a message for ashamed South Dakotans

ashamed south dakotans

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m outspokenly one of many ashamed South Dakotans.

Yes, my entire life thus far has been spent here. This is where my family is. Beyond that? We might as well disown her.

Simply put, if your state only makes national news for perpetuating immense ignorance and stigmatization, there’s a problem. Many of them, actually.


South Dakotans who have the opportunity to and have any sense in their noggins, listen up because you have two options: start making action happen, or just leave.

I’ve personally decided on the latter, but something has to give. We see so many large-scale issues of inequality and social injustice, but we need to start small and local.

Staying informed and politically educated is one thing, but if you aren’t putting those words to action, then what’s the point? Let’s stop feeling like ashamed South Dakotans and do something about it.

hate toward LGBTQ.

The original problem we South Dakotans (and the rest of the country) saw was the transgender bathroom bill. Yes, that bill. It was South Dakota grown like the farm crops.

Luckily, our governor at the time vetoed the bill, but the fact that it made it through both the House and Senate? Disgusting. Just think: a majority of people with state political power aren’t ready to treat the transgender community with respect. Let alone children.

That bill was three years ago. But in this year’s legislative session alone, we saw four anti-LGBTQ bills. One might say South Dakota is a pioneer for gender and sexual discrimination, leading the charge for other states to consider anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation. 

The good news is that of the recent years’ sixteen discriminatory proposed bills, only one actually passed. This passing bill allows state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ youth in their care and LGBTQ prospective parents. I guess we ashamed South Dakotans can say, it could be worse…right?

lacking tribal relations.

The top three poorest counties in the country are in South Dakota. To be exact, these three counties are reservations.

Although South Dakota is as white as the six months of snowfall, the most prominent racial minority is the Native American population. We even replaced Columbus Day with Native American Day to recognize the Sioux tribes and their heritage. 

All of this is fine and dandy, but the shame comes from the lack of real support needed to actually survive. Ziebach County, home to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, has held one of the country’s highest poverty rates since 2004. The average life expectancy on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 66.81 years, the lowest in the United States. Add on the scary school dropout rates, number of people under the poverty line, and prevalence of chronic disease, and you’re asking for trouble.

Rather than helping the Oglala Sioux rise from the poverty, South Dakota decided to make things worse and build the Keystone XL pipeline right through their sacred lands. Not only will that cause mass havoc on our environment in general, but the “economic development” from the pipeline won’t doing much good for the Native Americans. Sure, the government could recognize the very likely contamination of Pine Ridge’s water supply. Instead, its shaming the Oglala Sioux for protesting and standing up for themselves. I can completely understand why our current governor Kristi Noem isn’t welcome to even visit Pine Ridge

backward progress on guns.

Ah, guns. Whenever I’m driving on north on the interstate toward Sioux Falls, I’m subject to seeing a particular fading billboard that says, “Eat steak, wear fur, shoot guns: the American way.” I wish I was kidding.

Starting this month, South Dakotans no longer need a permit to carry a concealed weapon. That sure makes the hunters and Second Amendment-fanatics happy, which turns out to be 84% of South Dakota voters. We could go back and forth all day on gun rights and control, but it still stands that our country by far has the most guns and most gun violence.

Does that make you feel safer? Because it shouldn’t. If we look solely at the forty-four police shootings in the state since 2001, every single one takes blame away from the officer. With the controversial Marsy’s Law, officers can ensure their names aren’t in the media, and for the few police departments that use body cameras, there’s no public access to the footage.

zero reproductive rights.

Beautiful people with uteruses, don’t even consider taking care of your body in South Dakota. In 2014, some 98% of South Dakota counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 77% of South Dakota women lived in those counties. That means that the people who likely need reproductive care the most are the ones with no access to it. 

At the single abortion clinic in the state, you cannot get an abortion if the egg was fertilized over twenty weeks ago. The providers at this clinic are restricted in both what they can and cannot say, essentially ensuring state politicians have the final word on your body. 

As of last year, anyone seeking an abortion must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage you from having an abortion, and then wait 72 hours before the procedure is provided, not including weekends or holidays. Plus, you’re pressured to see a sonogram and hear the heartbeat before the procedure, if you weren’t being shamed enough already.

in God we mistrust.

The latest news hitting the nation from our humble, shameful state: every public school must have “In God We Trust” displayed. Painted or stenciled or shown In big ol’ letters. It’s not like we have other problems to worry about, right? Might as well impede upon the separation of church and state for kicks. 

This new bill is said to uphold our faith traditions and promote patriotism in schools. I guess the education itself deserves less attention than this. And those who don’t believe in a Christian God are out of luck and might as well not be living in South Dakota. 

Might I add: the language of the law doesn’t provide funds for schools to follow through with the mandate, but it does guarantee financial and legal assistance to any school or district that faces lawsuits over the clear violation of church and state. Again, priorities.

so…we’re ashamed South Dakotans.

I’ve thrown a lot of reasons to be an ashamed South Dakotan. A lot to digest. If you’re from the state, all of this is common knowledge. We’re very aware of how close-minded and archaic we are. We end up feeling kind of hopeless. This state is going down the conservative-extremist gutter, and there’s not much we can do about it.

But…there has to be something. Despite all the garbage piled up, we South Dakotans have a responsibility to do better. If we see injustice in our local government, it’s about time we vote. As of 2010, the number of voters at the polls hasn’t changed in the past twenty years. 

It’s even sadder if we’re looking at the 2018 primary elections. Only twenty-six percent of registered voters in South Dakota did their civic duty. A solid fifty percent of registered Republicans voted, but a mere eighteen percent of Democrats did the same. 

please. do something.

So, really, the blame isn’t all on the politicians making these ignorant, harmful decisions: it’s us, too. We’re allowing it to happen, and then are quick to hop onto Facebook to complain. Unless you voted, you have no right to say anything. 

Please, especially with the 2020 elections looming….educate yourselves. We’re ashamed South Dakotans for a reason; sitting idly by isn’t going to help. Support the causes and people you believe in. And for heaven’s sake, vote. Let’s turn our shame into progress.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Author: Allie

A flower child passionate about faith, social justice, and love.

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