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Police academy for tribal recruits should lead to regional effort, attorney general says • South Dakota Searchlight

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Police academy for tribal recruits should lead to regional effort, attorney general says • South Dakota Searchlight


PIERRE — South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley hopes a new basic law enforcement training course that prioritizes tribal recruits will prove the state could host regional training for Native American officers from the Upper Midwest.

Jackley and U.S. Attorney Alison Ramsdell spoke Monday at the George S. Mickelson Law Enforcement Center in Pierre, in advance of a media tour of the facility and presentations on the ongoing course.

The state’s police academy has long been open to recruits from tribal law enforcement agencies. In practice, though, most attend the 13-week training through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) at a facility in Artesia, New Mexico.

After the basic course is complete, the tribal recruits will be offered an add-on course in tribal policing, which also typically takes place in Artesia and focuses on tribal policing. The BIA has offered its support to that portion of the training in South Dakota.

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“The overall goal would be to not just have South Dakota tribal or South Dakota BIA officers here, but because we do such a good job, to expand it regionally,” Jackley said.

Born of controversy, history of recruitment trouble

Gov. Kristi Noem threw her support behind the idea of an additional basic law enforcement course that would prioritize tribal recruits this spring amid a flurry of controversy over statements she’d made on public safety on the state’s tribal lands.

Noem delivered a speech on border security during the winter legislative session that linked migration at the U.S.-Mexico border to cartel-related drug abuse and violence on reservations. Noem has claimed without evidence that some tribal leaders are “personally benefiting” from a cartel presence on the state’s reservations. 

An officer recruit fires a pistol during firearms training at the George S. Mickelson Law Enforcement Center in Pierre on July 8, 2024. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Tribes have pushed back on those claims. Leaders in all nine of South Dakota’s tribes have voted to ban her from their lands, citing the claims about cartels, as well as what they’ve described as disparaging comments Noem made about Native American children and parents. 

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Even so, tribal leaders have long decried a dearth of funding for public safety on reservations, which is a treaty obligation for the U.S. government. 

The typical expectation that tribal recruits spend weeks away from their families in New Mexico has been a barrier to recruitment noted by tribal leaders, as well as Noem and members of South Dakota’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, has called for the establishment of a Midwestern training center for the BIA, pointing to the state’s Mickelson Center as a prime partnership candidate for such an endeavor. 

On Monday, Jackley praised Noem for throwing her support behind the current course, now in its sixth of 13 weeks.

“I had been asking for additional classes ever since I’ve been attorney general, and I want to give this governor credit,” Jackley said. 

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The new course is no different from any other basic law enforcement course offered in Pierre, aside from its goal of prioritizing the acceptance of tribal recruits. 

U.S. attorney: consistent training, relationships aid prosecutions

The course, provided at no cost to local agencies, drew 11 tribal recruits from three tribes: the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Another 13 recruits joined them from agencies across the state to make a class of 24.

Ashaun Roach-Valandra, Sisseton Wahpeton Law Enforcement Services; Akia Winters, Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety; and Michelle Casiano, Sisseton Wahpeton Law Enforcement Services, are pictured on July 8, 2024, at the George S. Mickelson Law Enforcement Center in Pierre. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
Ashaun Roach-Valandra, Sisseton Wahpeton Law Enforcement Services; Akia Winters, Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety; and Michelle Casiano-Keeble, Sisseton Wahpeton Law Enforcement Services, are pictured on July 8, 2024, at the George S. Mickelson Law Enforcement Center in Pierre. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Ramsdell, whose office prosecutes all felony-level crimes that occur on reservations in South Dakota, also praised the decision to hold a tribal-priority training course. She said the basic training is valuable because it brings together officers from across the state to build the kinds of relationships necessary to work across jurisdictions.

There were more than 500 prosecutions led by Ramdell’s office last year, she said, with 220 originating in tribal areas. The office also prosecuted 140 people for drug trafficking. 

“Our state really leads the nation on these stats,” Ramsdell said. “We’re often second or third after Arizona and Oklahoma in prosecuting violent crime in Indian Country.”

Ramsdell said she’d looked through the list of agencies represented by the recruits before coming to Pierre, and “over the last year and a half, we’ve worked with each one of them on really meaningful prosecutions.”

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In a state as small as South Dakota, she said, cooperation and relationships are critical to public safety.

“I think it’s exemplary of the fact that everything we do starts locally, and without our local partners, we wouldn’t have the success we do at the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” she said.

That’s one of the reasons Jackley said he hopes to see the course pave a path for more tribal law enforcement training in the future. 

A training ground near a recruit’s home allows them to get home to their families on weekends, ensures consistency for all officers working in South Dakota’s borders and builds connections between those officers.

