USDA Announces Pilot Program to Increase Homeownership Opportunities on Native Lands Department is Partnering with Native Community Development Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a pilot program to increase homeownership opportunities on Tribal lands.

“To thrive, rural America needs a creative and forward-thinking partner in USDA,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is harnessing innovation so we can be a better, more effective partner to Tribal communities in building their futures.”

USDA is partnering with two Native Community Development Financial Institutions (NCDFIs) that have extensive experience working in Native American communities. The Department will loan $800,000 each to Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and to Four Bands Community Fund. The organizations will relend the money to eligible homebuyers for mortgages on South Dakota and some North Dakota Tribal trust lands. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and Four Bands Community Fund also will service the mortgage loans after they are made. USDA is providing the funding through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program.

Each NCDFI will contribute $200,000 for mortgages in the pilot program.

USDA has helped nearly 4 million rural residents purchase homes since passage of the Housing Act of 1949. However, homeownership rates on Tribal lands historically have been significantly lower than those for other communities.

Both NCDFIs have deep ties to the local communities and will be able to reach potential homebuyers more effectively than USDA and other lenders. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and creates homeownership opportunities for the members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Four Bands Community Fund, headquartered in Eagle Butte, S.D., provides financial products to businesses as well as home mortgages in South Dakota and North Dakota. Part of its service area includes the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

The pilot program will begin this summer. USDA Rural Development’s state office in Huron, S.D., will oversee the initiative.

In April 2017, The President established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

Andrea Lekberg “The Artist Baker” Special Exhibition

“Red in Nature” Acrylic, paint, and mixed media on canvas © 2018 Andrea Lekberg



RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA: The Sioux Indian Museum, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, will feature an exhibit of artwork by Andrea Lekberg. The exhibition will run from April 27 through July 9, 2018. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Andrea Lekberg, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is both a visual and culinary artist. She is currently working with large scale textiles, which are painted and adorned with various found materials. Additionally, she is the owner and pastry chef at a boutique bakery and café, The Artist Baker in Morristown, New Jersey. She holds a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and is a graduate of the Pastry Program at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.

Although raised in Illinois, Andrea spent her childhood summers near her family home in Martin, South Dakota. Inspiration for her current work comes from the landscapes around Martin, South Dakota. During her summer visits to the Pine Ridge Reservation she felt a deep connection to the land and people. The patterns, colors, and lines found in traditional Sioux artwork deeply influences her contemporary work.

To create the artwork for this exhibition, Andrea used hemmed canvases that were left unstretched so that they would lay flat; they resemble painted hides. A clear gesso is applied to the fabric and then acrylic paints complete the composition. Found natural materials collected near the family home in Martin, South Dakota, are eventually applied to the canvases.

The body of work in this exhibition revolves around Oglala artistic traditions and the local environment. Linen canvases are tied to represent spiritual strength and fringed to imply movement. They also represent Andrea’s cultural identity as a member of the Oglala Sioux, and the relevance of the Tribe in contemporary society.

Prices for the artwork can be obtained by contacting The Journey Museum Store at (605) 394-2201. To purchase artwork after the exhibit closes, please contact Andrea Lekberg via email at

The Sioux Indian Museum, managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, is located in The Journey Museum, 222 New York Street, Rapid City, SD 57701. For admission fees and hours of operation please call (605) 394-6923.


Status: Pending – Senate State Affairs Committee
Date of Last Action:  1/19/2018

State of South Dakota





Introduced by: Senators Nelson, Frerichs, Heinert, Jensen (Phil), Killer, Nesiba, Russell,

Sutton, and Tapio and Representatives May, Bordeaux, Brunner, Campbell,

DiSanto, Frye-Mueller, Goodwin, Gosch, Lesmeister, Livermont, Marty, and

Peterson (Sue)

1 A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION, Recognizing the tribal council of the Oglala Sioux Tribe

2 in its petition to the Legislature for redress of grievances pursuant to the First Amendment

3 of the United States Constitution and Article VI § 4 of the South Dakota Constitution.

4 WHEREAS, the constitution of the Oglala Sioux Tribe authorizes the tribal council to

5 negotiate with federal, state, and local governmental officials on behalf of the Oglala Sioux

6 Tribe; and

7 WHEREAS, the Oglala Sioux Tribe education committee has been delegated oversight of

8 tribal schools and the education of tribal youth; and

9 WHEREAS, the committee met on December 18, 2017, to take action to file a petition for

10 redress of grievances with the South Dakota State Senate and House of Representatives,

11 regarding the facilitation of the mismanagement and misappropriation of tens of millions of

12 dollars of grant funds intended for Native American youth in the GEAR UP Program, and other

13 federal grant programs, administered by the South Dakota Department of Education, by current

14 and former state officials; and

100 copies were printed on recycled paper by the South Dakota

Legislative Research Council at a cost of $.167 per page. v Insertions into existing statutes are indicated by underscores.

Deletions from existing statutes are indicated by overstrikes.

