your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Tim Giago: South Dakota could be a political hotbed this election

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: 2014, democrats, elections, house, native sun news, republicans, senate, south dakota, tim giago

Tim Giago. Photo by Talli Nauman

South Dakota could be a political hotbed in 2014
Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)

Over the years I have encouraged Native American tribal governments to move their elections to coincide with the national elections in November.

I believed this to be very important for two reasons: First of all the Native American vote has been terribly overlooked by candidates seeking national office for too many years. Second, tribal elections usually draw many more voters than national elections because the candidates are local and whether they are elected or not has a powerful impact upon tribal individuals and on the tribal government itself. If the elections for a national candidate fell on the same day as the local tribal elections the turnout would be much heavier and so the Native American voters would have a marked influence upon the national elections.

This theory came into play dramatically in 2002 when John Thune, a Republican, ran against Tim Johnson, a Democrat, in an at-large House seat in South Dakota. Johnson won the election by a mere 524 votes. As the counting of votes neared its end Thune was clearly leading and his staff was about ready to uncork the champagne bottles.

The vote counting continued late into the night and as is the usual case in South Dakota, the votes from the western Indian reservations were among the last to be counted. When the votes from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations were tallied, Tim Johnson eased ahead and took the election.

Johnson had campaigned heavily in Indian Country and he was (and still is) deeply respected by the Native Americans of the state. Thune did little campaigning to attract the Indian vote. The outcome proved that the Indian vote can, and did, make a huge difference.

When a lot of outside of the state money flooded South Dakota heavily favoring the Republican candidate John Thune against Senator Tom Daschle in the 2004 election for the United States Senate, it was one of the first times that huge donations from out-of-state came into play to unseat a sitting United States Senator. On election night the vote counting always begins in the eastern counties and works its way west. Once again Thune led the race, but the reservation votes had not yet been compiled. Tribal elections usually draw 60 to 70 percent of the eligible voters, but this time around only 50 percent of the voters turned out. Daschle lost by a 4,508 votes.

In this Oglala Sioux Tribal election Cecilia Fire Thunder became the first woman ever elected to serve as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Some election officials believed that the turnout was smaller than usual because a woman was running for the tribe’s highest office. Fire Thunder won the election but ended up being impeached by the Tribal Council for her stand on the right of a woman to have an abortion. Fire Thunder has been a healthcare provider for Indian women for years and she saw the need for Indian women to have the same opportunities for healthcare as women everywhere. She alluded to the fact that she might invite Planned Parenthood to open a clinic on the reservation. This did not sit well with the tribal council.

With the lower voter turnout for this election in 2004 Daschle’s chances to beat the big money corporations pouring money to defeat him was too much to overcome. Although he handily won the majority votes on the Indian reservations, the biggest reservation, Pine Ridge, failed to have the turnout he needed to overcome Thune.

In the upcoming 2014 elections nearly all of the candidates for senate and the House of Representatives are well aware of the impact the Indian reservations could have upon their prospects.

Incumbent Kristi Noem has been challenged by a western South Dakota woman, a military veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, named Corinna Robinson, for her House Seat. Tim Johnson is retiring from the Senate so his seat is up for grabs. The principal candidates are former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, a Republican, former U. S. Senator Larry Pressler, an Independent, Rick Weiland, a Democrat, and Gordie Howie, another Independent. This is an interesting race because it is hard to determine which candidate will be hurt by the Independents or if the Independents have the capability of actually winning. The Republican Rounds could be the candidate hurt the most by Larry Pressler, a former Republican. Pressler may garner many of the Republican votes Rounds needs to defeat the rapidly rising Weiland.

This November also happens to be a year when the Pine Ridge Reservation will also be holding elections for the Tribal Council and for the office of the president. The candidates for the office of president have not made their announcements yet, but because of the heated political atmosphere on the reservation surrounding the legalization of the sale of alcohol within the boundaries of the reservation this election is generating a lot of interest and could be contentious. This means that the turnout will be very large and the candidates running for the House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate know this.

