Oyate News - News For The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Community



Last updated 9/13/2021 at 8:46pm



Submitted by Myrna Thompson, Tribal Secretary

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Greetings to Executives, Tribal Council & the Oyate of the SWO.

We had 2,224 elders listed for the month of August. Tribal Council made a motion on August 3rd to allow the Elders the ability to choose where they would like to do their grocery shopping with their elderly food cards. Several have switched, effective with their September 2021 food coupon. We will continue to accept requests moving forward. The September 3rd deadline to change your food coupon was for the food coupon count for the month (the count changes monthly). Any change requests after September 3rd will be changed for October food coupon count.

There were 110 people that visited the TSO for various reasons for the month of August, not including Program Managers and/or Tribal Council. We logged in and responded to 162 phone calls; signed/approved 699 documents. There was one complaint received this month regarding the Truancy issue. There were 75 scheduled meetings with Tribal Executives, Council, Program Managers, and others, including the WebEx or Zoom meetings; and conference calls.

Because it is still an issue with students that ended up on probation, I want to mention the charges of Truancy against the students last school year during the pandemic. What can parents do to get the Probation taken off their children's records? Some are still on probation and these kids are good students. I think it's unfair that they were charged with truancy during the pandemic. And even though most of the students were issued Chromebooks for remote learning, there were unresolved issues of Internet service. Not every student had access to the internet right away, didn't have the hardware they needed to get on-line, teachers gave inaccurate scheduling, etc., it was a challenge all the way around, yet no leniency for the students and no accountability in the education system. When the Tiospa Zina Superintendent gave his report in March, there was discussion regarding the high number of truancies reported to the Tribal Court. There isn't a "hold harmless" policy even during the pandemic because they are mandatory reporters, is what I understood. An addendum to that policy could have been written because of the special circumstances; namely, the current ongoing Pandemic. The Superintendent stated the parents can contact the school to dispute the Truancy charge, and the school calls the Tribal Court to get it dismissed if it is determined to warrant that. But who exactly reached out to the parents to let them know this process of dispute? And how does that work if there is already a ruling by the court? Now that school is back in session, hopefully the average daily attendance percentage is good but what is going to happen and how will this be handled if we must close once again due to the Covid Delta Variant? Hopefully, the districts are getting monthly reports from their district representatives on the school boards for both TZ and ESDS. I said before that parental involvement is important to the success of the student; which is why I believe it is important that the school boards have criteria for sitting on those boards. For instance, the School Board members must either be a parent, custodial grandparent, foster/relative placement parent or adoptive parent of a student in the school. I believe school board members having that direct link to the school would bring more understanding to the needs of the students. I asked that the school staff, including the Superintendents, become familiar and aware of the "School to Prison Pipeline" information because charging kids with Truancy/CHINS, introduces innocent kids to the Court system. It's unnecessary if there is adequate intervention. I believe we need to avoid introducing them to the court system as much as possible and utilize intervention strategies.

The Executive Committee met and discussed concerns reported by Tribal Members incarcerated in the Roberts County Jail. We agreed to invite the Roberts County Commissioners and the Sheriff to our regular Tribal Council Meeting on September 7th, 2021, at 3:15pm. The Commissioners called my office and accepted our invitation.

The Executives & Tribal Council met with Mr. Randy Jordan, CEO of the Indian Health Service, WWKMHCC & Mr. Craig Cantos, CEO of Coteau des Prairie (CDP) on August 18th regarding the inadequate health care services and the treatment of our people at CDP when they present with medical issues. We discussed institutional racism in health care facilities and how it leads to inequities in health care services. The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate is a benefit to this community both economically and socially; and yet, there are disparities in our health care, was also shared. The CEO of Indian Health called for a workgroup to address our concerns; 3 from SWO; 3 from I.H.S. and, 3 from CDP. We have not scheduled our first meeting yet.

The Chairman designated me his proxy to attend a virtual meeting with the Great Plains Tribal Leader's Health Board on August 19th. Some of the key discussion is: 1) Inability of tribes to capture accurate data of who and how many of our tribal members were lost to Covid-19; and, 2) Inability for tribes to get the data of how many of our tribal members are vaccinated. The Service Units will not share this information unless and until we have a Public Health Authority. But it was stated that tribes are our own Public Health Authorities (PHAs) and have absolute rights to our information. However, the Area Privacy Coordinator stated Indian Health Service Headquarters has not authorized the disclosure of vax given data and that it will take a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request or a Public Health Authority submitted to get it. Elizabeth Fowler, Acting I.H.S. Director will address our concerns related to these barriers to access data. Another important piece of information related to Purchase & Referred Care (PRC) and patients getting bills and not being able to pay, then the bills going to a collection agency: The patient is never liable for payment if their hospital visit was a referral made and approved under PRC. So these bills should never end up in Collections, ultimately affecting a Credit Report. There are penalties against non-service providers who improperly bill patients and send to collections.

Our office received an invite from the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition/NDN Collective

Education Equity Campaign regarding proposed new set of Social Studies Standards which perpetuates

the erasure of Indigenous history, experience, and perspective. I had intended to participate in the,

"Oceti Sakowin March for Our Children" being held in Pierre, SD on September 13th in response to the

Social Standards being omitted from the education curriculum in South Dakota. However, our tribe will

be represented and I'm happy about that. It is so important.

I will be attending a City Council Meeting scheduled on September 13th at 7:15pm. Attendance at this meeting is to present our request for a permit to open the Warming House on November 1st. Chairman Hopkins and I will both attend.

I want to remind you all that the Tribal Secretary's Office is open daily, and staff are available to assist you, including during noon for those wanting to do business during their lunch break. But please continue to call the office ahead of time so, if needed, we can direct you to the appropriate office if we can't assist you and to prevent an unnecessary trip if it's something we can handle over the phone. If you would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to do so, call: 698-8323.

"Stay Positive; Test Negative; and, Wear a Mask!"


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