Tim: Native American issues important to all

Tim: Native American issues important to all

I agree with The Native Sun News editorial about the need for candidates “running for the House of Representatives and for the Governor of South Dakota [to] know the demographics of this State and to understand that “Native Americans will turn out in the largest numbers ever because they are just plain sick and tired of politics as usual by the entrenched bureaucrats now running our government.”
I disagree, though, with The Native Sun News editorial that equated me with Dusty Johnson and other candidates whom your editorial stated know “little or nothing about the power of the Native American vote.”
I know and have had relationships with Native American friends and clients my entire life, and as a lawyer and judge developed a knowledge and appreciation of and for the Lakota culture. As a lawyer I know what it’s like to defend Native Americans in court, including for first-degree murder – and secure an acquittal. I’ve met and learned to know thousands of other Natives across the state as a lawyer, judge, and now a candidate for office.
So I made it a point when I announced for Congress as someone with no political experience or connections to reach out to Native Americans across the state as I’ve tried to do with other South Dakotans. I traveled to the Pine Ridge and Rosebud on multiple occasions and have met with members of the Rosebud Sioux, Oglala Sioux, Yankton Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Flandreau Santee Sioux, and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribes so far. I also have trips in the works to the Lower Brule Sioux and Crow Creek Sioux.
I have conducted town halls in Mission on the Rosebud (Jan. 13), in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne for that community and Standing Rock (May 18), and on the Pine Ridge (May 25) and offered to come to other reservations and conduct them also.
In those town hall sessions I listened carefully to what each person who attended had to say, and answered every question asked until the questions stopped coming, then met individually and listened to stories until people were done.
I have heard seemingly unending accounts from those who have fallen through the cracks of IHS healthcare, something I saw on the bench for over a decade as well. I’ve heard their stories of failure to get basic healthcare even though our government has a federal treaty obligation to provide it. I’ve spoken across the state, not just on reservations, about the need to hold the government accountable for this travesty that is harming so many of our fellow citizens and spoken of the need to treat the meth and opioid epidemics as the national health crises they are rather than a ticket to prison.
I’ve listened to the many aspects of tribal jurisdiction issues, criminal justice issues, sovereignty problems, and a host of others.
In addition to the town halls we’ve held, I’ve met with Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Council members and toured their remarkable new healthcare clinic, and just this week met with tribal council members of Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. We will continue to hold meet and greets and other events across the tribal lands in South Dakota and will continue to listen to tribal members who live off the reservations in our communities across the state. Next Thursday, Aug. 2, we will be taping an appearance on “Oyate Today” and doing an interview with your newspaper in Rapid City.
Finally, I’ve fielded a large number of questions from Natives across the state on Facebook and on the campaign trail at fairs like Central States, the Sioux Empire and others.
While it’s important to sound the clarion about how Natives are crying out for a strong voice willing to stand up for them, it’s worth noting those who have already made their support clear. I’ve worked hard to be that voice and will continue to do that.
So please reconsider the accuracy of lumping me with any other candidates who haven’t shown the interest or dedicated the time to learning about issues important to Native Americans in our state.
I welcome your input and ideas. You can learn more about me and what I stand for by going to timbjorkman.com or our Facebook page @timbjorkmanforcongress to learn more, and send me your thoughts through both.