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Tribal Leaders Endorse Both Medicaid Expansion Initiatives

Certain tribal leaders aren’t letting the inside baseball of competing ballot question committees and fiscal notes distract them from the big policy goal we all should support—expanding Medicaid! Members of the Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board (formerly known as the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board) endorsed the Medicaid expansion initiative announced by the big hospitals’ lobbying group back in December. Reminded that grassroots campaigners Dakotans for Health have been in the field circulating a petition for a separate but effectively identical Medicaid expansion initiative since before that announcement, three of those tribal leaders have endorsed that petition drive as well.

Dakotans for Health has released statements of support from Santee Sioux Nation Chairman Roger Trudell of Nebraska:

“The work of expanding Medicaid is important to the future success of Indian Country and I would like to thank Dakotans for Health and our tribal chairmen for what they are doing to make it a reality. People’s lives depend on it and we will do whatever we can to ensure their success” [Dakotans for Health, press release, 2021.06.17].

…Ponca Tribe Chairman Larry Wright, Jr., of Nebraska:

“Medicaid expansion represents one of the most significant opportunities to improve the quality and availability of healthcare in Indian Country. The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska fully supports the important working being done by Dakotans for Health and the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen to bring about this important change. Lives literally depend on it” [D4H, 2021.06.17].

…and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier:

Chairman Trudell and Chairman Wright know how important Medicaid expansion is to our people. We appreciate their enthusiasm and the support of all of our brothers and sisters of the Great Plains [D4H, 2021.06.17].

I checked with the GPTLHB (yes, they are working on a new website to reflect the name change!) to make sure I was understanding the nature of these endorsements correctly. GPTLHB communications director Brandon Ecoffey clarified that both endorsements, for the Dakotans for Health Initiative and the hospital lobby’s still-not-circulating petition, are personal endorsements from the tribal leaders. As a body, the the Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board supports all efforts to expand Medicaid and help South Dakotans get healthcare without going broke:

We understand the there are two separate efforts to expand Medicaid in South Dakota. The Health Board supports all efforts to expand Medicaid and we hope that all involved can find common ground to find ways to make healthcare affordable for South Dakotans [Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board, statement from communications director Brandon Ecoffey to Dakota Free Press, 2021.06.20].

The Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board is not yet providing formal or material support to either initiative effort.

Dakotans for Health also lists the following tribal leaders as supporters of its Medicaid expansion effort:

  • Chairman Harold Frazier – Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Chairman, GPTCA
  • Chairman Peter Lengkeek – Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
  • Chairman Clyde Estes – Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
  • President Kevin Killer – Oglala Sioux Tribe
  • Chairman Rodney Bordeaux – Rosebud Sioux Tribe
  • Chairman Bob Flying Hawk – Yankton Sioux Tribe, Vice-Chairman, GPTCA
  • Chairman Delbert Hopkins Jr. – Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe
  • President Tony Reider – Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
  • Chairman Everett Baxter Jr. – Omaha Tribe
  • Chairman Roger Trudell – Santee Sioux Nation, Chairman, GPTCHB
  • Chairman Larry Wright – Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Vice-Chairman, GPTCHB
  • Chairwoman: Victoria Kitcheyan – Winnebago Tribe
  • Chairman Mark Fox – Three Affiliated Tribes
  • Douglas Yankton, Sr – Spirit Lake Tribe
  • Chairman Mike Faith – Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
  • Chairman Jamie Azure – Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa


  1. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-22 23:00

    Well…this is a very impressive group…our area is truly Indian Country. I hope Indian people will mobilize and go to the polls to extend and expand Medicaid.

  2. mike from iowa 2021-06-23 08:07

    Arlo, it wasn’t that long ago magats denied Natives federally funded satellite voting stations on the Rez to prevent them from voting, part of their attempt to suppress minority votes because they don’t vote for magats.

    You can bet the lunch money magats will fight healthcare expansion tooth and nail.

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