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Native Sun News: Indian lawmaker Kevin Killer makes big plans

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Kevin Killer is running for his fourth term as District 27 representative and he is set to introduce legislation that could have impacts beyond South Dakota.

Kevin Killer has big plans for Indian Country
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

PINE RIDGE –– One would be hard pressed to find a lawmaker with the ability to walk on to any playground on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and get a game hoops one day, then turn around the next, and display the political aptitude needed to introduce an idea worthy of being imitated nationally. Well, Shannon County has one who can do all this and more in the form of three term representative, Kevin Killer.

Killer finds himself in a four way race for one of two seats up for grabs in District 27. District 27 is located in the southwestern corner of the state and includes the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In 2012, Killer received 45% of ballots cast to edge Elizabeth May who ran second and received 36.3% of votes to secure district 27’s second seat. This year May and Killer will be joined by Shannon County Commissioner Anna Takes the Shield and Everett McKinley on the ballot.

Killer has secured two important committee seats in the South Dakota legislature. As a member of the judiciary committee and more important, the State Affairs Committee, a committee that is comprised of committee heads and party leadership, gives tribes a direct line to decision makers in the state.

“It is important that we have a seat and a voice at the table. Sometimes that means introducing legislation or providing a Native American perspective on a topic and sometimes it means being a stop gap against bills that hurt tribes,” said Killer.

As the veteran in the race, Killer has already begun planning out a new legislative initiative that could revolutionize the way tribes receive their healthcare services not only in South Dakota but across the country while at the same time creating a much needed fix for the Indian Health Service.

“If I am re-elected I plan on introducing a bill that would ask the state to delegate their authority to tribes on the reservation under the Affordable Care Act and allow for tribes to set up their own healthcare exchanges and to expand Medicaid to tribal citizens,” said Killer.

In 2012 South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard chose to deny approximately 44,000 poverty stricken South Dakotans access to healthcare by choosing to exclude South Dakota from the Medicaid expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act.

“If the state of South Dakota wants to opt out of certain parts of the Affordable Care Act based of principle that is their right. What I want to do is to allow for tribes to partner with each other to set up these exchanges to help with economic development and to provide coverage to their members,” said Killer.

Citizens of tribal nations in the U.S. are provided with federal healthcare coverage that is administered by the Indian Health Service. Healthcare is something that many tribes across the country secured through diplomatic negotiations with the government and the resulting treaties. These treaty rights were then upheld by Supreme Court decisions that a trust relationship exists between the federal government and tribal governments. This relationship dictates that the federal government administers certain social services to tribes. Despite this however the budgets of Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have continually been targeted by budget hawks in Congress. As a result tribes have been forced to look for alternative ways to provide adequate healthcare for its members. As part of the Affordable Care Act tribal citizens were exempt from the federal mandate that required individuals to purchase insurance, however, some have noted that if tribal members did acquire private insurance profits from these third part insurers could provide the much needed revenue boost that these facilitates need to improve services.

During the upcoming midterm election voters in the county will also have the option to change the name of Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County in a move that Killer helped initiate with the help of others in the community. Shannon County is included in district 27 and the referendum has been noted by some, including the New York Times, as a possible factor in increasing voter turnout. A high turnout on reservations across the state usually signals good news for democratic candidates as Native voters in the state lean heavily democratic.

“I think the biggest thing look back at history and see who lived here and who Peter Shannon was and there is a need to change it,” said Kevin Killer, state representative for Shannon County. “There is also value in creating and using our own names for some of these things for future generations to learn from.”

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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