The official launch of the South Dakota Native Tourism Alliance (SDNTA) and the 2020-2025 Native American Tourism Development and Management Plan for South Dakota took place on Thursday, August 26, 10 AM – 3 PM MT.
Representative Tamara St. John, a Republican member of the South Dakota House of Representatives representing District 1, served as the emcee for the event. Currently, St. John is the only Native American Republican in the South Dakota House of Representatives.
She introduced the chairmen and presidents of the nine tribal nations in the SDNTA. The tribal representatives then offered welcoming remarks and committed to participating in the collaborative effort. During their remarks, the leaders shared history, insight, and commentary on the current state of affairs in South Dakota among the Indigenous nations and how tourism can offer opportunities.
Chairman Peter Lengkeek of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe said, “Unfortunately, in this land of wonders and majesty, there is a people here who are known as America’s poorest and America’s most underdeveloped – a people who are deprived of economic prosperity and economic opportunity.
In the year 2019, South Dakota received $308 million in tax revenue from tourism. Tourists spent on average in 2019 $4.1 billion here in this state, which is a gross of 2.8% over the previous year. Tourism has grown exponentially in the last 10 years in the State of South Dakota.
So again, I want to thank everybody for coming together. Given this opportunity for change, this is an opportune time to organize and to develop. The reservations are full of intelligent hard-working people that just need that opportunity – people who are rich, unique and diverse in culture that predates all cultures here at this time.”
He continued, “But sadly, economic opportunity for Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota peoples are few and far between. All too often prosperity is out of reach. Where I’m from in Crow Creek, Crow Creek Sioux Reservation is one of the smallest reservations in South Dakota. We have an average unemployment rate of 83 to 87%. We also have an annual income per person of about $7300. Despite the negative picture, resiliency, perseverance and fortitude are the dominant attributes of my people. We are people who are highly adaptable, extremely resourceful, and very hard-working. All are catalysts to success.”
During the event, the SDNTA logo was unveiled by Karen Kern from South Dakota Missouri River Tourism. Kern pointed out that Adrienne Zimiga January designed the logo with input from SDNTA. “Participants agreed that the logo needed to visually reflect the unique beauty and culture of the South Dakota tribal homelands,” said Kern.
Kern then outlined the main elements that Zimiga January put into the logo. The lodge (the thipi) is the main focal point representing an invitation to tribal homelands, and the attractions and businesses within them.
The three circles at the top represent our Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations within the state. The buffalo represents the oyate and the people’s resilience throughout the centuries.
The floral part represents the hidden beauty within the tribal borders. The blue water element on the lodge represents the vitality of mni wiconi and how important it is to the life of the tribal communities.
The silhouette of the Black Hills spruce trees within the outline of the State of South Dakota and the grasslands, extending its borders, are indicative of the spaces native communities continue to hold dear in their hearts.
South Dakota senators and congressmen sent representatives to praise and acknowledge the work of SDNTA and offer their support for Native tourism in the state. In thanking George Washington University, all the speakers acknowledged that this was the start of Native Tribal tourism to serve as a catalyst for job creation, entrepreneurship, and cultural sovereignty.