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Biden administration appoints South Dakota woman to direct USDA Office of Tribal Relations

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 4:57 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - A fresh presidential administration is setting roots in the Mount Rushmore State with a U.S. Department of Agriculture-appointee from the Black Hills.

On Jan. 25, the USDA announced in a press release Heather Dawn Thompson will serve as Director of the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) under the USDA.

Thompson will report directly to the Secretary of Agriculture, a move the USDA says will “effectively maintain nation-to-nation relationships in recognition of tribal sovereignty and to ensure that meaningful tribal consultation is standard practice across the Department.”

The Harvard Law School graduate most recently served as an attorney with the American Indian Law Practice Group at Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm. She also worked as a law clerk with the Attorney General’s Office for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for South Dakota’s Indian Country Section, where she represented women and children who were victims of violence.

Thompson also worked as part of a research team to find the hidden gravesites of children who died at Rapid City Indian Boarding School.

According to her website, Thompson is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and “lives with her family between Rapid City and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.”

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