Cole R. DeLaune: Defending Republican friends of Indian Country

"To a certain species of political observer, the popular impulse when confronted with ideological complexity is to see past any suggestion of nuance to a profitable corollary. To wit, two incumbent Representatives in South Dakota and California are contending with reductive charges of disinterest and misguidedness vis-a-vis the Native American community. Such manifestly misleading characterizations degrade the collective discourse with their speciousness and obscure commendable records of engagement with respect to indigenous affairs and policy.

A freshman lawmaker from rustic Hamlin County, rancher Kristi Noem upset the scion of a local gubernatorial dynasty, three-term Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, in a hotly contested 2010 race. Noem had previously ascended the ranks of the state legislature, where she served as assistant majority leader of the Republican caucus, and toppled two financially flush opponents in that year’s primary. Shortly after her election, she demonstrated fluency in the grim statistics crippling the population of surrounding reservations in an interview with Native American Times, asserting, “I am aware of the numerous challenges that the nine tribes . . . face, and I am committed to helping them tackle [the obstacles].” And, true to her vow to advance economic expansion for the Indian landscape, the Congresswoman subsequently introduced legislation to guarantee tribal sovereignty from the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. She lobbied for an increase in the funding directed toward Natives in the Workforce Investment Improvement Act, and authored a provision in the House iteration of VAWA ensuring recourse for women on reservations or their respective Nations to petition the federal government for restraining orders. She has advocated for the creation of a permanent Office of Tribal Relations within the Department of Food and Agriculture to provide guidance on initiatives impacting indigenous peoples and their access to USDA programs."

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Cole R. DeLaune: Kristi Noem and Mary Bono Mack Are Both Friends to Indian Country (Indian Country Today 11/1)

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