Indianz.Com > News > Delbert Hopkins: Indian Country — and America — can turn to Joe Biden for leadership
Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure law at the White House on January 14, 2022. Photo by Cameron Smith / White House
Joe Biden is a man of vision
Friday, March 11, 2022
Chairman, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate

Joe Biden is a man of vision — he is working to “Restore the Soul of America.” During this time of COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian—Ukraine War, America needs Biden’s vision and experience.

As Native Americans, we have suffered COVID-19 at 2 and ½ times the rate of White Americans, meaning more serious injury, hospitalization and increased mortality. Looking back on the past year, the American Rescue Plan proved to be a true lifeline for our Dakota people as we suffered COVID-19 A2, the Delta variant, the Omicron variant, and now Omicron 2.0. We needed more relief in the form of the American Rescue Plan, and President Biden and Congress delivered.

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate invested our funds in COVID-19 Health Care and assistance to households, including utilities and home repairs. We invested our funds in COVID-19 Quarantine housing, food relief, vaccine clinics, and community assistance. The weather at Lake Traverse Reservation, our home, gets down to -20 degrees and with the wind chill factor, down to -40, -50, -60 below zero. Our Tribal Government has invested in heating assistance.

Now, just as we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 Pandemic, America faces the reality of a Russian War in Ukraine. Our Native American people have served in America’s military at the highest rate of any group in the Country. When America is threatened, our young men and young women are ready to defend us. We support America’s military. We must all stand united to defend humanity and stop Putin’s insanity. We thank President Biden and our leaders in Congress for standing up to Russian Aggression.

We understand the Ukrainian people’s suffering because, in the 19th Century, the Seven Council Fires of our Dakota Nation suffered military attacks, the taking of our homelands, and the displacement of our People from our homes. President Biden is a man of conviction and clarity and he sees that Putin must be stopped. Putin is not a “genius,” he is a warmonger and throwback to World War II. He’s lying to his people, lying to the World, he’s filled with greed and he hates his neighbors because they are free and covets the Ukraine homeland.

Russian Communism failed so Putin wants to steal Ukraine. The Pope has called on Russia to stop the War and Putin must be stopped because the cost to humanity is too high. Left to himself, Putin would destroy Ukraine and move on to victimize the next former Soviet country. If we don’t stand up to Putin now, we will be in World War III in Europe. Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states and the rest won’t give up their freedom. America must help send Poland’s Mig-29 fighters to Ukraine. We strongly support America’s efforts to provide a lifeline for Ukraine now.

As America supports Ukraine, we need continuing help in America’s Heartland. In regard to Indian health care, the Department of Health and Human Services has frozen Indian Health Service Hospital and Health Care Construction in its tracks for 30 years. Congress had a plan in the Build Back Better law to bring IHS Construction forward to 1993! Yes, even in the best case scenario, Congress was only going to fund Indian Health Care Construction needs from a generation ago. Our Native American people are among the fastest growing populations in America.

Yet, our health care status is the poorest in America and our health care needs have grown exponentially—we need $20 Billion in Hospital, Health Clinic and Health Care Facility Construction. We are suffering fatal drug overdoses on our Reservation at a rate 5x the national average. Among our Dakota Oyate, we must have an in-patient substance abuse treatment center. The Federal Court recently agreed that Indian Health Care is a treaty right. We need new doctors, new hospitals, new clinics because American Indians continue to suffer the poorest health in America.

America recently embarked on a program and plan to renew military schools and we applaud that effort. American Indian schools are worn down and worn out—60 years or more old. Indian nations are in need of new schools, new teachers and new construction. As Indian nations, we must ensure an equal education for our children and we ask the President and Congress to uphold our treaty rights to education for our children.

Naturally, as Native Peoples we have a duty to Grandmother Earth, our children and grandchildren, our neighbors and the natural world. Native Americans want to contribute to the Energy Crisis and stop Climate Change. In North and South Dakota, Indian nations are the Saudi Arabia of Wind Power and Solar Power but Indian nations need access to the electrical grid. President Biden, work with us to use the power of the four winds and the light of the sun to heal Grandmother Earth, and light and heat our communities with Clean Energy.

Job Biden, we honor your vision, hard work and common sense. In these trying times, we need your leadership.

Delbert Hopkins serves as chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, a federally recognized tribe based on the Lake Traverse Reservation. The reservation is located in northeast South Dakota, with a portion extending into North Dakota.