For the first time in the history of national elections in South Dakota an Indian college has teamed with an Indian newspaper to sponsor a debate between the senate candidates. United Tribes Technical College’s Rapid City Campus will host the debate and Native Sun News, also of Rapid City, will sponsor it. For the first time the candidates will be asked questions by Native Americans they are never asked at other debates. So far all of the candidates have agreed to participate in the debate except for Rounds.

This will be one of the most interesting elections in South Dakota’s history.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. He can be reached at

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Supreme Court agrees to hear Omaha Reservation boundary case (10/2)
BIA proclaims another 104 acres as reservation of Shakopee Tribe (10/2)
Native Sun News: Court hears case over soil farm near Pine Ridge (10/2)
Clara Caufield: The ups and downs of growing up as a 'half-breed' (10/2)
Steven Newcomb: Doctrine of domination hinders tribal land claim (10/2)
Ian Zabarte: Western Shoshone territory in Nevada is not for sale (10/2)
Sam Campbell: Catholic Church continues to celebrate genocide (10/2)
Maia Szalavitz: Stereotypes about Native Americans and alcohol (10/2)
Dartmouth removes director of Native program after controversy (10/2)
Guilty pleas for shootings of Indian men in Wyoming border town (10/2)
Santa Clara Pueblo seeks payment for use of land for utility lines (10/2)
Chairman of Mashantucket Tribe seeks another term on council (10/2)
Pro and Con: Lytton Band land-into-trust and development plan (10/2)
Chukchansi Tribe heads to vote as casino closure hits one year (10/2)
Spokane Tribe still waiting for answer on off-reservation casino (10/2)
Coquille Tribe awaits next step in bid for off-reservation casino (10/2)
Ione Band of Miwok Indians continues with long quest for casino (10/2)
Cobell scholarship fund now boasts nearly $30M from settlement (10/1)
Changes to Navajo Nation water rights settlement signed into law (10/1)
Alaska Native health corporation secures transfer of IHS property (10/1)
Judge rejects challenges to Ione Band land-into-trust application (10/1)
Native Sun News: Lakota Code Talker captured Nazi flag in WWII (10/1)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Onondaga Nation brings honor to us all (10/1)
Ivan F. Star Comes Out: Tribes paid dearly for all that 'free' stuff (10/1)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe reports strong interest in pot resort (10/1)
Native alumni at Dartmouth seek removal of Native program hire (10/1)
IBIA rejects challenge to Grand Traverse Band land-into-trust bid (10/1)
DOJ audit slams handling of $70M in grants for Navajo Nation jails (10/1)
Ute Tribe and states win injunction against new BLM fracking rule (10/1)
Heather Denkmire: State tries to take river from Penobscot Nation (10/1)
Authorities investigate deaths on Northern Cheyenne Reservation (10/1)
President Obama signs bill to fund government thru December 11 (10/1)
Republican Jeb Bush defends racist name of Washington NFL team (10/1)
Connecticut tribes release request for proposals for a new casino (10/1)
Poarch Creeks meet for mediation session in casino tax dispute (10/1)
Eastern Cherokees bring gaming market a little closer to Atlanta (10/1)
Editorial: Dry Creek Rancheria casino still a threat to community (10/1)
House subcommittee embraces two tribal federal recognition bills (9/30)
Shinnecock Nation welcomes Secretary Jewell on key anniversary (9/30)
Jeb Bush wants tribes and states to control energy development (9/30)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on energy (9/30)
Former Indian Affairs attorney at Interior Department joins firm (9/30)
National Indian Gaming Commission finally sees another member (9/30)
Native Sun News: Agency in South Dakota hires first tribal liaison (9/30)
Native Sun News: Lakota blues player opens South Dakota festival (9/30)
Jay Daniels: Tribal news requires the negative as well as positive (9/30)
Steve Russell: Religious fundamentalism courtesy of county clerk (9/30)
Colville Tribes weigh amendment for small amounts of marijuana (9/30)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe raids marijuana operation on reservation (9/30)
Tulalip Tribes man convicted for buying guns despite court order (9/30)
Congress set to pass measure to avert shutdown of government (9/30)
Colombian tribe still struggling after being forced out of homeland (9/30)
Tribal communities in Nicaragua disrupted by influx of newcomers (9/30)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.