats joined the Republicans. One hundred sixty-one Democrats rejected the bill.
Progressive newsman and commentator for MSNBC, Ed Schultz, traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota this year to meet with the Indian opponents of the Pipeline. Firsthand he witnessed the absolute determination of the Indian nations to stop construction of the Pipeline.
He witnessed their determination and reported on it. Except for Schultz the national media shows no interest and apparently has no knowledge of how the Indian people feel about the Pipeline nor do they comprehend that they will go to their deaths stopping it. What is wrong with the national media when it comes to Indians?
As an example of the national media’s apathy, the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota have turned their backs on the $1.5 billion dollars offered to them for settling the Black Hills Claim and although they are among the poorest of all Americans, the national media does not consider this news.
Why do they protest the XL Pipeline? Because the lands the Pipeline will cross are Sacred Treaty Lands and to violate these lands by digging ditches for the pipelines is blasphemes to the beliefs of the Native Americans. Violating the human and religious rights of a people in order to create jobs and low cost fuel is the worst form of capitalism. Will the Pipeline bring down the cost of fuel and create thousands of jobs?
President Barack Obama has blocked the construction of the Pipeline for six years and he said, “I have constantly pushed back against the idea the somehow the Keystone Pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices. Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”
In the meantime Senator Landrieu conceded that it is unlikely that the Senate and the House will have the two-thirds majority needed to override an Obama veto.
Wizipan Little Elk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a coalition of tribal leaders from across the Northern Plains and the United States have pulled no punches on how they intend to fight the Pipeline to the death if that is the only way to stop it.
South Dakota’s elected leadership has totally ignored the protests of the largest minority residing in their state. They have also totally underestimated and misunderstood the inherent determination of the Indian people. This is a huge mistake that will have national implications and it is taking place right under their Republican noses.
What is even worse South Dakota’s media has also buried its collective heads in the sand even though Native Sun News has been reporting on the Keystone XL Pipeline since 2006. Award-winning Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News, Talli Nauman, has been at the journalistic forefront of this environmental disaster about to happen from day one and she has been rewarded by the South Dakota Newspaper Association with many awards for her yearly series of articles on this most important topic. Until this issue became a political football, the rest of South Dakota’s media had been silent.
The Keystone XL Pipeline that is being pushed by TransCanada may well be the beginning of the final war between the United States government and the Indian Nations. A word of caution to TransCanada and the U.S. Government: please do not disregard the determination of the Indian people when they say they will fight this Pipeline to their deaths if need be. They mean it!
When asked if he truly thought that a handful of Indians could stop the construction of the Pipeline, Little Elk simply said, “Try us!”
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the editor and publisher of Native Sun News. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Pierre, SD – The fight to stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline can add one more state to its battleground: South Dakota. A powerful coalition of local allies intervened in the certification of the pipeline permit at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, and the battle for the open US Senate seat in South Dakota could be decided by voters strongly opposed to Keystone XL.
Four tribal nations and a number of grassroots Native groups, each belonging to the Oceti Sakowin, have petitioned to intervene. Those tribes are the Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Yankton Sioux Tribes. Dakota Rural Action, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and several South Dakota landowners have also petitioned to intervene. This coalition, called No KXL Dakota, is comprised of tribal nations, non-profit organizations, individual tribal citizens and non-tribal landowners, each dedicated to the protection of Mother Earth and the natural resources of South Dakota.
TransCanada opposed the intervention of several applicants to party status, including the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Utility Commission Office, both Native entities dealing with energy issues in South Dakota.
This high-profile pipeline battle has intensified with the South Dakota congressional race. Republican candidate Mike Rounds is the only candidate fully endorsing the pipeline, while Democratic opponent Rick Weiland has gained local support because of his opposition to Keystone XL and Independent Larry Pressler has also courted the Native vote.
Lewis Grassrope of Wiconi Un Tipi: “We are here to ensure that this committee [the PUC] hears our voice on this opposition to the pipeline or any pipeline through these lands.”
