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Native Hope Gives Three-Year Grant to Fill MMIP Position That Ravnsborg Ignored

Killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has spent the past year ignoring a 2021 law requiring that he hire a specialist to focus on the problem of missing and murdered indigenous people. His excuse for flouting the law was that his office (which he expanded in 2018 by creating a chief of staff position that costs $118,140.12 a year without any asking for any additional budgetary authorization) hasn’t received any funding for the position.

The Chamberlain-based non-profit Native Hope has taken that excuse away. They are donating $85,000 a year for three years (28% less than the annual salary of Ravnsborg’s chief of staff) to help the Attorney General’s office meet its legal mandate to find missing and murdered indigenous people.

“The decision to fund the grant was a logical next step in our commitment to the issue that has been a pillar of our work for seven years now,” said Executive Director of Native Hope Jennifer Long. “When we learned in the news about difficulties in funding the office, we wanted to break down any barrier that existed. In the work we do with tribal communities, we want to have a positive impact. No more missing sisters. No more missing Indigenous people.”

…Like the Sacred Heart Center in Eagle Butte, S.D., Native Hope is an outreach of St. Joseph’s Indian School. “Native Hope is doing the right thing for our students and families,” noted St. Joseph’s Indian School President Mike Tyrell. “Even one missing person is too many. Students at St. Joseph’s have lost loved ones and family members through this human tragedy.”

Some 40% of sex trafficking victims in South Dakota are Native women and children, disproportionate to the 8.57% of Native residents. Domestic violence is another contributing factor to MMIP [Native Hope, press release, 2022.02.16].

Native Hope’s Long joined indigenous legislators Troy Heinert, Peri Pourier, and Tamara St. John to announce the grant at a press conference in Pierre yesterday. From the photos available, it appears Jason Ravnsborg did not attend. In his press release, A.G. Ravnsborg couldn’t even bring himself to acknowledge that Native Hope was providing the money; he chose instead to lead with the vaguely insulting passive voice:

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg announced today that in cooperation with St. Joseph’s Indian School and Native Hope, Inc., a grant has been made to aid in the funding of the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.  The grant will provide $85,000 per year for the years 2022 to 2024 [Office of the Attorney General, press release, 2022.02.16].

That passive voice left the door open for the Mitchell Republic to misstate the source of the funds in its original headline before correcting the record an hour later:

Google results, search for "ravnsborg grant missing murdered", showing headlines from Mitchell Republic, retrieved 2022.02.17 06:00 CST.
Google results, search for “ravnsborg grant missing murdered”, showing headlines from Mitchell Republic, retrieved 2022.02.17 06:00 CST.

Funding public services with private dollars is problematic. Waiting for Native Hope or St. Joseph’s Indian School to fund enforcement of a law to protect indigenous people is like making rape victims pay for the police and prosecutors who handle their case, or like making victims of arson cover the full cost of rolling the fire trucks to their flaming businesses. Jason Ravnsborg didn’t have to spend a year begging for private donors to fund his new chief of staff; why should we have to rely on private donors to do actual work required by actual law? We’ve passed a law, we should fund the execution of that law.

Representative St. John and Senator Red Dawn Foster are working on that: their House Bill 1194 would immediately provide $70,000 to cover the liaison position for one year. But despite the emergency clause on HB 1194, House Judiciary dilly-dallied and kicked the bill to House Appropriations, which in turn dithered and kicked it to Joint Appropriations. Native Hope helps us jump past that delay and guarantees a longer solution than our slowpoke legislators and inattentive A.G. have mustered. We should be grateful that Native Hope has stepped into the gap; we should be disgusted that they had to do so.

13 Comments

  1. RST Tribal Member 2022-02-17

    The “deadliest enemies” motif is the foundation of the current model of tribal-state relations. Supreme Court Justice Miller coined the use of the deadliest enemy language in United States v. Kagama (118 US 375 (1886)). True in 1886. More true in 1889. Very true on February 16, 2022 with no change in sight for the foreseeable future.

    Ken Burns the documentarian will premiere a three-part, six-hour look at the U.S. and the Holocaust in September 2022. The project, which still doesn’t have a formal title, focuses on what Americans knew about Hitler’s efforts to exterminate the Jews in Europe and when they knew it. The film will also examine the ways the Nazi leader borrowed from America’s savage treatment of its Native populations, as well as the Jim Crow laws that were enacted to deny Black Americans rights. “It’s the most important film that I’ll ever work on,” says Burns. “It’s the most consequential.”

    I applaud the efforts of the Natives and their friends swimming in the slime pool of the inept inbred Republicans controlling government in Pierre. Sending 3 of their kind to Washington is almost laughable if it were not so dangerous to Natives nationwide, metaphorically speaking.

    In 1942 Felix Cohen famously wrote: “Like the Miner’s Canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere and our treatment of the Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall of our democratic faith.” True words of the past. True today in Pierre and the foreseeable future in SD.

  2. Nick Nemec 2022-02-17

    Jason Ravnsborg threw his hands in the air and couldn’t find the money to fund what they are required by law to do, and that he and his predecessors should have been doing without a law telling them to do it.

    Noem shrugged rather than help her bumbling AG find the way.

