An unprecedented number of Native American women are running for office in the Rapid City municipal election in June.
Saying that the city council ought to better reflect the people it represents, four of them officially announced their candidacy Thursday in front of the city administration in downtown Rapid City.
"I am running because I think everyone deserves a voice at the table," said Cante Heart, who is running for a council seat in Ward 5.
With Rosebud Sioux member Lance Lehmann running in Ward 4, Native Americans are represented in the five city elections and the mayor's race.
Natalie Stites Means, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, is challenging two-term Mayor Steve Allender. The winner will be the first mayor to serve a four-year term.
Stites Means identified access to social assistance and criminal justice as two of the issues important to her. She said that the city council's recent adoption of an ordinance penalizing panhandling was what drove her to file for candidacy several days ago.
The council, she said, failed to recognize that the ordinance unfairly targeted Native Americans.
"I thought that was really paternalistic and really reflected a lack of sophistication on their part in terms of understanding what cultural differences are, what diversity is and what racism is," she said.
One of the two three-year seats in each of the city's five wards are up for grabs on June 4 as well.
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Stephanie Savoy, a Rural America Initiatives employee and member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, will be running for the seat in Ward 3 to replace incumbent Jason Salamun, who is not seeking re-election. Jeff Bailie, Brittany Richman and Gregory Strommen also are running to represent Ward 3.
Two of the five Native American women running are the sole challengers of two council incumbents seeking re-election.
In Ward 1, Terra Houska is running against Lisa Modrick, who was first elected to the council in 2016. Heart, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is running against Darla Drew, first elected in 2014, in Ward 5.
Ramona Herrington, of the Oglala Sioux, is facing off against Bill Evans in Ward 2 to replace Steve Laurenti, who also is not seeking re-election.
In Ward 4, council President Amanda Scott, who has served on the council since 2012 and chairs several committees, is being challenged by Lehmann and Tim Johnson.
Councilmembers Becky Drury, Ritchie Nordstrom, Chad Lewis, John Roberts and Laura Armstrong each have one year remaining in their terms.
The candidates said Thursday that while minority representation in city hall is important, the issues they see do not only affect Native Americans.
"We are prepared and I am prepared as a candidate to address the needs of all," Stites Means said. "I am not interested in being the mayor of Native American Rapid City. I am interested in being the mayor of this city."