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Elders lost in pandemic honored during State of the Tribes
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Coronavirus is one of the foremost issues facing South Dakota’s reservations in 2022, state Rep. Tamara St. John, R-Dist. 1, said. St. John is an archivist for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and resident of Sisseton, the largest city on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation.

“I think COVID looks a little bit different on the reservation than it probably does in other parts of the world,” St. John said. “It seems to hit us more. And the tribes have a different perspective on how to protect themselves. They have their own different mandates and things like that. Wanting to be sure that we have the right resources to protect the communities, that’s always been like an overarching conversation, I think, within the tribes right now.”

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal Chairman Delbert Hopkins, Jr. opened his State of the Tribes address on Thursday with a moment of silence to honor and remember those who died from COVID-19, including elders in his tribe and others who died from the virus.

Hopkins also called on the South Dakota Legislature for their cooperation in preserving and furthering the culture of South Dakota’s Native American tribes during his address.

In it, Hopkins called on the Legislature to take action to support education — including Native American education in South Dakotan public schools — jobs, public safety and more to improve life on South Dakota’s nine reservations.

Among other policies, such as green energy, food sovereignty and support in the fight against drug trafficking on reservations, Hopkins called for support of the federal child tax credit.

“To give our children the best start in life, Native nations need best quality childcare so that parents can work and children can be nurtured,” Hopkins said.

Childcare and the quantity and quality of schools is vital to Hopkins’ reservation, where he said 400 children need a new school. He added that the tribe’s population has tripled to quadrupled in the past 50 years and will double again in the next two decades.

Hopkins also said plainly that South Dakota’s Native nations need jobs and noted that many of the poorest counties in the United States are within South Dakota reservation boundaries.

“So as you work with us to promote understanding for our Lakota language and culture, tourism will bring new jobs and also new opportunity for all of our people,” Hopkins said.

In his closing statement, Hopkins said the sovereign Native nations and the state “can accomplish great things by honoring our neighbors with mutual respect and understanding.”

State Rep. Peri Pourier, D-Dist. 27, and chair of the Oceti Sakowin Caucus, applauded Hopkins’ address in a Thursday press release.

“Maintaining good relations with the Tribal Nations within South Dakota requires hard work and presence,” Pourier said. “Showing up to South Dakota’s own State of the Tribe’s Address would have been an essential part of repairing tribal relations for Governor Noem. It was duly noted Noem and her staff members were not present at all. We hope the work of the legislature will be able to bridge the gap.”

State Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Dist. 26A, said working with the state government is crucial to South Dakota’s tribes given the resources that have been made available to both the state and the tribes through Washington.

“We should have everybody doing their best to all come together for strategic planning for priorities’ sake, start laying down what it is that is best for all these nine reservations and these urban centers that also have Native American population in them,” Bordeaux said.

Bordeaux said he is looking to other states, including Minnesota, for ideas for bills to bring forward in the 2022 legislative session.

“For example, Minnesota last year had a law where they were recognizing treaty boundaries,” Bordeaux said. “So as you’re driving across South Dakota, it wouldn’t hurt to say ‘You are now entering 1868 treaty territory of the Lakota people.’ That’s an educational thing in and of itself.”

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Rawlins director readies for March retirement
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After heading the Rawlins Municipal Library for more than eight years and through a pandemic, Director Robin Schrupp is preparing to retire at the end of March.

The Rawlins Municipal Library Board hired Schrupp in August 2013 after spending nearly three decades with the Grant County Public Library in Milbank.

“We just thought this was a good change for us,” Schrupp said of her and her husband’s move from Milbank to Pierre. “Capital city, pretty impressive.”

Schrupp has an almost encyclopedic memory for the improvements that Rawlins has undergone in her time as director, both physical — such as the shade the protects the checkout desk from the sun — to those made on the shelves.

“We’ve done a lot of new programming for all age groups,” Schrupp said. “I think probably the renovation of the library was a huge accomplishment.”