  3. All Mammal 2022-02-17

    What a little puke he is. Good grief. Can’t even muster a thank you. His ‘lights are on, but no body home’ act is insulting and creates unadulterated, pure hatred, and that bile he secretes in our pancreas makes him guilty of even more killing.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-02-17

    Tamara St. John is an enigma. How an Indigenous woman can be a Republican in South Dakota is a Wordle wrapped in a quandary coated with red dye #4.

  5. John 2022-02-17

    RST, thank you for sharing the wise words and a heads up on Burns forthcoming documentary. Very appreciated.

    It floors me that South Dakota state government is hemorrhaging money – enough to nonchalantly build a $10 million firing range amidst 10 others within 70 miles, yet is too racist to fund a one-person office to investigate missing folks. There’s no racism here folks, nothing to see, move along, move along.

  6. mike from iowa 2022-02-17

    The funding problem smells more like a cultural issue rather than government funding. magats don’t seem to care for or about Native Americans and other POC.

  7. Porter Lansing 2022-02-17

    Hear, hear RST Tribal Member – Indian culture is a mountain of grandeur peering down at ants, scurrying to protect their sinful legacy.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2022-02-17

    Ravensborg and Noem are both guilty of an egregious and cynical dereliction of duty. Why should a private foundation pay state personnel costs to prosecute murders of our citizens?? We spend millions on tourism and not a cent on justice for Native women.The stain of this neglect extends to the Legislature.

  9. O 2022-02-17

    I thought sex trafficking was a HUGE issue to Governor Noem. It really sickens me now to see that even that was campaigning rhetoric and not at all important when it comes to actually using governing to make a difference to those affected. It’s not like the Governor is afraid to get personally involved with other state agencies or departments to get done what she wants to get done: Social Studies standards were tossed out, appraiser licenses were re-evaluated, . . . Why no knock on the AG’s door to “ask” where is our missing missing indigenous person liaison?

    All campaign, no governance.

  10. All Mammal 2022-02-18

    Meanwhile, the remains of TWO MORE Native bodies found in SD. That is FOUR in less than ONE week. Say their names:
    Tia Long Soldier
    Shayna Youngman Afraid Of His Horses
    Marcus Big Crow
    Cecil Red Eyes

    If the AG did his job requirements, he would have appointed law enforcement to investigate the Rapid Creek killings that have been persistently taking Native lives in Rapid City since 1997.

    Every few months, there might be a brief sentence written about an “Unattended Death” and not one iota of investigation. Hell, even the little vigil where the bodies are found consisting of teddy bears and maybe some flowers and balloons are removed before lunchtime. No bs. This is beyond sick. They probably suspect its been one or more of their own putting boots on sleeping peoples’ necks for decades. Its about the only conclusion that makes any sense.

  11. M 2022-02-18

    They don’t want to find the perps because there might be some correlation between who is missing, when, and where and what was happening in the area. As a woman who packs pepper spray and takes a husky/greyhound guardian whenever or wherever I walk, I know there are certain places and times that are most unsafe for us in SD, fishing tournaments, some hunting excursions, bike rallies, man camps, construction areas, casinos, and basically anywhere with too much booze and/or drugs and too many men with few women.

    Pepper spray is a must in this area even in the best of times or what should be the safest of times. Sometimes walking in a remote area or state park with no one around can be a risk so one always has an exit strategy.

    Your egalitarian comments are appreciated and a special thanks to Cory for keeping us informed on an issue that is absurdly neglected.

  12. All Mammal 2022-02-18

    I live right on Rapid Creek in the heart of Rapid and my dogs should have several life saving metals as well. They give me my freedom and are also the reason I am able to clean up trash in my area and make sure my stretch of ‘beach’ is known as a good safe place to relax. As long as the liquor store bags and cans are not littered.

    I find more discarded breathalyzer straws thrown on the ground by Rapid City’s finest than I do empty vodka bottles. Shows who the trashy ones are. RCPD drives on the grass everyday along the Bike path, leaving mud ruts and running over individuals sleeping under the bridge. Then blame their injured victim while recovering in the hospital for wearing dark clothing. How about don’t drive vehicles on a pedestrian path, especially under dark bridges. Vehicles belong on roads.

    The racism and lack of reporting violent rapes in the street that result in death is sinister. It might help the women in Rapid to make informed decisions if we knew where the rapes and beatings were happening. Thats why I pack.
    And only drink from my Zero Water filter due to my tap water either smelling like creek or bleach. It is not that far-fetched to assume if you are a Native or a woman, you are on the extermination list.

    The last officer I was able to converse with, I assumed had a Sharps container. I have a huge glass bottle I had accumulated two or three syringes in found along the creek I wanted to dispose of responsibly and the overseer, I mean officer, had no idea what a Sharps container even was and didn’t want anything to do with helping me get rid of my illegal burden in a safe manner. So apparently the police do not bend down to pick up deadly hazards in the park. I wonder what else they don’t bother to do to protect kids in the community.

    Until we elect leaders who set a good example of brotherhood and honor to stand up for the small and timid and disregarded, there will be no tranquility. That is a blasphemy to such a beautiful world.

  13. Spike 2022-02-21

    I don’t agree with Native Hope funding this position. SD has the money for all kinds of pet projects but helping locate missing native women is an unfunded mandate….

    I can smell the racism and political retaliation. And it stinks.

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