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Continuing Indian Play, Pressler Accepts Debate, Asks for Obama Visit to Reservation

Last updated on 2014.07.23

Independent candidate for U.S. Senate Larry Pressler continues to work the Indian vote. He announced Wednesday afternoon that he has accepted an invitation from Native Sun News and United Tribes Technical College to debate at the UTTC campus in Rapid City on September 12. "I commend the Native Sun News and the United Tribes Technical College in sponsoring this debate," says Pressler, "and I hope they will set an example for many more across South Dakota.”

If the other Senate candidates accept, we could realize a hope that we discussed here in the blogosphere this spring, when Oglala Lakota College hosted a lively candidate forum in Kyle. That Pine Ridge debate, covered most avidly by Mr. Santema (see his additional posts on the OLC forum here, here, and here) was the only statewide candidate forum held on an Indian reservation during the primary season. (Does anyone know of any past statewide candidate debates held on a South Dakota reservation?) The UTTC debate isn't on the reservation, but Native Sun News and UTTC would surely focus that debate on Indian issues in a way that KELO and SDPB likely will not.

Neither Pressler nor his general election opponents attended the OLC forum; let us hope Rick Weiland, Gordon Howie, and Mike Rounds all join Pressler in making up for their absence last spring by attending the UTTC debate.

Pressler's quick acceptance of the UTTC invitation aligns with plays he's made for the Indian vote from the beginning of his candidacy. Just last week, Pressler promised immediate action if elected to fund an indigenous holocaust museum at Wounded Knee. And in addition to his UTTC debate announcement, Pressler said Wednesday that he wants to work with the tribes to bring President Obama to South Dakota to discuss tribal issues. Pressler says he will talk with tribal leaders about working together to get the President to come to South Dakota for his first visit as President. President Obama paid our Indian neighbors on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Reservation in June.

Pressler has already invited President Obama to come to South Dakota to discuss health care reform. Pressler suggested that meeting take place in Humboldt, so it appears Pressler is advocating two Presidential visits to South Dakota.

Wait a minute: shouldn't Rick Weiland be the one angling to get President Obama here during the campaign? Or is Pressler's Obama press really an offshoot of the deep anti-Washington strategy: just as Weiland may benefit from the apparent distance between himself and Majority Leader Harry Reid, maybe Pressler is secretly helping Weiland by playing drawing all of South Dakota's anti-Obama ire to himself. Brilliant!

Nutty conspiracies aside, Pressler is making two positive gestures toward Indian voters. Democrat Rick Weiland should make sure his team keeps up and doesn't take that Indian vote for granted.


  1. larry kurtz 2014.07.24

    Dick Wadhams should get the earth hater of the cycle award for filling the US Senate field with challengers to Pike Mike. Brilliant, really.

  2. Steve Hickey 2014.07.24

    He's using natives for self-gain. I hope they see it. If he cared about them he would have been championing some things for them this past decade.

  3. larry kurtz 2014.07.24

    Agreed, Rep. Hickey. Pressler's rebranding as a progressive looks like more Wadhamsandwitchery to this cynic.

  4. Ellee 2014.07.24

    Let me get this straight... if you are campaigning at a reservation it's all about self gain, but if you're stumping to the white man it's just campaigning as usual? I think you're a bit off as usual, Mr. Hickey. Give our native Americans a little more credit than that. These are not a stupid people.

  5. larry kurtz 2014.07.24

    It looks like Wadhams fled the Rounds job because he knows Tike Mike is a sleazeball tied to Bendagate like a shotgun bound with twine to a tree.

  6. Steve Hickey 2014.07.24

    If I ran for Governor, I'd announce on the rez. And the difference between me and Pressler is a couple decades of caring and trying.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.24

    Larry: orange is the new black; Pressler is the new plant? :-)

    Wadhams would not run from sleaze. He would wrap his arms and legs around it. And Wadhams appears to be happy to advance the Rounds-favored narrative that Pressler threatens Weiland more than Rounds.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.24

    Steve, I respect the comparison of your practical record to Pressler's. But how late in life is a man allowed to come to Jesus... or in this case, to Wounded Knee? If Pressler had a crappy (hostile or empty) record on Indian issues during his time in office, what would have to do now to convince us that he's committed to Indian issues?

    And if Pressler is not able to cross that threshold of proving the sincerity of his Indian intentions, should voters who prioritize tribal welfare and relations default to the Dems? Does Rounds have any record of caring and trying to make him the Indian go-to guy? Did Rounds bring any EB-5 projects to the reservations, the places that could have used that economic boost the most?

  9. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.24

    Nobody is going to bring development to reservations without uniform commercial code. Any operation would be at the mercy of tribal councils with processes tied to family connections and ripoffs.

  10. Steve Hickey 2014.07.24

    My view is Dems use them and Repubs abuse them. Dems have changed nothing for them and Repubs think it's futile to try. If I were a native on the rez, my hope would be in neither party and I'd treat them all with suspect. A visit from Obama would do nothing more than his recent fly-by in ND did-- a photo op on the way to a fundraiser. Obama has his hands full and his mind elsewhere. There are sovereignty issues that prevent Rounds or anyone from bringing projects to the rez.

