I had the opportunity to help honor hundreds of Native American code talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2013.  I’ve never forgotten one article I read about these code talkers where an Oglala Lakota member explained that when he was first approached about becoming a code talker, he said:  “I don’t want rank.  I don’t want money.  I just want to do what I can to protect America and our way of life.”  As South Dakota’s member of the U.S. House, I am committed to working with our state’s Native American leaders to advance issues important to Indian Country.

The nine Dakota, Lakota and Nakota Tribes in South Dakota enrich our culture and are an important part of our state. I am committed to protecting tribal sovereignty, offering support for safer schools and an improved health care system, and promoting economic development in Indian Country. Just months into my first term in Congress, I was proud to introduce tribal sovereignty legislation to clarify that the National Labor Relations Board does not have jurisdiction over tribally owned businesses on reservation land.  I am hopeful this legislation would affirm sovereignty for Native American businesses and expand opportunities for growth.  I also co-sponsored the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, which ensures recipients of tribal-government-funded support - like school supplies for families who need assistance or other items for general welfare – are treated the same as if they were receiving similar state and federal government benefits. In many cases, this would exempt families from paying taxes on those benefits.  This bill became law in September 2014.

I also introduced legislation that would permanently establish an Office of Tribal Relations within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The legislation was adopted into the recently passed Farm Bill.  The permanent office will improve communication between USDA and Tribal nations, as well as ensure South Dakota’s Native Americans have full access to USDA’s programs and can give input on how programs and policy affect Indian Country.

Tribal Health Crisis
Tribal health care is in a state of emergency.  There are dangerous and deep-rooted problems within the Indian Health Service (IHS) that have gone unresolved for years and its costing people their lives.  We need real reforms to the system.  By offering new incentives to attract a better medical and managerial workforce, getting more mileage out of every dollar IHS spends, and holding the agency genuinely accountable for the service it provides, legislation I recently introduced could offer many of the real reforms tribal members need.  Click here for more on what is included.

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