PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The Yankton Sioux tribal chairman used his address to South Dakota lawmakers Thursday to encourage mutual understanding between Native American people and non-tribal members.
Chairman Robert Flying Hawk gave the second State of the Tribes address, a speech from a leader from one of the nine Native American tribes in South Dakota similar to the governor’s State of the State. Gov. Dennis Daugaard watched the speech from the state House gallery.
Flying Hawk said that the state’s reservations are facing challenges including methamphetamine use, poor life expectancy and high educational dropout rates.
Life expectancy for Native Americans in South Dakota is 68.2 years compared to 80.4 years for whites, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
He said that there needs to be collaboration to combat meth. The tribe’s headquarters is in Wagner on the Yankton Reservation in southern South Dakota.
“We have a very negative energy that is powerful, but it can be overcome if we can work together as a people,” Flying Hawk said.
Republican Rep. Don Haggar, who invited Flying Hawk to give the speech, said there will be “unity” between the tribes and the state on dealing with meth abuse.
Democratic Sen. Troy Heinert, a Rosebud Sioux member, said that Native Americans and non-tribal members need to find similarities and work together.
“We’re not going to agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean that everything is bad,” Heinert said.
Last legislative session, Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier gave the first address to a joint session of the Legislature from a South Dakota tribal leader.
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