- Associated Press - Friday, January 8, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A leader from one of the nine Native American tribes in South Dakota will address a joint session of the state Legislature for the first time in a speech similar to the governor’s State of the State.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier will give the State of the Tribes Address on Thursday at the state Capitol.

“I think to be able to speak in front of a body such as the state Legislature, I think is truly an honor,” Frazier told The Associated Press.

Frazier said he intends to talk in part about Medicaid expansion and the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation’s roads, which he said could use the state’s help. Frazier said he’s working with his health staff and meeting with county commissioners about infrastructure to prepare for the address to South Dakota’s 105 state legislators and other officials.

Republican Rep. Don Haggar, who pushed to establish the address, said it’s meant to recognize the role the tribes play in South Dakota’s culture. While symbolic, Haggar said, he hopes the address helps with healing.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of issues during my time in the Legislature, and this may be the most important thing I ever do,” Haggar said.

In North Dakota, lawmakers traditionally hear speeches during the first week of each legislative session by a Native American tribal leader.

South Dakota Democratic Sen. Troy Heinert, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said the address will give lawmakers a chance to hear about issues that tribal members deal with on the reservation. He said it would hopefully build commonalities so that lawmakers can work together to solve the problems.

“To me, it feels like our tribal governments are being validated in our state,” Heinert said.

The address reinforces the government-to-government relationship between the tribes and the state that the Department of Tribal Relations works to support, agency Secretary Steve Emery said.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard had already been scheduled to travel the day of the speech, so Emery will go as his representative, Daugaard spokeswoman Kelsey Pritchard said in an email. But, she said the governor “will be paying attention to what Chairman Frazier has to say.”

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