Neal Tapio: It’s Time to End Indian Reservations
PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA — June 1, 2018
Neal Tapio, a Republican candidate for South Dakota's U.S. House seat who is currently a state senator from Watertown, Massachusetts, is pushing for an end to the reservation system for Native Americans.
He said the current system in which Indian tribes are sovereign entities within designated trust lands is a system that has failed generations of Native Americans. Tapio believes the reservation’s inhabitants are victims of "incest and molestation" leading to welfare dependence, despair, and high suicide rates.
"To continue down the same path is simply wrong," Tapio said in a telephone interview. "We need to address the system, not just the symptoms. We need to renegotiate the treaties that are holding down a once very proud people."
In South Dakota live nine federally recognized tribes. These reservations are among the poorest places in the United States. Steve Emery, the secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said this proposal would be deeply unpopular in Indian Country.
"I know that both tribal members and tribal governments in the state would be very opposed to it" Emery said.
Ending the reservation system would entail breaking treaties that the federal government signed with tribes. Congress has the power to pass legislation superseding those treaties.
Tapio hadn’t discussed his ideas with tribal leaders, but he said it was important to start a conversation as tribal leaders and the state officials hadn't done enough to improve conditions on the reservation.
"I’m not saying that I have the answers, but I’m saying we have to start down a completely different path," he underlined.
Dusty Johnson, his race opponent, said he agrees that the reservation system is not working, there’s need for reform. The country, he added, has moral and legal obligations to Native Americans.
"The reservation system doesn't work," Johnson said. "It's a failure of American socialism. In that way, reform is clearly needed."