The Missouri River Flood in 2011 put the library’s renovation was put on hold but got back on track soon after Schrupp took the director’s chair in September 2013.

What she’ll miss most, she said, is the camaraderie she was able to develop with library staff and patrons over the years.

“It’s a fun job to be able to provide things for people that they need for not just enjoyment but for research and education,” Schrupp said. “And the kids coming in for story time and everything, Ginny (Kaus) does a fabulous job with that. But it’s a community place and it’s kind of fun to be in charge of that.”

Schrupp started as a teacher in Minnesota before moving to South Dakota for her husband’s job. She started out part-time typing catalog cards. She moved up to working weekends and evenings to children’s librarian before the Grant County library director told her she wanted Schrupp to take over as director, prompting Schrupp to take library courses at Northern State University.

“She taught me everything she knew, so I got that job over there and I loved it,” Schrupp said about the Grant County library director. “It’s a fun job and it’s rewarding and it’s been a good time.”

As Schrupp prepares to retire, she hopes people realize just how important libraries are to communities.

“Sometimes when people move into a community, the first thing they check out is the school system and the library system,” Schrupp said. “And we want to provide the best library, especially being in the capital city, the best public library possible. And my staff is absolutely fabulous and they are so helpful to people and I want people to realize the importance of libraries and I hope that we accomplished that.”

In retirement, Schrupp and her husband hope to see their grandchildren more — geographically, she described them as “spread out.”

“We’d just like to do more family things,” Schrupp said.

Library Board Chair Amy Weller said Schrupp’s passion for libraries has helped her and her staff to keep Rawlins moving in a positive direction throughout her leadership.

“She’s been a great leader for the library when it came to all of our board activity,” Weller said.

Pierre Mayor Steve Harding echoed that, noting Schrupp’s 2014 Librarian of the Year Award given to her by the South Dakota Library Association.

“That’s really quite an honor for her to get,” Harding said. “And then since that time she’s just brought a lot of new energy to the library. You know, with social media nowadays, a lot of people think libraries don’t have a role anymore or not as big a role, and Robin’s really proven that to be wrong.”

Schrupp thanked the people of Pierre for their support of Rawlins and complimented the community for their hospitality.

“People in this community, they’re friendly, they’re very giving, this is just a really nice community to be in and it’s been a pleasure to serve them,” Schrupp said.

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Habitat stamp program brings nearby improvements

The habitat stamp program funded the recently completed Woodruff Dam repair during the summer as one public land and water project in the state, and now discussions are in play for more projects in Hughes and Stanley counties.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department requires a habitat stamp as part of a hunting, fishing or furbearer license application. The July 2020 program charges a $10 fee to residents and a $25 fee to non-residents.

Habitat stamps from hunting and furbearer license sales fund wildlife habitat developments and public access improvements on public lands. The projects include creating nesting and brood-rearing cover, tree and shrub plantings, food plots and hunting access trails. Funding can also get public hunting access to private lands.

Habitat stamps from fishing license sales fund aquatic habitat projects on public waters and projects that create or enhance public access to those waters. The program also provides funding for dam maintenance — including repairs and replacements for aging structures — and adding or improving boat docks, roads and vault toilets.

But the program’s funding doesn’t permit purchasing properties.

Woodruff Dam

The Woodruff Dam, 34 miles northeast of Pierre near Harrold, is part of the Woodruff State Game area managed by Game, Fish and Parks.

Game, Fish and Parks senior biologist for aquatic habitat and access Jason Jungwirth said the Woodruff Dam and spillway work came about from damage during the 2019 floods. The dam was a Works Progress Administration dam built initially in the 1930s. Water breached the dam in 1997.

Game, Fish and Parks cleaned the area in 1999 and added the current weir structure in 2010. A weir is a low-lying barrier similar to a dam but only slows down or manipulates the water flow. A weir’s purpose is to alter a river’s or creek’s flow and measure flow rates.

