Lakota Country Times: Candidate for Congress seeks debate on reservation in South Dakota

U.S. Congressional candidate Paula Hawks (D) greets a young dancer at the 31st annual Oglala Lakota Nation on August 6, 2016. Photo from Hawks for House / Twitter

Hawks Challenges Noem to Rez Debate
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE --- Republicans have often avoided campaigning in places like Pine Ridge and Rosebud, but with recent rhetoric about improving healthcare in Indian Country there may be a possibility that Rep. Kristi Noem will take on a challenge presented by her opponent

U.S. House candidate Paula Hawks has challenged Rep. Noem to a debate on one of South Dakota's nine Indian reservations this fall.

"Tribal communities are often ignored and neglected by politicians. That's why I made it a point to visit all nine South Dakota Indian reservations during this campaign. Questions need to be answered regarding a host of issues in Indian country. With the stoppage of emergency health care services that occurred for seven straight months in Rosebud earlier this year, I think it only makes sense we host a debate in one of the tribal communities to answer a broad range of questions about how we best serve all South Dakotans," said Hawks.

"The tribes need to hear directly from us how we hope to stop the near total breakdown in federal governmental services in these communities and provide substantially better representation in Congress on their behalf," she added.

Raised on a farm north of Flandreau, Hawks earned her education at South Dakota State and spent ten years as a teacher working for the West Central School District. In 2012 she was elected to the state legislature fro, District 9.

In the statements made by Hawks she challenges Noem's authenticity behind recent GOP efforts to reach out to Indian Country.

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"In 2014, we spent about $8,000 per person nationally on healthcare yet IHS only spent around $3,000 per person. In a situation where the funding discrepancy is so dire, it was irresponsible [for Noem] to cut funding from Indian Health Services. The cognitive dissonance it takes to continually blame the bureaucracy at IHS while at the same time personally voting to remove the tools and resources that were needed to provide quality care is alarming. Inadequate resources and inadequate care is obviously connected. So, I ask my opponent, accept this invitation to debate on one of South Dakota's nine Indian reservations and let's speak directly to the people we hope to represent," Hawks said.

Hawks has made note of Noem's record in Indian Country as Noem and other Tea-party republicans pushed sequestration budget cuts in 2011 which eliminated $220 million from Indian Health Services. Noem also voted for cuts even worse than sequestration in May 2015 just months before the Rosebud ER closure. Tribal-nations across the country suffered heavily from sequestration as dollars that were allocated to tribes as result of both treaty and trust responsibilities of the federal government had been suddenly withheld. Some of the damage done by sequestration has been fixed through executive action by the White House but the impacts are still felt throughout Indian Country.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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