The alleged thefts from Gear Up, methamphetamine abuse, state Brand Board regulations and membership, and holding a summer meeting on an Indian reservation comprised themes Wednesday that members of the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee said they want to pursue.
Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, urged the panel to look into Gear Up. So did Sen. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, and Rep. Elizabeth May, R-Kyle. The Gear Up program reportedly received more than $60 million in federal pass-through grants while it was managed by Mid Central Educational Cooperative at Platte.
The program is intended to make lower-income students and their families better informed about educational opportunities after high school graduation. In South Dakota, the co-op aimed the program’s services at American Indian students on or near some reservations.
Melody Schopp, secretary for the South Dakota Department of Education, decided in September 2015 that Mid Central’s contract wouldn’t be renewed. She moved the program under Black Hills State University at Spearfish.
May meanwhile also called on the legislative panel to look at tribal livestock-brand laws. She said they have been lacking or aren’t enforced by tribal governments in parts of Indian country that are under both tribal and state jurisdiction. The Missouri River generally is the line in South Dakota where South Dakota laws apply west of the river.
She noted that the state Brand Board evidently doesn’t have a tribal member as one of its members.
Rep. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, asked the committee to consider holding a meeting this summer or fall on one of the reservations. “If invited,” he emphasized. As a former police chief for Rapid City, he is aware of the cultural significance of holding a meeting in Indian country without an invitation.
The committee chose Sen. Troy Heinert of Mission as its chair and May as the vice-chair. Heinert, who is a Rosebud tribal member, became the only Democratic member of the Legislature to run a committee. The panel has two other tribal members among its members in Sen. Kevin Killer, D-Pine Ridge, and Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission.
The other committee members are Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, and Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade. All attended the meeting Wednesday.