The following is the opinion of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota).
In 1990, the State of South Dakota declared the second Monday in October as Native American Day. This initial effort was to highlight the significant contributions that American Indians have made to South Dakota and to the United States. Those remarkable contributions continue today.
Many of our tribal members in South Dakota have demonstrated deep commitment to public service and have contributed greatly to the improvement of their communities.
One of those tribal members was my friend Robert Moore, enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, who passed away earlier this year. His efforts to improve health care on our reservations will long be remembered. Like Robert, many of our tribal leaders have also chosen to serve their communities on national boards framing the national discussion about how to improve the quality of life in Indian Country.
We have achieved some historic accomplishments this Congress by permanently reauthorizing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which will continue the fight against the staggering health disparities that face our Indian Communities. We also passed the Tribal Law and Order Act that will help bolster our efforts to combat the rampant crime that is affecting some of our reservations by providing our Tribal Governments with the necessary tools and support to promote public safety. While these two laws are positive steps toward improving the conditions in Indian Country and fulfilling the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibilities, there is a lot of work still to be done.
We must work to provide quality education to our Indian students so they can compete in the workplace. We must also do more to promote economic development and bring jobs to the reservations so our tribal members can stay in their communities. Another goal is to better the housing situation on our reservations. I was proud to bring Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan to the Rosebud Reservation earlier this year to give him a firsthand look at the housing crisis that faces American Indians in South Dakota.
I am determined to continue this positive momentum and will continue to do all that I can to help fulfill the government’s treaty and trust responsibility. As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I am fortunate to have many friends in Indian Country, and I look forward to continuing our work together to improve the quality of life for our first Americans.