South Dakota won’t set up a Native children welfare task force

South Dakota Capitol in Pierre.
South Dakota Capitol in Pierre.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 11:46 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) – The South Dakota House killed a bill Wednesday that would have set up a 17-member task force to examine the welfare of Native children and to look for solutions.

The vote on SB 191 was 26 to 42. The measure passed the Senate 22 to 12 on Feb. 22 and passed the House Judiciary Committee 11 to 0 on Feb. 27.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Peri Pourier from Rapid City, said the state’s Native American children are overrepresented in abuse and neglect cases.

She said the state has looked at the issues facing Native children and their families since 2004, but “still today, the problem persists.”

“We have to decide to look within ourselves about what is important to the state,” Rep. Pourier said. “Look at incarcerations, hospitalization; you’ll see Native Americans in the top tier. The tribes can’t solve this alone. The state can’t solve this alone. We need each other.”

Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen from Sioux Falls spoke against the measure.

He said four legislators would serve on the task force while all nine of the state’s tribal nations would be represented.

He also balked at the cost and the limited money for interim summer studies.

Rep. Venhuizen also cited a pending U.S. Supreme Court, Brackeen v. Haaland, that could throw out or heavily modify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

“I’m not sure if this is the time to be reconsidering state laws,” he said.

There is the possibility the bill could be reconsidered though Rep. Pourier did not state that intention following the vote.