The second Monday in October has been recognized as a federal holiday since 1968. In 1990, South Dakota was the first state to do things a little differently than the rest of the nation. In South Dakota, we recognize Monday, October 11th, as Native Americans’ Day. We recognize that the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota people and their culture is part of who we are collectively as South Dakotans. We recognize them traditionally as the O’ceti Sakowin meaning the Seven Council Fires — more commonly known throughout the world as the Great Sioux Nation.
In 1990, Governor George S. Mickelson lead the “Year of Reconciliation.” It’s been my goal in public office to continue that mission of recognizing and respecting the nine tribal nations that share our geography. It is my goal to come to the table with tribal leaders to support tribal communities, businesses, and families.
One of the people who is instrumental in my work with Native Americans is Dave Flute, Secretary of Tribal Relations. As a veteran with the 235th Military Police Company and a proud Native American leader across the Great Plains, Dave has spent his life in service to his people and his country. He’s taught me a lot about what is important to the Native Americans in South Dakota and how to strengthen the relationship between our communities.
My vision for South Dakota is strongly based in family values. This is common ground I share with every tribal leader. I have learned a lot about the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota values through this lens. Providing strong support systems for youth, families, and elders are missions I share as a mother, caregiver, and as a South Dakotan. Strong families are what make South Dakota special. “Tiwahe wasagyapi wicawake’ye.” (I believe in strong families.)
Through the Department of Social Service’s Foster One and Stronger Families Together program, I have supported and urged Native families to open their homes, to adoption and foster care. We need more Native families to open their hearts and homes to children. Much like tribal communities, South Dakota was built by families supporting families. “Oyate kin na tiwahe tawapi okciyapo.” (Communities and families need to help each other.)
This holiday weekend, I encourage every South Dakotan to reach into their own community to support Native-owned businesses, learn more about the local Native American culture, and recognize the shared values we have as South Dakotans. Don’t wait until Monday to celebrate Native American heritage.
For information about resources, events, and other Tribal initiatives, go to sdtribalrelations.sd.gov.