Twelve delegates from Estonia and Latvia attended the October 4th Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce Cultural Diversity Committee meeting at the South Dakota School of Mines Surbeck Center. Eric Yellowboy, a Rapid City resident and Oglala Lakota, originally from Red Shirt Table, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, opened the meeting with a warm welcome to the honored guests and an introduction of each attendee.
Those present from the United States included:
Small Business Administration representative and former Mayor of Rapid City, Jim Shaw
SDSM&T International Student Advisor, Suzie Aadland
Rapid City Chamber of Commerce liason
Dacotah Territory International Visitor Program representative, Mike Richardson
State Department representatives from San Franscisco
American Indian Science and Engineering Society student members
Native Legacy Magazine Writer, Abena Songbird
Native Legacy Magazine Accounts Executive, Eric Yellowboy
echoflam.com Reporter/Writer, Aliyah Sanders
South Dakota National Guard representative
Guests from Estonia included:
Hamburg & Partnerid, communications consultant, Jekaterina Eilart
Kohtla-Jarve Vice Mayor, Niina Aleksejeva
Integration and Migration Foundation, Lifelong Learning Unit Head, Eduard Odinets
Postimees newspaper reporter, Tallinn, Estonia, Ksenia Repson
Estonian Ministry of Culture, Undersecretary, Anne-Ly Reimaa
Estonian Minisrty of the Interior, Migration and Border Policy Department head, Ruth Annus
Guests from Latvia included:
Latvian Center for Human Rights representative, Boriss Kolcanovs
Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Latvia, Deputy State Secretary, Inga Skujina
Ministry of Education and Science, Unit of General Education, Senior Desk Officer, Olita Arkle
Latvian Council of Jewish Communities, Executive Director, Gita Umanovska
Latvian Television, news department, Journalist, Miroslavs Kodis
Mozaika, alliance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals,transgendered persons and their partners, Kaspars Zalitis
The representatives from Estonia and Latvia were on a fact finding mission throughout the United States, having already traveled to San Fransisco and continuing on to Arkansas to learn more about minority issues. The focus of the mission is to document civil rights issues and potentially identify problem solving techniques that have been, or could be used to alleviate poverty, human rights problems and educational concerns. The round table discussion centered around these issues.
When Boriss Kolcanovs asked the question, “What is the niche for Native Americans to make money where poverty is a concern?” locals offered not only that buffalo products and Lakota artwork are being marketed and sold on the regional and national levels but also that small businesses are being developed, such as the Tanka Bar company. It was also suggested by a local journalist that agricultural products are far from developed in the region and that plants, native to western South Dakota, are plentiful and easy enough to replenish that large scale sustainable botanically based business, other than corn, sunflower seeds and pine lumber could be developed.
It was also mentioned that wind energy was being utilized but that it could be used more. Issues of poverty in both Lakota and other, non-indigenous rural communities could potentially be alleviated by these and other types of renewable industries. Similar problems exist in Latvia and Estonia which could benefit from some of the suggestions made at this meeting. Jim Shaw pointed out that poverty is directly linked to issues involving human rights.
When Olita Arkle asked what was being done in education to address civil rights, Susie Aadland mentioned some of the international events at SDSM&T designed to promote diversity awareness. Aadland also mentioned that SANI-T, the Society for the Advancement of Native Interests, Today, is involved in diversity issues throughout the community and within local and regional institutions.
The effort of these delegates is to ensure that a strong foundation is built for development of human rights infrastructure within the nations of Latvia and Estonia. One of the US State Department representatives commented that funding for this type of effort is presently available under the Obama Administration and State department leadership of Hillary Clinton but is in danger of being cut if future administrations fail to see the value of such programs.
It is extremely important that we uphold values of peacetime diplomacy, preservation of diversity, sustainability of resources and the rights of all people, regardless of nationality, creed color, gender or sexual orientation. It is refreshing that other nations would come to the United States to discuss these values openly and seek ways to alleviate poverty and human suffering. Together we can accomplish many positive goals.