– 2 – SCR 5

1 WHEREAS, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Article VI § 4 of the

2 South Dakota Constitution, and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, guarantees South

3 Dakotans a right to petition state government for the redress of grievances; and

4 WHEREAS, on January 11, 2018, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council formally and officially

5 delivered their grievance resolution which was accepted by the State-Tribal Relations

6 Committee in the South Dakota Capitol; and

7 WHEREAS, the Oglala Sioux Tribe respectfully grieves that former South Dakota Secretary

8 of Education Melody Schopp, former South Dakota Secretary of Education Tom Oster, former

9 Secretary of Education Rick Melmer, former Meade County Superintendent Don Kirkegaard,

10 former Indian Education Director for South Dakota’s Department of Education Keith Moore,

11 Northern State Dean of Education Kelly Duncan, Department of Education Finance and

12 Management Director Tamara Darnall, and former GEAR UP Evaluator Brinda Kuhn allowed

13 or facilitated themselves to inappropriately financially benefit, at the expense of South Dakota

14 Native American youth, through unethical contracts, mismanagement, and misappropriation of

15 funds of the GEAR UP Program and other federal grants programs; and

16 WHEREAS, serious metrics or monitoring of factual measurable goals and objectives were

17 never implemented for the proper oversight of South Dakota’s GEAR UP Program; and

18 WHEREAS, explicit written warnings by former directors of Indian Education LuAnn

19 Werdell and Roger Campbell of mismanagement and misappropriations in the federal grants

20 administered by the South Dakota Department of Education, were effectively ignored and they

21 were retaliated against for their efforts; and

22 WHEREAS, the catastrophic human and financial costs associated with the unethical

23 conflicts of interests of numerous current and former state officials personally benefitting from

24 their improper financial grant programs, deprived South Dakota’s Native American youth and

– 3 – SCR 5

1 their communities of an estimated one hundred million dollars which will have lasting negative

2 effects on South Dakota Native American youth and their families for generations to come; and

3 WHEREAS, despite the statutory and moral obligation to do so, the Government Operations

4 and Audit Committee and the State-Tribal Relations Committee, refused to fully examine,

5 address, or correct these egregious violations of the public’s trust that were facilitated by state

6 officials for over a decade; and

7 WHEREAS, this dereliction of legislative oversight imparts a tacit message to those

8 responsible for the GEAR UP corruption, that effectively condones it, and assists in covering

9 up their unscrupulous behavior while reopening centuries old wounds caused by previous

10 unethical practices of government officials improperly benefitting at the expense of Native

11 Americans; and

12 WHEREAS, the South Dakota state government has experienced a serious loss of

13 confidence from South Dakotans across the state due to the GEAR UP corruption scandal and

14 has received failing grades from national groups concerning South Dakota state government’s

15 susceptibility to corruption, cronyism, and nepotism; and

16 WHEREAS, the State-Tribal Relations Committee is required by law via § 2-6-23 “ draw

17 upon public input from all those who may be concerned and knowledgeable about state-tribal

18 relations whether Indian or non-Indian, whether tribal members or nontribal members.” And

19 make legislative recommendations to facilitate its mission; and

20 WHEREAS, each member of the State-Tribal Relations Committee recommends addressing

21 the rightful grievances of the Oglala Sioux Tribe through their sponsorship of this resolution:

22 NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Senate of the Ninety-Third Legislature

23 of the State of South Dakota, the House of Representatives concurring therein, acknowledging

24 the receipt of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council’s respectfully submitted petition for the redress

– 4 – SCR 5

1 of legitimate grievances; and

2 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Legislature recommends indefinite suspension of

3 all state employment and involvement in state-administered grant programs by those current and

4 past state officials cited in this resolution, pending determination of their involvement and

5 complicity. Conclusive determination contingent upon the explicit exoneration by an

6 independent and thorough investigation into the mismanagement and misappropriations of grant

7 moneys intended for Native South Dakota youth from 2005 to 2017; and

8 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Legislature requests the United States Attorney

9 appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute, both civilly and criminally, all current

10 and former state officials who facilitated the mismanagement, misappropriation, or unethically

11 benefitted from federal grant moneys meant for Native American youth; and

12 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Legislature devise scholarships for eligible Native

13 American high school students to repay the estimated one hundred million dollars lost to past

14 Native American students. Funding for the scholarships to come from deductions from the

15 Department of Education’s budget for the next twelve years, and civil recoupments from those

16 responsible or negligent in the mismanagement of the affected grants.

The Sioux Indian Museum To Feature Artist Jim LaPointe In Special Exhibit


RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA – The Sioux Indian Museum, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, will feature an exhibit of artwork by Jimi La Pointe.  The exhibition will run from January 19 through April 13, 2018.  The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Mr. La Pointe is a freelance illustrator and comic artist.  He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Media Arts from The Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico.  An enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, he currently resides in Wolf Creek, South Dakota.

La Pointe’s illustrations are simple with a stylized nature meant to capture a broader idea.  He explores art through the media of coffee stained watercolor paper, watercolors, inks, and colored pencils, executed in a style befitting a contemporary graphic novel.  To create his unique works, the watercolor paper is washed with day old coffee, and thick grain sea salt is applied to give a splattered effect.  Then, the images are sketched onto the paper.  Various colors of India ink and watercolor paint are then used to colorize the image.

La Pointe’s artistic approach is well-suited to children’s book illustrations, vinyl stickers, or small prints, a professional merchandising move he looks forward to making alongside a transition to digital media.  He hopes this would ensure the traditional cultural aspect of Lakota storytelling is brought into new mediums.  Mr. La Pointe received the Aplan Award at the 2015 Red Cloud Indian Art Show as well as the Diederich Landscape Award at the 2017 Red Cloud Indian Art Show.  This exhibition will mark the first solo show of his work in a museum setting.

Prices for the artwork can be obtained by contacting The Journey Museum Store at (605) 394-2201.  To purchase artwork after the exhibit closes, please contact Jimi La Pointe via email at

The Sioux Indian Museum, managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, is located in The Journey Museum, 222 New York Street, Rapid City, SD 57701.  For admission fees and hours of operation please call (605) 394-6923.