Faith Spotted Eagle addresses the Native Nations Rise rally at the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Native Sun News Today: Candidate brings tribal traditions to campaign in South Dakota

Spotted Eagle would use traditional Dakota values if elected

By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

LAKE ANDES – In an introductory statement for her campaign to win in the June 5 Democratic primary election on the South Dakota District 21 ballot for the House of Representatives, Faith Spotted Eagle emphasized that her priority in governance is to encourage give-and-take between generations.

Asked what tops her agenda for the South Dakota State Legislature, the Ihanktonwan Oyate member and resident of this Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation town in Charles Mix County said it’s applying her traditional Dakota philosophy.

“First and foremost, I am entering this primary race as a grandmother (kunsi) who feels responsible for the future of my grandchildren and every other future generation in the Oceti Sakowin Council Fires and the State of South Dakota,” she told the Native Sun News Today.

“We live in uncertain times where cooperation of all residents of Mother Earth is essential for the well-being of all living things,” she said in response to a request for a campaign declaration. “A large part of that cooperation must occur with younger generations who have much to teach us elders.

“I, in turn, wish to share what I have learned in my 70 years,” she said. “I hope I can be like my activist friend Rosalie Little Thunder who said that being an elder is ‘one who is good to listen to.’ I pray that I can do that.”

Named Tunkan Inajin Win (Standing Stone) in her native Dakota language, Spotted Eagle is the only Native American candidate in her district’s Democratic Party primary election. She faces off with Brian Jorgensen of Colome, and Anna Kerner Andersson of Burke.

She would have to garner more votes than at least one of them to be in the running against Republicans Caleb Finck from Tripp and incumbent Lee Qualm from Platte, for one of the two seats open for representatives of the district in the general election.

Spotted Eagle grew up 10 miles east of Lake Andes in White Swan, which she remembers as “my beautiful native river community on the Yankton homelands.” Until the town was intentionally wiped off the face of the earth by flooding due to construction of Ft. Randall Dam on the Missouri River, it was home to a self-reliant lot of natives and immigrants: They practiced permaculture and knew food sovereignty when those terms had yet to become as fashionable as they are today, she recalls.

“I grew up surrounded by immigrant families with names like Stein, Bohr, Nelson and Hazuka. We all were extremely competent and knew how to completely live off the land,” she said. “My father made our well and creek an aquaculture production; we raised hogs, turkeys, horses, cows, geese, ducks, chickens and lived off a half-acre garden tended by my family.”

The farmstead’s tame rabbits were the luck-of-the-draw in her siblings’ and cousins’ eyes, she mused. She carries on what she learned, continuing to raise a strain corn obtained from the Mandan called Ree or Padani, which is at least 600 years old.

“My 104-year-old Grandmother Isnana Waste Win taught me that I must take the very best of all worlds and become a good relative, and I have worked hard at that,” Spotted Eagle said. “She was born in 1872, and what she and my father taught me is even more relevant now. She insisted that I get through school but at the same time maintain my Dakota culture to the greatest degree for my grandchildren.”


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Spotted Eagle listened and obtained a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling from the University of South Dakota at the age of 25, after attending Black Hills State University and American University in Washington, D.C.

While attending American University, she had her first experience in politics, working as an intern with U.S. Sen. George McGovern. In 2016, she received one vote for U.S. President from a Washington State electoral college member, even though she wasn’t running. “It was like getting a bouquet of roses for all the life work that I have done,” she said.

“Above all I was raised to be self-competent in life and have done so as a classroom teacher, counselor, principal, social worker, community college instructor, manager of social service programs, Dakota language instructor, store owner, conflict resolution peacemaker, and teacher in a psychiatric unit school,” she said.

She currently is a contractor with the Veteran’s Administration and many tribal communities, providing cultural therapy for sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Urging supporters to help get out the vote, Spotted Eagle noted that turnout for her district is expected to be nearly 7,400 in the general election, so more than 3,600 votes will be necessary for a win.

“It should be an interesting time, but for sure we need a record turnout of registered native voters,” she said. May 21 is the deadline for registering to vote in the primaries. Anyone 18 years or older can complete a voter registration form at the county branch of the State Auditor’s office at no cost.

For detailed information, consult the South Dakota Secretary of State website.

Contact Talli Nauman at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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