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Historic hanging of tribal flag in Capitol offers space for tribal citizens, leaders say

PIERRE — Throughout Wednesday, South Dakota’s nine Native American tribes were recognized not only during the annual State of the Tribes address, but also through a historic moment when two tribal flags were permanently hung in the rotunda.

The flag ceremony, as well as the signing of a gaming compact between the state and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe held in the morning, offered a glimpse into the years of work done behind the scenes by lawmakers, tribal governments and the state government.

The culmination of that work has paid dividends for the tribes as they continue to grow their economic impact and presents a future where Native children can see themselves in the halls of the state legislature.

Economic development 

Tribes’ economic opportunities were highlighted by the Standing Rock chairwoman and by the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal vice president.

Janet Alkire, the chairwoman for Standing Rock, was joined by Gov. Kristi Noem in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday morning to sign a 10-year gaming compact extension between the tribe and the state.

Included in the compact is increasing the tribal nation’s gaming devices from 350 machines to 1,000 machines. That, in turn, will create new jobs across the Standing Rock nation.

Alkire noted the importance of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, federal legislation signed in the late 1980s that established jurisdiction for gaming on tribal land. She called the legislation foundational for the tribe and said it safeguards “Indian gaming as a means to promote tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and strong tribal government.”

Additionally, during the State of the Tribes, Vice President Cyndi Allen-Weddell of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe recognized how the medical cannabis industry has allowed the tribe to thrive in the business world.

Flandreau President Tony Reider, who had been invited to give the address, was unable to make it because of road conditions following a winter storm earlier this week, Allen-Weddell said.

Allen-Weddell told lawmakers that Native Nations Cannabis, a medical cannabis growth operation and dispensary, has been working with other tribes across the United States to extend their business dealings. The financial gains the tribe has benefited from because of the work being done by the industry have been numerous.

“Cannabis has helped my tribe fund the gap between bare bones federal programs and robust tribal programs and will continue to provide a solid economic base for the tribe,” Allen-Weddell said.

She also thanked the Legislature for providing 100% Medicaid reimbursements for nursing homes, which has allowed the tribe to open a state-of-the-art nursing home facility and encouraged further partnership for future legislative opportunities.

Flag hanging offers inspiration

Wednesday was capped off with the flag hanging ceremonies. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe presented their flags and offered history into the designs.

It was the result of years of work between Sen. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, State Tribal Relations Secretary David Flute and Noem.

Bordeaux had initially brought a bill to hang tribal flags in the rotunda five years ago after he was inspired by similar actions taken in North Dakota, but pulled it after Flute requested he wait for the full backing of the governor.

Then three years ago, Bordeaux introduced the bill again, this time with Noem’s team backing it.

“We're doing this wonderful thing — which is to me how do we get our kids in the future and people in South Dakota all working together, whether you're tribal or non-tribal,” he said. “It's really important as tribal people because we often don't feel like we are represented here. And even somebody who's been here 10 years like myself, don't always feel sometimes appreciated.”

Bordeaux said he was hopeful the other seven tribes in South Dakota would join Standing Rock and Rosebud in hanging their flags in the rotunda.

Oglala Lakota President Frank Star Comes Out and Crow Creek Chairman Peter Lengkeek were in attendance. Bordeaux said he took that as a sign they acknowledged the work being done Wednesday.

Rep. Tyler Tordsen, R-Sioux Falls, an enrolled citizen of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, said before the flag hanging ceremony that it was a recognition of a state history that includes the tribes, and ultimately, recognizes there is space for tribal citizens in state government.

“We're heading in the right direction,” he said. “I know sometimes there's contention, and there's differences of opinions on some issues, but for the most part overall, we're heading in the right direction. We're going to continue to do that.”


Rapid City Journal, 2024


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