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ND's New Native American Lawmakers Lay Out Priorities

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Friday, January 6, 2023   

More than two dozen new members are serving in the North Dakota House as the legislative session takes shape, and two newly elected Native American representatives hope to make their mark.

The new members with Indigenous roots are Reps. Jayme Davis, D-Rolette, and Lisa Finley-Deville, D-Mandaree, who represents the Fort Berthold Reservation.

Davis, with ties to the Turtle Mountain and Standing Rock Tribes, said she's happy to have a fellow Native in the freshman class and added that one of her goals is to codify the Indian Child Welfare Act into North Dakota law. The federal policy requires states to protect Native children in out-of-home placement cases and is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Codifying that process in-state really enhances the state's commitment to protecting our Indian children here," she said.

Davis also is pushing for author Denise Lajimodiere, a fellow member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, to be named North Dakota's poet laureate. Finley-DeVille said she'll try to secure more voting centers on reservations. Both Democrats said they hope to work with the Republican majority so all legislators realize the needs of tribal nations across North Dakota.

Finley-DeVille said she's excited to serve as a voice for the Fort Berthold area, emphasizing the need for increased access to voting.

"We have six counties on Fort Berthold," she said, "so that is one of the important things is to see those polling areas open, so people don't have to travel [an] hour-and-a-half away to vote."

She said she'll call for more behavioral-health providers in tribal areas, noting there's a shortage in the communities she serves. And Finley-DeVille said child care is another top priority. That issue is expected to receive heavy focus this session, with lawmakers from many areas, as well as the governor, pledging to take action.


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