South Dakota Democratic Party commends Deb Haaland’s confirmation, Denounces South Dakota Senate Delegation

By Alaina Beautiful Bald Eagle

South Dakota Democratic Party Columnist

SIOUX FALLS, SD (March 15, 2021) – History has been made. The South Dakota Democratic Party congratulates Congresswoman Deb Haaland on her confirmation as the first Native American Secretary of Interior. On the shoulders of her ancestors, Rep. Haaland stood for the land, the environment, and for humankind during her confirmation hearings, and her voice never wavered. We commend the senators who voted yes for this amazing woman and leader, and we especially thank President Joe Biden for believing that Deb is the right choice for the United States.

Frustratingly, the South D­­akota Senate Delegation of Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune voted against Rep. Haaland. South Dakota has one of the largest per-capita populations of indigenous people in the United States, with nine sovereign nations, each composed of various bands of Lakota and Dakota people.

Many indigenous-led organizations and tribal leaders asked the senate delegation to vote for Rep. Haaland. In January, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier wrote to Thune and Rounds stating Haaland’s confirmation was “necessary” and that she had “first-hand knowledge of unique circumstances” in government-to-government relations between tribal and federal entities.

A movement to support Haaland gained traction and hashtags such as #ConfirmHaaland and #DebForInterior gained popularity on social media, showing how the Laguna Pueblo congresswoman’s nomination inspired millions of people across the nation.

Former Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle and Byron Dorgan, wrote an op-ed last month stating, “We can only benefit from the integration of indigenous values and perspectives throughout our great nation, especially in the agency tasked with overseeing so much of our beautiful land and natural resources.”

Although Rep. Haaland had the support of countless South Dakotans, tribes, and organizations, South Dakota Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune voted against her.

In a statement released late Monday after the senate confirmed Haaland as Secretary of Interior, Sen. Rounds said, “Ms. Haaland’s stance on individual and tribal trust lands, and tribal members on their own land, as well as her position on the BIA and its role differed greatly from mine. Ms. Haaland seemed to lack a basic understanding on the vital role tribes and tribal members have in making decisions that impact their own lands.”

Remi Bald Eagle, South Dakota Democratic Party Native Caucus member, weighed in and shared his opinion of Sen. Rounds’ injudicious opinion.

“I am not surprised that Ms. Haaland’s stance would differ regarding tribal trust lands and the United States’ trust responsibilities. Ms. Haaland is, after all, not only the subject matter expert, but has actually lived on and has family on those lands. Tribal nations and members have vital roles in determining the disposition of not only reservation lands, but all territories that were guaranteed to tribal nations during the formative years of this country. I look forward to Ms. Haaland’s work in President Biden’s vision of a better nation which serves our best interests, and not the corporate interests that our current South Dakota Congressmen serve,” Bald Eagle said. 

Randy Seiler, chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party, shared his sentiments after Monday evening’s historic confirmation.

“This monumental appointment is a good thing for tribal members in South Dakota. For the first time in history, tribes have the opportunity to work with a woman who was raised as a tribal member and understands the importance of respect for the land. Why would the senators from South Dakota vote against that? The South Dakota Democratic Party looks forward to working with Secretary Haaland, along with our Tribal and Legislative leaders to make sure the concerns of our tribes are not only heard, but also addressed.”

Please direct questions to SDDP Vice Chair Nikki Gronli via email

or phone (605) 376-3337.