"During my career I was honored to represent the state of South Dakota for 22 years, 18 in the Senate and four in the House of Representatives. I am proud to call South Dakota home, notwithstanding my early departure from the Senate. South Dakota is the gem of America's heartland, and I feel very satisfied with my contribution to the state except in one critical area: Indian affairs.
There are nine Indian reservations in South Dakota, all constituent bands of the Great Sioux Nation. The unemployment rate on most of the reservations is more than 70 percent. As a result, the average life span, the infant mortality rate, the suicide rate and the health statistics resemble those of a less-developed country. This affects all South Dakotans, not just the reservations. I did not do enough for South Dakota's Native Americans, and neither has the U.S.
Perhaps the current presidential election has made us all more sensitive to the issue of race and gender, but I believe the time is long past for the U.S. to make a concerted effort to bring the quality of life and economic opportunity that most of our country enjoys to the Native Americans living on America's Indian reservations. Indian people should not have to leave their culture and families to participate in America. Our first Americans must no longer be last in line.
It is a complicated, multi-faceted challenge, but I am convinced that the country is ready to do the right thing. What would it take?"
Get the Story:
Former Sen. George McGovern: Our first Americans are too often last
(The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 4/25)