Joye Braun of Pte Ospaye Spirit Camp: “Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp mission is stand in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the social evils that come with Big Oil, to educate the people about the KXL Pipeline, fracking, and the pollution that occurs with oil production. Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp is located just outside of the Bridger Community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and 2.2 miles from where the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline proposes to go through. It is a hugely historic area known for centuries as a crossroads for Natives Peoples to travel through on their way to the Black Hills. It is ground zero for the Lakota people fighting this pipeline as it would have to pass through this area first to try and get to the other camps and Nebraska.”
No KXL Dakota allies have pledged to stand their ground and not back down in the now local battle over property, land, water, human trafficking, and treaty rights.
On the eve of Native American Day in South Dakota and near the anniversary of statehood, some of the state’s prominent Native Americans talked Sunday in Sioux Falls about tribal-state relations at statehood in 1889 compared to now.
Wayne White Wolf Evans summarized tribal-state relations in South Dakota during the course of almost 125 years as an “abusive relationship” the nine tribes can’t seem to escape.
To get out of an abusive relationship, he said, there has to be a power greater than the abuser.
Perhaps that power lies in the outstretched hands of the state’s residents, he said.
“Where does the tribe go to get this power, Congress?” Evans said. “State government is not going to do it. Maybe the citizens can do that.”
There’s a difference between now and 1889, said keynote speaker Frank Pommersheim during the event at the downtown library.
There has been some improvement, but not enough, said Pommersheim, a University of South Dakota Law School professor and tribal judge.
Resolution on issues such as land and political involvement still needs to be attained.
“Those lingering problems, which are very significant, over land and participation in the political process continue to exist, and we still, yet, from my point of view, have not had a meaningful statewide conversation about this that involves a significant number of state officials and tribal officials,” Pommersheim said.
Billy Mercer of Sioux Falls, who was among those attending Sunday’s forum, said the forum gave him a firm understanding of what happened during statehood at the county level.
He also took a moment to ask whether the mayor or any of the legislative candidates were attending the meeting.
He found out there were none and said that disappointed him.
“Nobody was here on the political level,” Mercer said. “They are quick to point out a park where alcoholic Native Americans are hanging out, but when you have people here who are Native American trying to discuss things, on a functional level, they’re not here. That’s discrimination.”
Assistant U.S. attorney in Sioux Falls J.R. LaPlante also was among those attending the event. He said having conversations about the tribal-state issues still needing to be overcome is critical.
“I think anytime you can look to litigation as a last resort … that’s good for us as taxpayers, I think it’s good for us as a state. I think it improves and increases understanding but also leads to more meaningful solutions,” LaPlante said.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Finding referees for middle school games in communities on Native American reservations can sometimes be impossible in South Dakota.
In some cases, it’s even led to people getting pulled from the stands to call games, the Argus Leader reported Sunday. Emergency volunteers aren’t necessarily certified, which means they are less familiar with protocols when it comes to calling a fair contest, helping players learn a sport properly and handling games.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association in 2008 partnered with the Oglala Lakota College coach and athletic director Mary Tobacco to try to solve the problem. Together, they have developed a program to recruit and train Native American referees.
The program includes middle school basketball – the most popular sport in the area – volleyball and football. It involves 13 schools in two conferences. And this fall, a milestone will be reached when an all-Native American crew of referees participates in varsity football games in the region for the first time.
“We have to educate ourselves on the rules and get physically ready for the demands of fast play,” said Nick Hernandez, lead official in the all-Native American crew. “As a crew, we want to be prepared because the game has a lot of rules. We must be able to facilitate all those rules and provide a fair game.”
Activities Association executive director Wayne Carney said the lack of certified officials on reservations was especially problematic during the state tournament. He said foul numbers were lopsided because what was being called during regular season wasn’t consistent with the rules enforced during the state tourney.
Hernandez, a former high school player at Red Cloud, became certified about six years ago. He has been the coordinator of football officials in subvarsity games for the past three years, making game assignments.
Hernandez also is responsible for recruiting potential referees, and his efforts appear to be paying off: Twenty active men and women are on the basketball officiating list, up from less than five before the program kicked off.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com
Washington D.C. (KELO AM) – U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), James Inhofe (R-OK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced the Tribal Adoption Parity Act. The legislation ensures parents adopting American Indian and Alaskan Native children through tribal courts are treated fairly under our nation’s tax code by making it easier for adoptive parents across Indian Country to claim the full adoption tax credit for “special needs” children.
