PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state Indian Education Council received a presentation Wednesday afternoon about a proposal taking shape regarding Native American students at South Dakota’s public and private universities and technical colleges.

The goal is to form an official advisory group that would suggest ideas to the state Board of Regents, whose members govern South Dakota’s six public universities, and to report on Native American and Indigenous students’ success.

Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head spoke to the state council, which provides advice on K-12 education for Native American students. Wounded Head is a SDSU Extension family resource management field specialist, focusing on financial matters, at the Sioux Falls regional center.

Members of the informal higher-ed group are currently checking with leadership at various universities and tech colleges to gauge support before taking the next step of approaching the regents. There isn’t a request for funding.

Wounded-Head said she would attend the state council’s next meeting in Huron on November 15 to provide further information and answer questions. The annual Indian Education Summit is in Huron on November 16-17, followed by Youth Day on November 18.

Sherry Johnson, education director for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, said she was “very supportive” of having a Native American voice addressing the regents but wants to see the written plan.

Wounded Head said the hope among the group at this point is to speak to the regents at their March 2024 meeting.

“We feel it’s important for there to be approval at each institution and collective approval before we move forward,” she said.

PAST DUE: The Legislature created the Obligation Recovery Center in 2015 at the suggestion of then-Governor Dennis Daugaard. Seven years later, it’s returned more than $22 million owed to state government agencies.

Rachel Williams, finance director for the state executive management agencies, presented the center’s annual report earlier this month to the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee. Among the highlights:

Fiscal 2023 saw the second-highest amount returned to all state agencies during the seven years. The $3,664,051 trailed only $3,819,749 in fiscal 2021.

South Dakota’s state courts system has received the largest amount each year, with more than $1.5 million returned for 2023 and more than $9.9 million returned in total.

The courts also have the largest amount outstanding, with $84,100,491 still owed on 134,391 accounts. Next is the state Department of Revenue, with $18,141,985 owed on 2,123 accounts.

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HELP WANTED: The state Bureau of Human Resources and Administration is considering possible next steps after Andy Gerlach was reportedly let go from the post of deputy commissioner. He was a long-time employee of state government, including time as the cabinet secretary overseeing the state Department of Revenue during the Daugaard administration.

“Mr. Gerlach is no longer an employee with the State of South Dakota. As policy, we do not offer comments on personnel matters. Options are being reviewed regarding filling the vacancy,” bureau spokesman Jesse Merkel said.

Have a news item or story tip about South Dakota state government and politics? You can reach KELOLAND News reporter Bob Mercer in the Pierre bureau at bmercer@keloland.com or by calling 605-280-7580 or through a direct-message on X (formerly Twitter) to @pierremercer.