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I came to Congress to solve real issues for South Dakotans. This office has awarded me the opportunity to meet and engage with constituents that perhaps I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to know. Every meeting that comes through my door is important, but I am particularly impressed with the purpose of South Dakota’s tribal members.

Since being sworn in on Jan. 3, I’ve had the privilege and honor of meeting with Rosebud Sioux President Rodney Bordeaux, Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner and Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier. Dozens of tribal program administrators, tribal educators and tribal citizens have also traveled to Washington to discuss education and health care shortfalls and opportunities. Meeting with tribal leaders almost daily leaves me with even more questions and the urge to research solutions. If one thing is clear, it’s this — I’ve got a lot to learn.

I’ve certainly never pretended to know everything. If anything, I’m eager to share where my knowledge falls short and how learning from others can help fill in those gaps. The relationships I’m building with Indian Country emphasizes the importance of jointly recognizing our complicated history. We must work together through our differences to make South Dakota, and our country, better for all people.

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Earlier this week, I was made aware that U.S. soldiers from the Wounded Knee Massacre received Congressional Medals of Honor. This is yet another dark stain on our nation’s past. The time has come for all of us to learn more about what happened, come to grips with that truth and get a better sense of what should have happened in the aftermath and what should be done going forward.

Despite the tragedies of our past, tribal members are resilient and determined. They are not interested in the dependency the federal government tends to give. Instead, they want an opportunity to build the capacity needed to create jobs and prosperity. Infrastructure is a primary concern, which is all too common throughout South Dakota. Economies can only grow and develop if our communities, both on and off tribal lands, have reliable roads, bridges and telecommunications systems. We can do better.

As one of 435 members of Congress, I know I can’t fix everything. Here’s what I do know — I’ll continue to build a meaningful and productive relationship with tribal members and tribal leadership throughout South Dakota.

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Rep. Dusty Johnson is a Republican who represents South Dakota in the U.S. House.

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