State Tribal Relations Committee goals for 2021 Legislative Session:
Indian education and Dakota Removal Act

Sioux Falls, SD (January 11, 2021)Representative Shawn Bordeaux chairs the South Dakota State-Tribal Relations Committee, a bipartisan joint committee that acts as a liaison with tribal governments in South Dakota, and encourages state-tribal and local government-tribal cooperation. The committee’s work plan identifies and prioritizes the topics which the committee, as well as the tribal governments which the committee meets with, have identified.

Rep. Bordeaux shares his insight, the committee’s goals for this year, and provides an overview of the work completed last year. 

Goals for this upcoming session: Indian education and Dakota Removal Act
In October, the committee unanimously rebuked Governor Kristi Noem’s executive order which moved the Office of Indian Education from the state Department of Education under the jurisdiction of the South Dakota State-Tribal Relations Department. The move was done without consultation of tribal nations or tribal education directors, said Rep. Bordeaux. Additionally, the South Dakota Indian Education Advisory Council, which represents all nine Native American tribes in South Dakota, unanimously voted in favor of moving the agency back under the state Department of Education.

Last year, legislation for the Oceti Sakowin-based education was approved through the Senate 35-0; however, it was killed 9-5 by the House Education Committee after last-minute opposition testimony derailed it. 

Both sectors of Indian education will be addressed by different legislators in their respective chambers, said Rep. Bordeaux.

Another goal for the committee is to gain support from state lawmakers to repeal the Dakota Removal Act, federal law which banned Dakota Sioux people from Minnesota and forced them onto South Dakota reservations following the 1862 conflict which included the mass hanging of 38 Dakota men. 

Work completed by the committee last year
In 2019 the committee passed several motions and resolutions in support of tribal nations, especially since Native Americans suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus pandemic. The committee was outspoken throughout the public health crisis, even passing “a resolution of support for tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenry this past summer, encouraging the state to work with tribes during the pandemic,” said Bordeaux. The resolution includes distribution of PPE, testing equipment and seeking federal resources to tribes, as well as developing reconciliation. 

The committee also passed motions to fix the Lake Andes Dam or to add it to the priority list since the state appropriated dam repair funds. It also passed motions to provide Indian Law training for police officers, legislators, and Legislative Research Council staff members, as well as to allow more tribal police officers spaces to train in the Pierre facility so they do not have to go all the way to New Mexico to train. 

Another move by the committee, was a letter of encouragement sent to the governor, the Secretaries of Tribal Relations, Tourism, and the Department of Game, Fish and Parks asking them to allow Native American horse riders from Sinte Gleska University to participate in the annual Bison Roundup which takes place at Custer State Park. These riders were excluded, again, from the event. 

Tribal nation input and support is crucial
Before the pandemic hit, the State-Tribal Relations Committee planned to visit all nine tribal nations to consult with tribal leaders “about what is needed and what areas, we as a committee, can focus in on each tribe when the session begins,” said Bordeaux. While working with tribal governments is a key component of the committee’s work, support and direction from tribes is critical in the success of the committee’s work. Without these, initiatives and legislation have little chance of being passed.

An example was Rep. Bordeaux’s idea to “have an Indian Commission that Secretary of Tribal Relations would host quarterly to get a record of things that the tribes want.” The commission could be comprised of representatives of each tribes’ choosing: elders, chairperson, or treaty council delegates.

“The House State Affairs Committee I presented it to said to get a tribe to support this and they would consider it,” Bordeaux said.

Although he reached out to tribal organizations, Bordeaux shared that he did not receive the much-needed support from tribal governments, and without that crucial backing, the idea went nowhere. 

Making voting more accessible is the next step
Over 40 states nationwide offer online voter registration which allows new voters to fill a form via an Internet site and submit electronically to election officials. The application is reviewed and if the request is confirmed to be valid, the new registration is added to the state’s voter registration list. Creating the opportunity to register online will greatly benefit rural areas in the state and reservations, said Bordeaux. 

South Dakota does not offer online voter registration; however, a person can download a registration form, fill it out, and send it to the appropriate county auditor’s office. Bordeaux said implementing online voter registration in South Dakota is a “no brainer” but he believes the move may face some opposition.

Stay informed and stay active
Rep. Bordeaux encourages everyone to keep abreast of the latest developments taking place within the South Dakota Legislature by registering online with MyLRC at The information portal will send you bills, updates to rules, session agendas, minutes, and so much more. The 2021 Winter Legislative Session begins on Tuesday, January 12. The full legislative session calendar can be viewed at

Please direct questions to SDDP Executive Director Pam Cole via email
or phone (605) 695-1996.