I awoke early this morning concerned that my good friend Tim Giago had contracted Romneysia by wedding himself to Kristi Noem’s reelection aspirations. Concern for my friend compels me to do my part in inoculating him and Lakota land from the spread of Romneysia.
Kristi Noem an attractive highly skilled communicator entered the U.S. House of Representatives as one of the least educated and inexperienced law makers in modern South Dakota politics. South Dakotan’s and especially the Lakota have paid a heavy price for her inexperience.
Nothing exemplifies her inexperience more than her failed attempts to move the reauthorization of the Farm Bill and her nuanced dance with the Tea Party and the leadership of the Republican Party which openly rebuked her efforts.
As South Dakotan’s were forced to abandon their crops, thin their herds at less than fair market value and watch dust cyclones wisp away hopes for necessary federal intervention to a real crisis – Noem chose to play politics.
At first openly expressing exasperation with her party leadership, Noem led a “Discharge Petition” in the House that would force a floor vote on the Farm Bill and later she relented to party leadership and withdrew her support for this petition. This shows an exceptional lack of moral courage and South Dakotan style of independence.
Troubling to many South Dakotan voters of all parties is the fact that Noem’s family farm received over $3 million in United States Department of Agriculture Farm Subsidies from 1995-2009 allowing her family to keep their family farm. She now supports major cuts in this program.
The U.S. House version that Noem supports, cuts over $16 billion (yes with a B) from the Farm Bill food stamp program over the next 10 years. This hurts family farms, commercial farms and recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
These are real cuts that will hurt real people. South Dakota Indian reservations have been economically disenfranchised since day one – the forced pauperization of the Lakota people is one of the greatest inhumanities ever inflicted upon a group of people. Giago cannot point to one legislative achievement or policy of Congresswoman Noem that would help the Lakota in breaking the economic sanctions that have crippled reservation economies from the beginning.
Besides Noem’s hypocrisy on the Farm Bill her vote to support the Paul Ryan Budget Act for fiscal years 2013-2022 deserves careful review from Lakota voters. These cuts reflect Noem’s values and priorities.
Supporting the extreme budget plan by Paul Ryan demonstrates a complete opposition to Treaty Based Appropriations for Indian Tribes by Noem. These budget cuts cripple Indian Education, Indian Health, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs budgets to name just a few. This radical departure from the federal governments’ Trust Obligation to Indian Tribes especially Treaty Tribes deserves a vigorous challenge from tribal opinion leaders.
Giago has been a defender of treaty rights, Indian law, and sovereignty his entire career, surely my friend can’t be swayed by a politician’s participation at a pow-wow or attendance at a Tribal College graduation.
Noem sits on two House Committees that have immense influence on Indian Affairs. They include the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Education and the Workforce. She has failed in every respect to advance any signature piece of legislation on Indian Affairs to offset her support of devastating cuts in Indian Affairs.
As a national leader in Indian education I had the privilege of working with many Republican and Democrat leaders in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for over a decade. There are many good leaders on both sides of the aisle who care about Indian affairs and have the legislative record to document their commitment.
Unfortunately for Noem in the world of real politics, real consequences and high stakes decision making we can’t make voting decisions based on a person’s potential, or hope that they will like us and magically grow intellectually. Noem’s voting record on the Ryan Budget plan, The House version of the Violence Against Women Act (which drastically reduces Indian provisions), lack of leadership on the Farm Bill, vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (which contains the hard fought victory of the Treaty based Indian Health Care Improvement Act) and her unremarkable advocacy on the Natural Resource Committee, and Education/Workforce Committee disqualify her completely from receiving support from the Lakota Nation.
Noem can run but she cannot hide from her record or her ties to the Tea Party.
I take great offense and so should all Lakota to folks who swear fidelity and allegiance to the United States Constitution until it comes to the Treaty Clause, the Commerce Clause, and Indian Nations. As Noem and Tea Party extremists praise America’s founders, their infinite wisdom and ideals, these folks conceal the truth that when they take an oath of office part of that oath is to uphold Indian Treaties and Indian sovereignty.
Behind the beautiful smile, the public appearances at tribal events, and the polished public speaker is a dangerous person to Indian country and in particular the Lakota.
“Romneysia” is a dangerous condition whose only cure is a steady dose of truth serum. We are now days away from this crucial election and as South Dakotan’s mourn the loss of Senator George McGovern we are all reminded of what true patriotism looks like, what conviction leadership is about, what integrity means and what we deserve in honesty from our Congressional delegation.
No individual is more loyal to the Lakota Oyate than Giago. I am confident that when he enters the election booth on Nov. 6 and lends his support to the future of America and the Lakota that he will correctly see Noem, the Tea Party and Romney as one in the same. This potential moment of clarity will hopefully relieve my good friend of his temporary Romneysia.
Ryan Wilson, an Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, is president of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages. Wilson is a past president of the National Indian Education Association, and served several terms on the NIEA Board (2000-2010). He is widely credited with securing passage of the Esther Martinez Native American Language Act of 2006. Wilson is a recognized national leader and advocate of Indian Education, Native Language Revitalization, and American Indian Youth Development. Ryan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org