“The Tribal Adoption Parity Act will provide financial relief for families in South Dakota by making it easier for adoptive parents in Indian Country to claim the full adoption tax credit,” Johnson said. “It is unacceptable that parents who adopt an Indian child through a tribal court are prevented from accessing the financial relief that is provided to adoptive families in non-tribal areas. This bill addresses an oversight in our tax code by ensuring that adoptive parents throughout Indian Country receive fair tax treatment.”
Under current law, parents adopting a child who has been determined by a State as “special needs” can claim the full adoption tax credit regardless of their qualified adoption expenses. Congress created the “special needs” determination to provide an added incentive for parents adopting children who might otherwise be difficult to place in adoptive homes. In Fiscal Year 2011, 84 percent of the nearly 50,000 children adopted through public agencies were designated as having “special needs.” Parents adopting children through tribal courts, however, are currently ineligible for the special needs adoption tax credit. This unfortunately results in parents and children throughout Indian Country unfairly missing out on an important tax credit that would make a significant difference in their day-to-day lives. Becoming eligible for the special needs adoption tax credit would help further reduce the financial costs associated with adoption and lessen administrative burdens.
In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act that gives Indian tribes exclusive jurisdiction over custody proceedings involving Indian children within a reservation. The special needs adoption tax credit currently fails to recognize the authority that tribal governments have over adoption proceedings of Indian children. The Tribal Adoption Parity Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide fair tax treatment to parents adopting Indian children through tribal courts. As a result, a tribal government would be permitted to designate an adoptive Indian child as having “special needs.” This legislation would ensure that families in Indian Country are treated fairly by providing the same financial relief that adoptive families currently receive across the nation.
The bill has been endorsed by organizations such as the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the Child Welfare League of America, Voice for Adoption, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the Donaldson Adoption Institute, and the Joint Council for International Children’s Services.
In 1996, Congress created the adoption tax credit to ease the initial financial burden for adoptive parents. The adoption tax credit provides a tax credit of up to $10,000 and is adjusted for inflation. The credit was $12,970 for tax year 2013. Since 2003, families adopting children with “special needs” are allowed to claim the full adoption tax credit regardless of their qualified adoption expenses. The definition of “special needs” varies from state to state. Examples of factors that can qualify a child for the “special needs” determination include: age; membership in a minority or sibling group; ethnic background; medical condition; or physical, mental, and emotional handicaps.
The National Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the Internal Revenue Service, recommended the adoption tax credit be amended to recognize tribal governments in its 2012 Annual Report to Congress, which can be accessed here.
South Dakota’s nine Indian reservations exist as sovereign nations. But what does that mean? KSFY News talked with tribal, state and federal leaders about what it means to lead a nation within a nation.
Sovereignty may seem easy to define on paper, but in practice, it’s complicated. To some, it’s a feeling. A way of life.
“Sovereignty, to me, is something our grandfathers gave us. That we need to respect, because it’s a tool that protects us here in Indian Country,” said Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Cyril Scott.
It’s a way of life that involves an ongoing power struggle, colored by a history of eradication.
“The states, the government, they want to take that sovereignty away from us. They don’t want to acknowledge that Adolf Hitler got his ideas from the United States,” said Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue.
For tribal governments, sovereignty comes with a limited autonomy.
“When you look at South Dakota, we’re unique in a sense that we have nine different tribes that through treaties and congressional action enjoy a level of tribal sovereignty. That means they have the ability – while they are certainly South Dakotans – that they have the ability to vote in our elections, but they also have a separate sovereignty that allows them to control certain matters within their borders,” said South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.
“We have control of our schools, our courts, our police, so those do make us sovereign, but there’s a lot of things where we are not sovereign. We are still dependent. We are still dependent on the federal government because they have not met their trust responsibility in meeting our needs through economic development,” said Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer.
“They gave us the treaties 200 years ago, 100 years ago, however long ago. Did that give us our sovereignty? In a way, it should have. But today, we don’t have sovereignty,” said Sazue.
