Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe embracing an opportunity for loved ones

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 6:20 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The end of the COVID-19 pandemic designations is a cause for reflection. For many communities, that includes looking back on what they’ve learned during the unique struggle and preparing their community for the future.

At the onset of the pandemic, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate leaders focused on keeping tribal members protected while ensuring all had the basic necessities to survive.

“There was a lot of uncertainty going on with COVID, right, and so any type of response that we can provide as a tribe was really valuable at that time,” said Tribal Chairman J. Garret Renville.

Renville also sees how COVID funding is now providing an opportunity for the future.

“Most tribes in America received American Rescue Plan dollars. And so our plan here is to deploy those resources in a way that is going to really expand upon and try to address the long-standing disparities within our community,” Renville explained.

Tribal Vice Chairwoman, Alexandria Fancher-Lincoln, joins many of the community discussions.

“Council and executives and tribal, other tribal leaders within our different districts within our seven districts that we have, they all took a part of it and then not only that, but also different program managers who are involved,” said Fancher-Lincoln.

A long list of improvements is coming into focus.

“There is a vast scope that we are faced with as tribal executives to try to address these concerns,” Renville said.

Tribal leaders are prioritizing the needs. The top of the list is keeping foster children closer to home.

“To start looking into our own tribal group home so that we’re able to keep our children in our own area and keep them culturally informed of their history,” said Fancher-Lincoln.

Building for the future includes projects in economic development, housing, assistance for elders, and many things in between.

Self-reliance is also a focus, with the tribe creating its own meat locker. Tribal secretary Curtis Bissonette believes all of the work will pay off.

”Exciting, too, because you actually get to really plan and really move on things that we can do as far as bettering our tribe,” said Bissonette.

Improvements are under review for the tribal-owned propane, H-VAC, and fuel company. Future revenue generators, such as marijuana and hemp, are also under consideration. A larger wellness center is also planned.

“Working together with them to make sure that we’re doing the very best we can as far as servicing our tribal members,” said Bissonette.

Jordyn Lablanc is encouraged by the plans to improve her community.

“There’s a lot that we can do with a new food pantry or even the greenhouse behind it, like, where we would basically be feeding ourselves,” said Lablanc.

She’s hopeful for her younger siblings, nieces, and nephews.

“To see new things being built, more job opportunities, it would make life a little easier,” said Lablanc.

Moving forward doesn’t mean having to lose the past.

“It’s important to involve our rich history that you see here within that plan because that’s what’s going to sustain us and future generations as we move forward,” Renville said.