Rep. Peri Pourier, left and Sen. Red Dawn Foster are seen in the South Dakota Senate Chambers at the State Capitol in Pierre. The two Lakota lawmakers took the oath of office on January 5, 2019. Photo courtesy South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Native voices are joining our political leadership

There is new leadership in politics and news
By Professor Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
Native Sun News Today Columnist

It is in appreciation that readers of newspapers like this one note that politics is still the thrust of the Media. We are not afraid of POLITICS. What is worrisome about that reality is that the news / political dialogue is in danger of becoming “trash talk,” seemingly unreliable and biased.

While Trump’s “the press is the enemy of the people” echoes the words of every dictator we’ve known throughout history, there is the hope that the news writers and scholars of the tribal world who rose from humble beginnings will continue to work toward a resistance to the abuse now so prevalent.

There is always good news when we see winners in our midst. I am talking about the new Native women’s voices that have been added to a mostly male South Dakota legislature and I join everyone in Indian Country who is anxious to see how these new political winners will handle their charge.

There is wide recognition that this country is in bad shape in terms of political, intellectual and social leadership, and we know that a diverse public voice is crucial to the health of any Democracy. This means that good newspapers who have been at the forefront of this development of native participation in politics and law are vital to a civil society.

We know for sure that “the free press” along with reliable political leadership is crucial to the change that people are looking for these days. We are in this together.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

South Dakota has even elected a woman governor, Kristi Noem, who has previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bad news is that many of us who have watched this politician for years are severely disappointed in the rise of the right-wing, overtly religious emphasis that goes with this governor’s election because we recognize the awful patterns of bias and racism that have been set in this Republican one-party system for far too long.

Our newly elected woman governor tells us that she will devote the next four years “to the lord.” Dusty Johnson takes her place in Washington, D.C., and he says that as a leader, he is “Christian First” when he lists his attributes.

That leaves many of us who, perhaps, do not share this religious fervor asking the question: what ever happened to the notion that in a Democracy, there should be held the principle of “Separation of Church and State.”

This religiosity in our government often skews the direction that a society takes and I am curious about the reaction to all of this by the newest native elected officials. We can expect that adding a substantial female voice will also change the direction of dialogue as well as legislation. What other manifestations are in the offing?

We can surmise that our beauty queen Republican governor may lead the way and it doesn’t bode well for us when we take a look at the past history of women’s professional lives. In a male oriented, Christian society, people want women, even professional ones, to be nice, respectful of men, good natured and likeable. Sometimes even that is not enough. Remember when Obama turned to Hillary and said during a debate…well, Hillary, you are likeable enough, but…..”

This has gone on for centuries.


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