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Noem Indian Education Move Panned by Indian Educators

Governor Kristi Noem’s first executive order in 2019 reorganized two state agencies, moving the Office of Indian Education our of the Department of Education and into the Department of Tribal Relations and moving four state agriculture promotion programs from the Department of Agriculture to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Still dazzled by the hors d’oeuvres TransCanada and Poet Ethanol laid out for Noem’s inauguration, legislators didn’t resist that reorganziation.

At the time, Noem’s flunkies said they thought South Dakota’s nine tribes “will be open to the change” and the “enhancements” the reorganization would bring. Note that Tribal Relations Secretary David Flute used the future tense there, indicating that Noem didn’t consult with the tribes prior to announcing the change.

You can guess where this is headed:

The office lost its director earlier this year. The Indian Education Advisory Council at its July 17 meeting voted 13-0 to have it moved back to Education, but Tribal Relations Secretary David Flute wants the office staying under him where Governor Noem put it.

One of those advisory council members who wants it put back in Education again is Sherry Johnson of Sisseton. She is tribal education director for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate government. She told the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee on Thursday that no one contacted her, or any education director for other tribes in South Dakota, before Noem issued the reorganization order [Bob Mercer, “Legislators Might Try to Reverse Decision of S.D. Governor Who Moved Indian Education Office,” KELO-TV, 2020.09.25].

Mercer reports that legislators on the State-Tribal Relations Committee, which the Noem Administration has been stiff-arming throughout her reign, sound inclined to revoke the reorganization. If the committee just moves re-reorganization to the floor quietly, without a fuss, Noem may not even notice, as by Session time, she’ll be off doing chicken dinners in New Hampshire and Iowa to promote her 2024 campaign against President Biden. (Now’s your chance, Legislature, to flex your muscle!)

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