Sioux Falls Police Officer Kasey Lanning drives around downtown Sioux Falls on Nov. 30, 2023 (Makenzie Huber, South Dakota Searchlight)

‘Hope for the best’: Experience down, turnover up in SD law enforcement

BY: - December 8, 2023

The Corson County Sheriff’s Office in north-central South Dakota is constantly cycling through open positions. The five-man agency has about two open spots a year and struggled to get applications for the latest position, said Sheriff Alan Dale. In years prior, he’d get about a dozen applicants for one position and fill it quickly. The […]

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Peter Lengkeek, left, and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Clyde Estes, right, with U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, in November 2023. (Courtesy of Rep. Johnson's office)

Johnson requests field hearings on tribal law enforcement

BY: - December 4, 2023

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, is asking a congressional subcommittee to conduct field hearings about the lack of adequate law enforcement on Native American reservations. Johnson made the request Monday in a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. “As I speak with leaders from South Dakota’s nine tribes, it […]

The G. Norton Jameson Annex at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Defense lawyers decry wait times, pat-down searches at penitentiary

BY: - December 3, 2023

Defense attorneys in South Dakota’s most populous county are at odds with the state Department of Corrections over problems with client access they say raise civil rights questions and cost taxpayers money. An advisory group for public defenders in Minnehaha County discussed the problem during a Tuesday meeting with County Commissioner Joe Kippley, the commission’s […]

(Getty Images)

Quiet scanners add another layer of opaqueness to law enforcement

BY: - November 19, 2023

Police are called on to “protect and serve.” In South Dakota that’s what they do, but they do it on their own terms. Too often those terms lack transparency. This became apparent again recently with the announcement that on Nov. 13, privately owned police scanners in the state’s two largest counties would go quiet as […]

The Sioux Falls Law Enforcement Center. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Migrant officers flock to South Dakota police departments

BY: - November 18, 2023

Hours before the sun rose over Champaign, Illinois, on the morning of May 19, 2021, Champaign Police Officer Chris Oberheim and his partner were called to the scene of a domestic disturbance. Darion Lafayette was there to meet them and exchanged fire with both officers, killing Oberheim. Lafayette was also killed. Within a day, the […]

A student walks home from the Pine Ridge High School through the skate park in Pine Ridge on Aug. 28, 2023. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

A story told in data: Overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the SD foster care system

BY: - November 17, 2023

Native American children are overrepresented in South Dakota’s child welfare system — accounting for nearly 74% of foster children in the state at the end of fiscal year 2023, despite making up 13% of the state’s child population. That means Indigenous children have a 22% chance of being removed from their families and placed in […]

South Dakota Searchlight reporter Makenzie Huber and Argus Leader reporter Annie Todd interview Gov. Kristi Noem, Department of Tribal Relations Secretary David Flute and Department of Social Services Secretary Matt Althoff at the Governor’s Office in the South Dakota State Capitol on Sept. 26, 2023. (Samantha Laurey/Argus Leader)

How the Argus Leader and South Dakota Searchlight reported The Lost Children series

BY: and - November 17, 2023

Children can quickly lose interest in you when you’re helping them stack blocks, but also when you’re speaking with their grandmother about why she’s caring for them. They fall asleep in her arms as you witness her choke up, flashing back to when she and her younger brothers were split as young siblings at a […]

A tipi at the South Dakota Urban Indian Health summer culture camp in Sisseton. (Courtesy of SDUIH)

What’s being done to address the high number of Native children in foster care in SD

BY: and - November 17, 2023

South Dakota government officials, tribal leaders, tribal child welfare coordinators, foster families and legislators agree: The overrepresentation of Native American children in the foster care system is a problem. Indigenous children made up nearly 74% of foster children in the state by mid-2023 — five times the actual representation of Native American children in South […]

State Auditor Rich Sattgast speaks during a rally featuring former President Donald Trump on Sept. 8, 2023, at The Monument in Rapid City. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

State auditor says legislative factions are spreading conflict-of-interest allegations

BY: - November 14, 2023

The state auditor said Tuesday he has fielded claims that numerous legislators are violating state constitutional provisions regarding conflicts of interest.  “I haven’t been given any names, but I’ve been alerted that there are possibly 20 legislators out of the 105 that would probably have some sort of conflict,” said Auditor Rich Sattgast, who shared […]

Juanita Scherich, ICWA supervisor for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, responds to emails in her office in Pine Ridge on Aug. 23, 2023. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Staffing and funding problems leave tribal child welfare offices scrambling

BY: and - November 14, 2023

Christian Blackbird isn’t sure how many children fell through the cracks. He’d been at the Crow Creek Indian Child Welfare Act Office for more than a year with a staff of two under his management. But before he started in January 2022, the director’s chair he now sits in was vacant on and off for […]

The Department of Justice in Washington D.C. (Getty Images)

Hotel will apologize to Native Americans as part of Justice Department agreement

BY: - November 13, 2023

A woman will step away at least temporarily from the operations of a Rapid City hotel and bar to resolve allegations of discrimination against Native Americans, and the business will also issue a public apology, according the U.S. Department of Justice. The department announced over the weekend that it entered into a consent decree with […]

Jewel Bruner tears up while holding her sleeping grandson Gabriel in her Eagle Butte home on Sept. 20, 2023. (Samantha Laurey/Argus Leader)

Foster families get paid, but not ‘kinship’ relatives caring for Native children

BY: and - November 12, 2023

Eighteen-month-old Gabriel slowly fell asleep in his grandmother’s arms at the dinner table. It was mid-morning, and his two siblings were playing quietly with their uncle downstairs. Gabriel didn’t need his crib, or a security blanket or sound machine lulling him to sleep. He just needed his grandmother’s arms — a safe space. His home. […]