Unique town hall meeting focuses on youth - KOTA Territory News

Unique town hall meeting focuses on youth

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A one-of-a-kind town hall meeting at Lakota Homes Thursday night brought members of the Rapid City Council together with representatives from tribal, state and federal government to hear concerns of the community.

One of the first things U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said was nothing is off limits. "The way that we identify the threats to the community is by having meetings like this where we're able to hear from people in the community, what they're seeing, what their concerns are," said Johnson.

From Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to crime; every discussion came back to how it affects youth in Rapid City and on the reservations. "One of the largest and fastest growing segments of our Native American population is 18 and under," said Tribal Relations Secretary J.R. LaPlante.

"The youth are a critical part of this and the issue is what can we do to keep them out of the system in the first place and you know so much of that starts with the local community and it starts with the family," said Johnson.

LaPlante says nonprofit programs like the Boys and Girls Club are one way of supporting our youth. "There's been a very strong push to get a Boys and Girls Club on every single reservation," said LaPlante.

He says the program can make a big difference in a child's life. "It keeps kids on the right track; it keeps kids involved in education, it teaches them to eat well, eat healthy and do the right things," said LaPlante.

No specific action was taken at the town hall meeting, but that doesn't mean it was a waste of time. "We had a good discussion tonight I think about the important role of community, and family and working with our young people and giving them opportunities," said Johnson. He says he hopes the discussion will be used as a stepping stone for future efforts.

January 23rd is annual State Tribal Relations Day. All nine tribes are invited to the Capitol to meet with legislators and discuss similar topics of concern.

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