There is a famous saying in American politics that “all politics are local.”
The phrase is both a declaration, and a warning. The moment representatives lose touch with their constituents, something vital is lost – and ineffective policies or unheard communities reflect that loss the most. In recent years, the major elections and political events of the federal government have overshadowed the importance and hard-work of politics at the local level.
The problem with this change is that the strength of our local communities begets the strength of our nation. Regardless of where our attention is directed, lasting change starts small and builds. We are able to express who we are as a community and have our voices heard the most at a local level. South Dakota state senator Red Dawn Foster is someone who understands this often-underutilized strength.
Who is Red Dawn Foster?
Senator Foster is a resident of the Pine Ridge Reservation and currently represents the 27th district of South Dakota as a state senator. She is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe through her mother, and Navajo tribe through her father.
Her grandfather was Sgt. Harold Foster, Sr., a Navajo Code Talker and U.S. marine who served in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Senator Foster’s father was an American Indian Rights Activist who worked hand-in-hand with the Chicano movement to help organize migrant workers. Her mother still works today as an American Indian Education Advocate and was a former Director of the American Indian Student Services and Ethnic Studies Instructor at the University of Colorado in Denver.
Senator Foster’s life represents a uniquely American legacy, one that extols the virtues of the ‘American Dream’ through the values of service, activism, and tradition. These values are something she has carried with her through her own service as a South Dakota state senator.
Senator Foster’s heritage and upbringing have translated into a passionate career of community-based politics. Assuming office in January 2019, she has already served on the Agriculture and Natural Resources, Health and Human Services, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Transportation committees.
Practicing what she calls “Indigenizing State Politics,” Senator Foster understands the unique needs of not just Native Americans, but all working-class Americans. Her key priorities for District 27 include an increase to low-income housing, expansion of Medicaid, improvement upon the quality of education to increase high school and college graduation rates, and ensuring a sustainable, profitable agriculture sector for the farmers of her community.
Senator Foster is also an outspoken advocate for sustainable businesses and the role they can play not only in the future of local communities, but the present. She specializes in Economic Development Consulting for tribes across the United States in multiple emerging industries, and is strong proponent of the legalization of industrial hemp in South Dakota. She is also vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Lakota Funds CDFI, and was previously a Business Instructor for the Red Cloud Economic Development Initiative where she taught Economics to Red Cloud High School students.
Holding a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame, Senator Foster is a strong proponent of business education and financial literacy for all students. To help achieve this goal for Native American children, specifically, she is currently in the process of launching a nationwide nonprofit organization called RēGeneration: Innovation.
This NPO will specialize in teaching lessons on emerging technologies, entrepreneurship, wellness, and even the traditional storytelling and oratory skills of multiple Native American tribes.
Out of the thirty-five currently serving state senators, Senator Foster is one of only three Democratic representatives. While some have been quick to disregard South Dakota as a Republican stronghold, Senator Foster is proof that Democratic candidates can succeed and even thrive when they listen to the voices of their communities, and fight for the needs of their districts.
If you would like to assist with the fight for fair housing, affordable healthcare, and sustainable business growth in South Dakota, you can donate to Senator Red Dawn Foster’s re-election campaign here. With your help, we can help build a future where the voices of our infinitely diverse communities continue to be heard in South Dakota’s state senate.
Author: Edna Freeman @ednacfreeman