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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/14/18

South Dakota's Republican Primary Race is a Dogfight!

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Pierre, S.D. will see a new governor elected on Nov. 6, 2918, to take up residence in a historic governor's mansion in this quaint little upper-Midwest city. Long a Republican stronghold, most Natives who live in South Dakota do not view Pierre' as either "quaint" or "little". It's an off-limits, aloof, and threatening place that cares little about Native Americans, their spiritual values and concepts, care of the environment well-being of the "Earth Mother" and perhaps what's most appalling is that this state's political elites have had a dubious record of violating treaties set with Native Americans - namely, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

It might be indeed true that Pierre is a little city, with a population under 14,000, but for American Indians who live in this state, it almost seems that the capital city is as far away from 'the red road' as a capital city can possibly be, with a stiff and stifling concentration of conservative values and staunch Republicans credos.

Raping and pillaging the land with fracking, mining, pipelines, and other mineral and resource harvesting is only proof positive that South Dakota is very unfriendly to its American Indian inhabitants, most of whom belong to the seven tribes of the Great Lakota Nation.

Those familiar with and who follow South Dakota politics have already declared a Republican Party win. An official winner has almost already been declared long before November's general election vote - either Kristi Noem or Marty J. Jackley. In early polls going through this spring to the Republican Primary election day, Noem has been found to be leading Jackley by a rather healthy 10-to-12 point margin.

Yes, the big race now is the Republican Primary which will be held June 5. A Democratic contender, Billy Sutton, is running for governor, too, but most feel it would take an act of God, or some hideous, salacious and even scabrous political or social scandal hitting the Republican leader following June's primary to actually see a Democrat moving into Pierre as the most important citizen of the town, along with the leader of this sparsely populated, yet important state.

For starters, Native Americans feel alienated and violated in this deep-red state. As far as polarization is concerned, South Dakota is as Republican as the Deep South, and although the Mount Rushmore State has a fairly sizable amount of American Indians, it is predominantly a white race, rural mosh pit - even a wilderness - that includes a lot of big money people involved with mining, fracking, oil and gas exploration, pipeline installation, along with a fairly sizeable amount of Caucasian ranchers.

The two leading candidates, Kristi Noem and Marty J. Jackley, are young - relatively speaking - but have made such inroads into South Dakota's small but vibrant political world that they are household names in this obscure state perched high on the prairies, with its largest city - Sioux Falls - holding about 154,000 residents and with Rapid City having the second highest, at just a few people shy of 68,000. Meantime, third place Aberdeen has just over 26,000 residents, with all figures coming from a 2010 census.

Noem is a U.S. Representative from South Dakota's "At Large" congressional district (which encompasses the entire state). Jackley is the current Attorney General for the state and Billy Sutton is the state's House of Representative minority leader. Sutton, by the way, is also a former professional bronco rider on the rodeo circuit.

Meanwhile, as it has already been stated here, North and South Dakota also have the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation. The largest of these enrolled tribal members belong to the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, and they live throughout the state, with many deciding to move off the rez and into the cities. But the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has a sizeable number of predominantly Oglala Lakota-enrolled tribal members - an estimated number overall is between 45,000 and 50,000 - around and near Wounded Knee Creek.in the top-right area of South Dakota, making for a sizable and important populace of some of the most politically active and vocally charged Natives anywhere in the United States..

"The only comment I want to give is that Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley want to get rid of the sovereignty of our tribe, and other tribes in the Lakota Nation," said Stan Starcomesout, who is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, a now retired, longstanding tribal police officer, and a Vietnam War veteran..

"South Dakota has always been a very conservative, Republican state," Starcomesout said. "None of these people running are Native friendly, even the Democrat, Billy Sutton," he added. "Republicans seem to want to have their politics accepted on the rez, but most Natives vote and support Democrats. That's why I hope Billy Sutton wins the November general election. I don't see him as being nearly the threat to our values and our way of life as either Noem or Jackley."

"There won't be a good showing for the Democrat, Sutton," said Fred Sitting Up, who is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation and who is very involved with treaty law, particularly, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868."And Kristi Noem is not a very good choice. She's been against us Natives from the very beginning."

"From what I've heard, in the coming weeks, there is going to be a lot of marching, protest, and activism on Pine Ridge. We already had a big treaty meeting about the Fort Laramie Treaty last week at Fort Laramie. A lot of the people when they got down there they were really voicing themselves. Basically, for me myself, they're trying to include us in their voting, some of them, anyhow. And others are pushing us away. It doesn't really matter how they do things anyhow. It's not part of my culture and it's an alien way of doing things. We've always chosen a strong warrior leader to take charge and make decisions for us,," Sitting Up told me in a telephone interview.

Joye Braun, who works for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said: "None of these candidates will be good for Native Americans. For us, things are bad. Drugs and meth on our reservations, having poor health care - most Indians can't even afford Obamacare, so our families are reliant on Native medical service facilities. The ongoing infrastructure of the Keystone XL Pipeline and its hearings - well, these are a horrific farce, too. Let's face it, there is little crossover in the way we, Native Americans, view South Dakota's impending future as compared to the politicians who run our state."

"We have a lot of water issues. And they're mining for gold and even uranium on our lands and on the lands entrusted to us through treaty law," Braun said.

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Samuel Vargo worked as a full-time reporter and editor for more than 20 years at a number of daily newspapers and business journals. He was also an adjunct English professor at colleges and universities in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi (more...)
 

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