RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) – Leaders across many South Dakota Native American Reservations came together to voice support for Constitutional Amendment D in Rapid City Wednesday afternoon. 

The Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board, which serves health and wellness needs for tribal members in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, hosted a news conference to support Medicaid expansion.

Leaders from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and Yankton Sioux Tribe spoke about supporting Amendment D and getting the Native American vote out for the November general election.  You can see the news conference discussion on Facebook.

“We are urging all tribal members and all South Dakotans to support,” Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Peter Lengkeek said in an opening statement. 

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Clyde Estes said while the state is bragging about a budget surplus it should look at using money to expand Medicaid to make sure people receive health care coverage.

When asked about the lack of Native Americans turning out to vote for elections, Estes said he knows some people with his tribe who don’t vote because they feel their vote doesn’t count and that their voice isn’t heard. 

“We as tribal leaders sometimes feel our voices aren’t heard at the state and federal level so you can imagine how the average tribal member feels,” Estes said. “Your voice does matter and your vote does matter.” 

Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer said Medicaid expansion will bring more jobs and resources to South Dakota. He said when many of the South Dakota tribes gather, it shows how much they care about this for their communities. 

“The federal government is going to cover 90% the first two years and 95% after that,” Killer said. “It’s going to pay for itself.” 

South Dakota is one of just 12 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid, which focuses on providing health care for low-income individuals and families. 

The South Dakota Legislative Research Council has said expanding Medicaid in South Dakota would help 42,500 South Dakotans who would qualify in the first year.