    The Repub philosophy is assimilate and be entrepreneurial like Asians and East Indians. They see natives as a conquered people. If that is true, I'd say at least after the Civil War we attempted a genuine Reconstruction. In this case, can there be a new Reconstruction period a hundred and twenty-five years after the fact? In the spirit of neighborliness, I hope so.

    Time for natives to come together, one tribe not seven, and they need a gandhi-like leader to rise up not in a warrior spirit (violence/AIM) but who can lead with real soul-force. This summer I read a few Ghandi biographies and on most pages I was thinking about native friends and realities in SD. Natives in SD need a MLK Jr. who picked up Gandhi's mantle and methods. As a white guy it's in my heart to be used as a Lincoln to natives in SD (I know Lincoln hung 38 natives after the Santee Sioux Uprising but I mean as one who was used to emancipate people, in his case black slaves in the South.) Natives in SD need an emancipation so I'm looking for their Gandhi or MLK Jr.. To me it's urgent, native kids are killing themselves. Time for operation dignity. Lots to honor and apologize for and fix.

    Pressler misses the DC lifestyle. He's not thinking about the daily life of SD natives.

  11. larry kurtz 2014.07.24

    The United States Constitution is the finest instrument ever created by the human hand. The Preamble is the body, the Bill of Rights is the neck, the Amendments are the strings. It is a fluid universal execution of human and civil rights.

    While the Palestinian homeland looks like holes in the slice of Swiss cheese analogous to the illegal Israeli state, progress toward resolutions of Native trust disputes would have far more political traction after tribes secede from the States in which they reside and then be ratified to form one State, the 51st, sans contiguous borders with two Senators and two House members as there are an estimated 2.5 million indigenous.

  12. lesliengland 2014.07.24

    why would rapid city and tribal meat markets THROW AWAY buff hides?

  13. Lynn 2014.07.24

    Steve, "The Repub philosophy is assimilate and be entrepreneurial like Asians and East Indians. They see natives as a conquered people."

    If they were just a conquered people as what has happened over the ages in Europe or elsewhere it may be far more simple but our government made treaties and gave those tribes and nations our word we would uphold them and then we broke those treaties and stole from them. Terrible things happened as an understatement and they were not protected or had much for rights. The insane asylum that used to be in Canton, SD was a good example for what happened to those natives who did assimilate or mentally disabled. Our government and ancestors created this mess.

    Will Rounds make an attempt to help those on the reservations as Senator? I highly doubt it unless there is some political gain rather than a sincere concern. Will he use tribal sovereignty as an excuse not to try? Probably so. Heck! Rounds didn't even show up for the debates held on the Reservations. I would think it would mean a lot to spend time in Indian Country out of courtesy and showing it is an honor to be a sincere public servant for them.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.24

    First let me explain why most Indians are Democrats. When we have a Republican administration, funding to tribes and various programs are drastically cut, even programs that other communities have (i.e. housing, alcohol and drug programs) are victims of Republican cuts, often leaving them so little money to operate they are rendered useless.

    When there is a Democratic administration tribes will see most funding restored and maybe a new programs or two added. Restoring funding does not make up for time and money lost during the cutbacks.

    It has been my experience that Democratic candidates not only campaign on reservations, they visit and provide tribes with necessary information regarding funding and any relevant legislation.

    Governor Dick Kneip, Senators Abourezk and McGovern were regular visitors to the Oglala Nation. And at times you would encounter Republican Jim Abnor. I first met Gov Kneip at the annual Sundance in Pine Ridge. After the tribal animosity with Janklow, he did visit the tornado destruction in Oglala.
    I disagree vehemently that Democrats use Indians, the party represents not just the funding needs of tribes, it all represents our positions on Civil Rights, healthcare, and many other social issues.

  15. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.24

    The Oglala Sioux Tribe does have a Uniform Commercial Code, I helped write it.
    Without a UCC in place, you would not see the big ticket items like cars and mobile homes on reservations. A UCC is required for the financing of these items and South Dakota businesses honor them.

  16. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.24

    Why is Frank Pomersheine? still concerned about failed commercial code on reservations? He put a lot of time into trying to get that going. Maybe succeeded on some reservations.

  17. Dustina 2014.07.31

    Rounds was in attack mode on tribes while Gov. and had even reminded tribes that he owned the roads leading to the reservations and could shut them down. Now appearing to be thirsty to drink tea in DC, he's already detached from SD and will do no one any good. Unless your a corporation.

  18. JeniW 2014.07.31

    The late George Mickelson had, I thought, made some real progress in developing a positive relationship with the North American Indian tribes in SD (but I am not 100% sure that is the case - I was a newbie to SD at the time.)

    As soon as Janklow stepped in he destroyed what progress George made, and it seems have been going downhill since.

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