SOUTH DAKOTA — Native Americans in South Dakota could hunt or fish anywhere in the state for free and visit or camp in state parks without paying fees under two bills being considered by the state legislature.
House Bill 1141 would allow enrolled members of a federally recognized Indian tribe located wholly or partially within South Dakota to be exempt from hunting or fishing license, permit, or stamp fees. House Bill 1142 would allow those same tribal members to be exempt from paying entrance or camping fees at state parks.
Both bills were proposed by Representative Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Bordeaux said he proposed the state park fee waiver for natives after finding that Minnesota had enacted a law waiving park entry fees for tribal members starting this year. New York State waives hunting and fishing fees for enrolled tribal members, per state law.
In an interview with News Watch, Bordeaux said tribal members should have free access to state parks and recreation areas once inhabited by their ancestors, as many of these lands retain cultural and spiritual significance among Native Americans. . Bordeaux said tribal members should also be allowed to hunt and fish free of charge, just as they did before the state was settled by Europeans. Treaties signed between Indian tribes and the federal government generations ago guaranteed those rights, but were ignored by South Dakota and other states, he said.
“We think we should be able to go to state parks because it’s our land and it was taken from us,” Bordeaux, administrator of Sinte Gleska University at Mission, said. “Is it asking too much of our legislature and our state to say, ‘OK, we recognize that all of this land was yours, so we’re going to make it free for native cardholders?’
State park entry fees are $8 per day or $36 per year for one vehicle; camping fees range from $15 to $26 per night. Fishing fees for residents are $8 per day or $28 per year; Resident hunting fees vary, but standard fees are $33 for pheasant and small game and $40 for many deer permits.
“For a family, it’s really expensive, and it’s deprived areas, some of the poorest counties in the country where we live,” he said. “And when you put deer as food on your table or on your grandmother’s table, there’s a real need for that.”
Bordeaux said the tax impacts would be minimal. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials estimate that
“We feel like it won’t cost a lot of money, it’s a nice gesture, and it’s something that can go a long way toward reconciliation to bring our peoples together,” Bordeaux said. “It’s a small carrot, but if it’s the only carrot in your opinion, it’s substantial enough to see it as something important.”
Both measures were referred to the House State Affairs Committee, but as of February 1 had not had a hearing.
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, which administers state parks and regulates hunting and fishing, had not taken a position on the two bills as of Jan. 31, according to the gatekeeper. -word Nick Harrington.
State law allows certain exceptions to park entrance fees, Harrington said, including for disabled veterans or former POWs. Some tribal members do not have to pay entrance fees to state parks or recreation areas located within their boundaries.
The state hunting manual also notes that state hunting licenses are not valid on reservation lands and tribal licenses are not valid on off-reserve lands. Active military personnel and persons with disabilities enjoy free or reduced access to fishing.
Most Indian tribes in South Dakota and the United States already allow their members to hunt and fish on reservation land without charge, although they are still subject to permission requirements, taken and other restrictions set by tribal governments, said Remi Bald Eagle, Intergovernmental Affairs. coordinator of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
But Bald Eagle said for the Cheyenne River Tribe, treaties signed in the 1800s should allow tribal members to hunt and fish without state licenses throughout South Dakota west of the river. Missouri, but Bald Eagle said state laws do not recognize the full language. or the intention of the treaties of 1851 and 1868.
Bald Eagle, speaking for himself and not for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said passage of the bills would serve primarily as treaty recognition and respect for Native Americans.
“It really weighs on our hearts more than economically, to not be welcome, to not be allowed to enter our lands as we see fit,” Bald Eagle said.
Rep. Jennifer Keintz, D-Eden, said she signed on as a co-sponsor of both Indigenous fee waiver bills because she views the measures as a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation toward Native Americans of South Dakota.
“It must be painful for many Native Americans to be charged fees to access land that was stolen from their ancestors,” said Keintz, who works in real estate. “I know waiving this fee won’t change that past…and it may just be a small gesture, but it’s not trivial.”
Keintz also noted that Governor Kristi Noem has sought to eliminate fees the state charges developers or businesses, and that the legislature often looks for ways to reduce or eliminate fees paid by residents.
Increasing inclusiveness and creating more equity for Native Americans was clearly part of the impetus for the removal of state park fees in Minnesota, where Governor Tim Walz recommended fee waivers. . The act extended existing fee waivers from known sacred sites in state parks to the entire state park system.
In an email to News Watch, Minnesota DNR spokesperson Jamie McBride said the agency recently hired a tribal liaison officer, established a tribal relations task force, and provided a training on indigenous culture, history and sovereignty to DNR employees.
“Strengthening tribal relationships is a strategic priority for Minnesota DNR,” McBride wrote.
South Dakota State Rep. Tamara St. John, R-Sisseton, an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe who also serves as co-chair of the state’s Tribal Relations Committee, said she understands and appreciates the argument that tribal members should have free and open access to the lands they once inhabited and often regard as spiritual sites.
“These are all the homelands of Indigenous peoples and these lands have the footprints of Indigenous peoples,” St. John said.
Bald Eagle said passing the fee waivers may attract more Native Americans to state parks, and some may wish to hold religious ceremonies in the parks. But he said the practice would likely become more of a “novelty” that would rarely be repeated.
“If something like this were to pass, it would get a lot of people curious and we’d go put our feet in the grass and say, ‘Is this really possible? ‘” Bald Eagle said. “It would be nice to be able to walk on our native lands without having to pay for it” to pick up medicine or do a ceremony.
Bordeaux said that even if his fee waivers don’t pass this legislative session, it’s important to start a conversation. “It will happen; it could take 10 or 15 years, but I believe these bills will eventually pass.
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