Vermillion can play reconciliation role

Vermillion can play reconciliation role By Editorial On Oct. 13, Sen. Tom Daschle issued a statement celebrating South Dakota�s diversity and honoring Native American Day.

Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation President Ruth Ziolkowski presented the statement on Sen. Daschle�s behalf at the Native American Day celebration at the Crazy Horse Memorial.

We direct your attention to this portion of the senator�s statement:

�And on Native American Day especially, let us recognize that only the educated are truly free. Educated people are free to make all of life�s choices. The ladder of opportunity is built from the materials of a good education. The chance to climb that ladder can come only if it is extended to every child.

As our men and women fight for freedom abroad, let us guarantee that freedom here at home by renewing our commitment to extending the ladder of opportunity through education to every child, Indian and non-Indian, so they truly can be free.�

Late last month, Ziolkowski participated in the dedication ceremony of the new Al Neuharth Media Center on the campus of USD.

She recalled the first time she met Neuharth. He was a cub reporter for the Rapid City Journal on hand to watch the first blast on the mountain that would, over time, be transformed into the Crazy Horse Memorial.

That first meeting occurred several decades ago.

During that time, tons of rock have been blasted from the mountain, and the head and arm of Crazy Horse have begun to take shape.

There�s still much left to do before the memorial is complete. You never hear, however, of the daunting task that challenges the people who work on the monument every day.

What we always hear are positive, optimistic reports of progress.

We wish we could say the same about race relations in South Dakota.

George S. Mickelson, the son of then Gov. George Mickelson, accompanied his father to witness that first blast on the mountain. The younger Mickelson followed in his father�s footsteps, serving as South Dakota�s governor from 1991 until his death in a 1993 plane crash.

Gov. Mickelson is most remembered for his efforts to improve race relations in South Dakota through reconciliation.

It is time for those efforts to continue.

It is also time for Vermillion to recognize the unique role it can play in establishing greater harmony between those of us who live off of the reservations, and those who live in Indian country.

Vermillion is home to the Native American Cultural Center on The University of South Dakota campus.

It is home to the Freedom Forum and the Native American Journalists Association, both housed in the new Al Neuharth Media Center.

The Freedom Forum is the annual host of the American Indian Journalism Institute on the USD campus.

The Vermillion community is having an ever-increasing positive impact on the lives of the state�s Native American people.

It�s a situation that�s rather analogous to what Ziolkowski and her crew must face every day.

Every morning, they look at a mountain where much work is left to be done.

They don�t get discouraged, however. They climb the mountain and chip away at it, to get a bit closer to their final goal.

Vermillion can�t overnight suddenly become the center of reconciliation in South Dakota.

We can work toward that goal, however.

We are poised to provide the one thing needed so badly to give new life to better race relations.

Daschle noted that the ladder of opportunity is built from the materials of a good education.

With the university, the Freedom Forum, the Native American Cultural Center and the American Indian Journalism Institute, Vermillion can provide education and opportunity.

With new opportunity, there is hope.

Hope that South Dakota�s Native Americans can escape the poverty, isolation and prejudice that for too long have been part of their lives.

Hope, too, that the state�s whites and Native Americans can forget about race and forge new relationships.

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