“I think all those things make good sense as to why this should happen here,” Jackley said. “I think it’s why we have local officers teaching this class, why we have tribal officers and tribes willing to attend it, and why I think this is going to be a success.”

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South Dakota

Defense secretary orders review of Wounded Knee Massacre medals • South Dakota Searchlight

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Defense secretary orders review of Wounded Knee Massacre medals • South Dakota Searchlight


The medals awarded to soldiers who participated in the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre will be subjected to a review, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

The department said the review’s purpose is “to ensure no awardees were recognized for conduct inconsistent with the nation’s highest military honor.”

The move comes after years of activism by Lakota people — including descendants of massacre survivors — who want the medals rescinded. 

Oliver “OJ” Semans, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, has been active in the effort with his wife, Barb, and their Four Directions nonprofit. He said it’s gratifying to see some momentum after a long struggle, including failed attempts to rescind the medals through congressional legislation.

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“This issue is moving right now, and there are a lot of people involved in it,” Semans said. “We’re all trying to get to the same conclusion, and that’s justice for the descendants.”

We’re all trying to get to the same conclusion, and that’s justice for the descendants.

– Oliver ‘OJ’ Semans, Rosebud Sioux Tribe member

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The memorandum ordering the review is from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. He directed his undersecretary of defense and personnel readiness to convene a panel of five experts, including two from the Department of the Interior. The panel must send a written report to Austin no later than Oct. 15 with recommendations and rationale to retain or rescind each of the medals. Austin will then provide his recommendations to the president.

The department said “approximately 20” soldiers received a Medal of Honor for participating in the massacre. Historians have noted that the records associated with some of the medals are incomplete or unclear.

In a news release, the Defense Department attributed comments to “a senior defense official” who said “it’s never too late to do what’s right.”

“And that’s what is intended by the review that the secretary directed,” the official said, “which is to ensure that we go back and review each of these medals in a rigorous and individualized manner to understand the actions of the individual in the context of the overall engagement.”

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The massacre occurred on Dec. 29, 1890. Lakota people were camped near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, where they were surrounded by hundreds of Army soldiers. A shot rang out while the soldiers tried to disarm the camp, and chaotic shooting ensued.

Fewer than 40 soldiers were killed (some by friendly fire, according to historians), while estimates of Lakota deaths ran from 200 to 300 or more, depending on the source. After some of the bodies froze on the ground for several days, a military-led burial party dumped them into a mass grave.

The politics and racism of the day influenced the Army’s decision to support medals for some of the soldiers, even though Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles condemned the massacre. He led the Division of the Missouri, which included the soldiers who were responsible for the incident.

“I have never heard of a more brutal, cold-blooded massacre than at Wounded Knee,” Miles wrote in an 1891 letter that’s now held in an archive at Yale.

 

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South Dakota

Noem, others urge Congress to pass legislation on tribal child support

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Noem, others urge Congress to pass legislation on tribal child support


Gov. Kristi Noem is joining other state governors urging Congress to pass the Strengthening State and Tribal Support Act.

Supporters of the bill say it would provide tribes with direct access to tax refund offsets to utilize in child and family support. It also gives broader contract access to federal tax information.

Currently, direct access to federal tax information by tribal support programs is prohibited.

Noem signed the letter asking for the change along with a bipartisan group of 20 other state governors.

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South Dakota

Ag Education Camp carries on South Dakota’s #1 industry

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Ag Education Camp carries on South Dakota’s #1 industry


HURON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – A major industry for South Dakota is agriculture. One part of the Farmer’s Union’s mission is to prepare youth to carry on the agricultural heritage of the state.

Early morning is very quiet at the Farmer’s Union Agricultural Industry Camp, but not for long. Nearly 30 children, up to age 12, start their day with a gathering around the flag pole for songs and a flag raising.

Education Specialist Samantha Bowman, who is the lead, shares the mission of this Farmer’s Union-backed camp.

“We’re hoping that it leads them down a path within the agriculture industry especially, but just leadership in general. It’s important for them to realize that even at such a young age that they do have a voice and that their voice has room at the table as we see the generations continue on,” said Bowman.

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Much of the time at the camp is spent on education slanted toward the ag industry.

“There’s a lot of education behind what we do, but we try to do it all hands-on. So, kids are learning, but they’re having fun at the same time. So when they go home to tell their parents how much fun they had, they’re really telling their parents everything that they learned,” said Bowman.

Among other things, campers learn about co-ops, retail, handling money and animal science. Cadence Konechna, one of the current counselors, started as a camper herself. We asked what the most rewarding part of her position is.

“Watching kids go from being like, socially, they don’t want to participate in anything, they’re hiding in the corner, to having a large friend group and being in the center of everything and then having a huge smile on their face,” said Konechna.

The program has been going on since the 1930s.

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