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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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South Dakota Tribes Making Second Attempt To Repeal 1863 Dakota Removal Act
by Lisa Kaczke, Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Traditional jingle dancers participate in the Native American Day parade on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. This years theme was "Celebrating Our History: Inspiring the Future." (Photo: Abigail Dollins / Argus Leader)

Tribes in South Dakota are trying again to gain support from state lawmakers to repeal the 1863 federal law banning them from Minnesota.

The legislative State-Tribal Relations Committee moved in a 6-3 vote on Wednesday to introduce a resolution during the 2020 legislative session requesting Congress repeal the federal Dakota Removal Act, which forced the tribe onto South Dakota reservations following the 1862 conflict that included the mass hanging of 38 Dakota men.

The resolution includes a provision that repealing the act wouldn't change any property rights or tribal land originally established by the law. Minnesota passed a resolution supporting its repeal in 2009.

The Senate State Affairs Committee squashed the same resolution during the 2019 session without any discussion or questions about the resolution. The defeat sparked the tribes' discontent with the state that grew with the Legislature's passage of Gov. Kristi Noem's riot booster legislation aimed at Keystone XL pipeline protesters.

Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said he was never able to find out why legislators opposed it last session. He said they're not trying to change history and it's an attempt to right a wrong.

"There's lots of things that have happened in the history of our country and the history of our state that we can address and we can address it in a proper fashion that isn't meant to poke anybody in the eye or cause controversy," he said.

This time around, tribal leaders are providing information to legislators about the law's history and historical trauma. They also changed a line in the resolution about reconciliation that some legislators found to be controversial during the 2019 session. The action of repealing the law is a form of reconciliation in itself, according to Ross Garelick Bell, a lobbyist for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

Republican Rep. Tamara St. John, who is a historian for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, said she appreciates the resolution's intent, but she's concerned that repealing it could impact legal precedents based on the act, specifically a lawsuit involving Mdewakanton Sioux members in Minnesota.

"I think that there's things that are not yet resolved with it," she said.

House Speaker Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, said he would likely support it during session because the resolution says the repeal is a symbolic act and doesn't impact property rights.

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