The nine Sioux tribes are meeting in Rapid City right now to discuss solutions to South Dakota's inability to comply with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. Oglala Lakota College is streaming the May 15-17 summit live online. Judges and federal officials are there to hear concerns and help come up with solutions.
But the seats for South Dakota state officials were empty.
No one from the state or South Dakota's Department of Social Services was coming. In a statement, the department told NPR that it had not been invited to the conference and that it had only learned details about it last week [Laura Sullivan, "South Dakota Officials Miss Historic Meeting with Tribes," NPR: Morning Edition, 2013.05.16].
Kevin Washburn is the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs who came from Washington. He said that is not his recollection.
"I spoke with the Governor, and my office asked his office to attend. He wasn't able to be here, so we've called the chief justice, and they were not able to attend, either. So we reached out at very high levels to the state because this is indeed a summit. It seemed like we should be reaching the very highest levels of the state and we weren't able to get them to be here....
"There's some disagreements between the state and tribes, and it seems like a dysfunctional relationship that's developed. It's hard to find the solutions when only the tribes have come to talk" [Sullivan, 2013.05.16].
Ah, but the Governor (and former boss of the Children's Home Society, one of the prime players in South Dakota's Indian foster child care problems) is a busy man, what with pressing engagements like flying to Minneapolis to spend an afternoon at the Mall of America. You can't expect him and his staff to be everywhere at once. South Dakota's leadership has to have its priorities.