Showing RESPECT to Native Americans

Edgar's picture

During my time working as your governor and now U.S. senator, I’ve had the privilege of establishing friendships with tribal members from all nine reservations in South Dakota. As governor, Jean and I invited tribal leaders to our home to simply break bread and get to know each other on a personal level. It’s a small thing, but we’ve also made a concerted effort to employ tribal members and people with close ties to the reservations on my staff. I believe those personal relationships help me better understand the challenges facing our tribal communities. It has been an honor to spend time—sometimes simply driving the back roads—with tribal leaders concerned about water quality, education or roads. We’ve discussed many critical and immediate concerns but one issue that has touched my heart is the emotional toll that our sometimes-dark history continues to have on our Native American neighbors today. We can’t change the past but we can continue to reconcile with it, and each other.

Throughout history, Native Americans have been subjected to federal laws that are offensive, immoral and outright racist. For example, there are federal laws in place that allow the government to forcibly remove Native American children from their homes and send them to boarding schools. There are also laws that allow the government to push Native Americans into forced labor as a condition of receiving benefits. It’s shocking to read through some of the old laws that made their way through Congress and were signed into law.

Sadly, a number of these laws are still on the books today. While they are not enforced, there is no reason for them to be a part of our federal code. They are a tragic reminder of past hostility and racism toward Native Americans.



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