WASHINGTON – Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe are railing back against a negative press account involving a proposed airport in their region to be built with the help of federal stimulus funding.
Much of the concern stems from a recent editorial, published May 19 in the Madison Daily Leader by publisher, Jon M. Hunter, with the headline, “Does a new airport at Rosebud help with economic recovery?”
The opinion piece begins by saying, “We were taken aback by two press releases Tuesday morning, when Sen. Tim Johnson and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin separately announced $4.1 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would be used to build a new airport for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.”
Hunter goes on to question “the value of building a new airport on the Rosebud reservation.” His main argument is that the tribe lies in “an area that is considered among the poorest parts of the country, where alcoholism and poverty are pervasive, education is substandard and healthcare quality is questioned.”
He further states that “Serious barriers like jurisdictional authority, workforce training and contract enforcement are reasons why economic development doesn’t work on reservations.”
In response to Hunter’s critique, Rosebud Chairman Rodney Bordeaux issued a press release indicating that Hunter’s statements are “stereotypical, racist, and the kind of polemic that demonstrate the ignorant and uneducated attitudes and animosity against Native Americans that live in South Dakota.”
Bordeaux further said he challenges Hunter to learn the facts before publishing “knee-jerk reactions” based on misconceptions, racism and stereotypical assumptions.
The tribal leader added that some members of the tribe are so angry about Hunter’s comments that they have suggested pursuing legal remedies in court.
Many tribal members have said that a new airport in the region would directly improve health care on the reservation.
Bordeaux said that such a facility would permit the transportation of emergency status patients directly from Rosebud to larger hospitals in the region where there are trauma centers, burn treatment centers, and emergency surgery bays.
He said that the current airport servicing the tribe, located about 15 miles from Rosebud, is not sufficient to meet the tribe’s needs.
The tribal leader noted, too, that a fully functioning airport not only provides emergency medical transportation, but can aid economic development in the areas of tourism, hunting and fishing, and other tribal economic development projects.
Bordeaux estimated that approximately 150 jobs will be created through the project.
Political leaders beyond the tribe have also rallied for the airport.
In his press release announcing the $4.1 million in stimulus support for the airport, Johnson said the development was a “significant step forward not only for the tribe, but for communities across Indian country.”
Johnson noted that resources from the $787 billion stimulus package, signed into law by President Barack Obama in February, are helping local communities across Indian country.
In South Dakota alone, $100 million has already been designated for reservations to apply toward road maintenance, school construction and repairs at detention centers. Funding has also already been distributed to cities and towns to continue justice programs that assist tribal members.
As of press time, Hunter has not apologized for his editorial, nor clarified his positions.