Tribes must follow state and federal laws, which can mean problems when those limits are tested.
“For any community in the United States, there are limits. The constitution still needs to be followed and respected. The federal laws still need to be followed and respected,” said South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson.
For example, Pine Ridge is looking into the legalization of marijuana within its borders. Jackley says while he respects tribal sovereignty, pot still is illegal.
“He said he’s going to come to Pine Ridge and arrest us if we did do that,” said Brewer, “And we realize that we have to follow federal law and that. But again, we need to exercise our sovereignty. Pine Ridge has already passed an ordinance years ago legalizing hemp – to grow hemp on our reservation. Yet when a person did, they were arrested.”
Another limit to tribal sovereignty is who can and cannot be prosecuted in tribal courts.
“There are further limitations if there is a non-Indian committing a crime against a non-Indian within the reservation boundaries, the state or the state’s attorney would have jurisdiction over that,” said Jackley.
“I believe we’re going to start arresting everybody. Non-Indians. If they commit a crime on a reservation, we’re going to arrest him, take them through our courts and see what happens. We know it will go to the Supreme Court, but we want to test it, we want to test our sovereignty and we talk about our sovereignty. We’re going to test it through the judicial system,” said Brewer.
“We’re seeing tribal courts strengthened. We’re seeing police departments growing and I think that’s very good, because I think the future of tribal sovereignty means more local control for the tribes, less involvement from federal government,” said Johnson.
According to Brewer, many families living in reservation communities depend on the federal government as well, because job opportunities are few and the cost of utilities like propane and electricity are high.
“We’re all wishing and praying one day that we can be completely sovereign, but as long as we’re within the confines of the United States government, we will probably never be truly sovereign.”
A recent emphasis on economic development and inter-tribal trade aims to change that.
“The future of tribal sovereignty, I think, is about creating alliances. Sovereignty is strongest when you’re using it to create alliances, and I think in South Dakota we’re starting to see that now,” said Johnson.
“We all have something to offer. We can trade with each other. So this is something we’re really looking at,” said Brewer, “We’ve talked to tribes in the northwest. They said ‘Bryan, we’d like to have your buffalo. We have so much diabetes out there. Send us buffalo meat. We’ll send you lumber, we’ll send you salmon.’ The Seminoles out of Florida – ‘We’ll send you oranges. You can use those for your people or you can sell them to communities.’”
South Dakota’s tribes are working on many fronts to become more independent.
Wind energy will help cut down on the high cost of electricity. Several tribes have projects in the works.
The launch of dozens of tribe-operated businesses – like Lakota Popcorn on Lower Brule and Tanka Bars on Pine Ridge – are helping to alleviate the unemployment problem.
Many tribes are also putting an increased emphasis on tourism. For example, the Oglala Sioux will likely become the first tribe to operate a national park in the Badlands’ South Unit.
While tribes are using the increasing connectedness of our world for the betterment of their people, assimilation and eventual obscurity aren’t part of the plan.
“What we are telling the people of the United States and the state of South Dakota – we are a nation. The first nation of this country,” said Scott.
PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION — The fierce winter of 2014 continues to bring record cold spells across the Great Plains. American Indian across South Dakota have been particularly hit hard with lack of propane gas and propane prices almost double from what they were last year at this time.
One Spirit, a non-profit organization that assists with fuel for low-income homeowners, reports people are burning clothes to stay warm, 20 or more people at a time in one room using an electric heater, and families who have been out of propane for days and not able to have hot food or drinks.
One Spirit is delivering wood as fast as possible to prevent people from having to burn clothes to stay warm.
However, not all homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are equipped for wood-burning. In those cases, propane is typically the much needed heating fuel.
One Spirit is attempting to match as many families as possible for a minimum $200 purchase of propane. One Spirit is also providing help with conservation measures to make the heat go as far as possible.
With single-digits temperatures and even below zero temperatures still in the weather forecast, One Spirit is seeking financial assistance so that tribal members can be provided with propane fuel and wood. Every dollar the public donates will be used to provide heat during this brutally cold winter.
Donations can be made by check or money order, made payable to: