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Nonprofit to fund SD's liaison for missing, murdered Indigenous people

The grant will provide $85,000 annually for three years.

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Jennifer Long, executive director of Native Hope, announces at a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 16 that her group will fund a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons liaison position in the South Dakota Attorney General's office for three years.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — A year after the Legislature created and Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill to fund a position in the Attorney General's Office to coordinate tackling the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous persons, the long-awaited funding for the position has arrived.

"When we learned the news there were difficulties in funding the office, we wanted to break down any barrier," said Jennifer Long, executive director of Native Hope, a nonprofit based on the St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota. "We want to impact this critical interest. No more missing sisters. No more missing endangered people."

At a Wednesday, Feb. 16, news conference, Long said that Native Hope will fund at $85,000 a year for three years the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons liaison position created by statute last year. The organization is an outreach of St. Joe's in Chamberlain that has advocated against human trafficking and domestic violence.

In January, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg told a state tribal affairs committee he'd yet to hire an individual to assume the role, calling the position an "unfunded mandate."

On Wednesday, that underlying bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Peri Pourier, D-Pine Ridge, said she hopes to see the position eventually funded by the state.

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"If you want to talk about resources, look to your federal government," said Pourier, who noted that tribal law enforcement for the Oglala Sioux Tribe was perennially underfunded.

Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said he hopes the position will be filled soon now that the funding has come forward.

"We don't have to wait for the appropriations process," said Heinert.

Earlier this week, the remains of a woman and teenage girl were recovered on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, law enforcement announced. They are the fourth and fifth deaths this year alone on the sprawling reservation in southwestern South Dakota.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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