“The flooding event in 2019 had such high flows that it displaced a bunch of the riprap material below the spillway area,” Jungwirth said. “This project was to bring the riprap back to the way it was built. It was also to armor the downstream outside bend just below the spillway, which had significant erosion take place. This added armoring will further protect the structure during future events. Then there was some maintenance work that was done on the lake side of the structure.”

More local projects

Game, Fish and Parks habitat program administrator Paul Coughlin said that the potential list for habitat stamp projects is increasing.

“Our folks are always developing a list for what these monies can go to,” he said. “We are doing a lot of planning.”

One item on that list could concern Downs Marina in Pierre, but Jungwirth said there isn’t anything to show since the project was a joint effort between Game, Fish and Parks and the City of Pierre. He said they hired a firm to give them ideas on what could improve fishing access as well as park amenities in the area.

“The design options have been done,” Jungwirth said. “It is now in further discussion and planning stages. No timelines are in the works for any construction, as a lot of further discussions need to take place.”

According to its website, Downs Marina, next to Griffin Park in Pierre, has about 90 boat slips, four launching ramps, camping spots nearby and a fish cleaning station. The fish cleaning station is winterized in the fall but opens when weather permits.

Jungwirth also noted other discussed ideas for local habitat stamp projects.

The Fort George and South Dakota Highway 34 access area about 20 miles downriver from Fort Pierre is a large project in the works, looking to improve fishing in the area. Game, Fish and Parks is already planning the project and hopes to begin some work this summer, pending plans and clearance approvals.

The department also began plans to develop an area along the causeway at Farm Island to improve access for winter ice angling and summer canoe and kayak use.

Game, Fish and Parks wants to consider shore fishing improvement opportunities in the DeGrey access area about 23 miles downriver from Pierre as well.

Jungwirth said that some improvement could be possible at the Medicine Knoll Dam, a few miles southwest of Blunt.

“Plans are being developed to look at ways to improve the new dam that was constructed a number of years ago,” he said. “The drainage is not keeping the dam full, so looking at the possibility of developing a water source/well to use to keep the dam full as well as watering for rotational grazing of the GPA.”

One more project on the way is relatively close to Pierre and Fort Pierre sports enthusiasts.

“This next project is outside of the county area, but everybody in the area knows of the ponds on the Fort Pierre National Grasslands,” Jungwirth said in an email. “We have partnered with the FPNG to rebuild Lower Booth Dam that is located in Jones County, which is down in the southwest corner of the grasslands. The plan and clearances are being finished up, with construction being planned for this summer.”

COVID-19 by the Numbers
  • Updated

The South Dakota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard is updated daily Monday through Friday around noon and includes cases reported by 1 p.m. the previous day. The Health Department resumed daily reporting on Aug. 12.

Numbers reported as of Friday at 1 p.m.

58 (+2 Jan. 8) Deaths among COVID-19 cases in Hughes County.

296 (+90 from Jan. 8) Active COVID-19 cases in Hughes County.

5 (+2 from Jan. 8) Deaths among COVID-19 cases in Stanley County.

52 (+20 from Jan. 8) Active COVID-19 cases in Stanley County.

26,835 (+10,908 from Jan. 8) Active statewide COVID-19 cases.

2,559 (+37 from Jan. 8)

Statewide deaths among people with COVID-19.

2,234 (+25 from Jan. 8)

Deaths DOH attributes to COVID-19, updated weekly on Mondays.

349 (+48 from Jan. 8)

People “currently” hospitalized statewide for COVID-19. The number reflects the amount at the time of the update.

68.68% (0.50% increase* from Jan. 8) State population with at least one vaccination dose.

28.48% (1.05% increase* from Jan. 8) State population administered a booster dose.

56.35% (0.29% increase* from Jan. 8) State population considered fully vaccinated.

*The Health Department’s accounting for third and booster doses in the data dashboard beginning on Oct. 14, as well as conducting “updated/data clean-up efforts” to federal vaccination data and additional state residency information resulted in a vaccination “Series Completed” decrease from prior reporting.