Honoring Our Native American Heritage

I’m honored to represent the thousands of constituents who reside on the nine Native American reservations within South Dakota, as the tribal community plays an integral role in our state’s heritage and culture. I’m committed to protecting tribal sovereignty, promoting safer schools, supporting a better healthcare system on reservations, and encouraging economic development in our tribal communities.

Sadly, some of South Dakota’s reservations are home to the nation’s highest unemployment rates. I believe we ought to be doing everything we can to encourage economic development within these communities.

There is a health care deficit in Indian Country as well. The Indian Health Service is failing, putting people’s lives at stake in the process. I want to offer short-term emergency relief while also providing long-term structural fixes. This includes legislation I’ve introduced that aims to increase accountability, offer incentives to help recruit good employees, and stretch every dollar further, among other things.

In 2014, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act – a bill I cosponsored – was signed into law. This legislation ensures that families in need that receive benefits (like free or subsidized school supplies) from the tribal government are exempt from paying taxes on those benefits – just like the beneficiaries of programs administered by state and federal agencies are.

I am also proud to have authored a provision within the 2014 Farm Bill that opens a permanent Office of Tribal Relations within USDA, but I understand that more must be done. I am currently a member of the Congressional Native American Caucus, which aims to improve the government-to-government relationship between the tribes and the federal government. I’m hopeful this Caucus can also play a role in working with the tribes to develop real solutions to address challenges within the Native American community.