South Dakota Top Blogs

News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Friday, December 29, 2006

Another Pine Ridge story: from heroine to convict

The New York Times features a story about a Pine Ridge woman who housed 28 people in her small home and received national recognition. Now she is in jail in Rapid City waiting to be processed on charges of drug dealing.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

CORRECTION ON: Don't call them racist just because they hate people of color

Clint Rux e-mailed to update and amend some information he used regarding carpal tunnel syndrome in Native American workers. Here is his explanation:

In my continuing research on the aspect of the beef plant, I find some of my information may not be entirely accurate. I have come across some new information.

As far as carpal tunnel syndrome in Native Americans, it is true that they have a lower incidence of work place
injuries of this nature. However, they do have a higher significance of carpal tunnel injuries as a whole . This is because of the higher prevalence of diabetes. Diabetes leads to carpal tunnel or symptoms like it.

The first information came from a Gaming Association study, and a study of call centers. The new information comes from the Colorado Department of Labor, the Canadian Chiropractic Association, and individual doctor research.

Construction has started on a beef processing plant outside of Aberdeen near the waste water treatment plant. Many people are resisting. A couple of law suits have been filed against the city, the county, and the plant's originators claiming that such a facility will damage the environment, their property values, and create traffic, noise, and stench. But some letters to the editors and comments on discussion boards all boil down to the fact that the protesters do not want "the kind of people" who are likely to seek jobs at the plant in town. The assumption is that they will be Hispanics and people of Asian backgrounds. That assumption is extended to the speculation that they will be illegal aliens. But whoever they are, they will endanger the life style and the security of the community and put a strain on the school system and the government services.

One does not have to have verbal skills to see a subtext behind all these arguments erupting into plain view. The resistance to a beef plant rises from racist attitudes.

A puzzling problem with the resistance is that South Dakota has been striving for years to bring to the state the advantages of value-added agriculture. The reasoning is, why send raw products outside the state for processing when economic advantages could remain in the state?

This is not the first beef plant to be proposed for the region. A few years ago, livestock producers put together a financing group with the intention of building a plant for South Dakota producers. It was withdrawn. Then Ridgefield Farms announced its intention to join a turkey processing plant in Huron. After some local investors withdrew their support, Ridgefield set up a planning operation in Flandreau. It canceled that plan and left Flandreau and some investors holding a big, empty bag. The Aberdeen proposal is going ahead with actual construction begun.

A change in agriculture has made the region a likely prospect. Plant breeding and improved agricultural practices has turned South Dakota into a big producer of feed grains--corn, soybeans, and the like. Whereas ranchers used to sell their calves to out-of-state feeders, they now are finding facilities within the state to finish beef for the choice and prime markets.

But the opponents of a beef plant cite the terrible experiences of other places where such plants have been built. Crime is rampant, they claim. Some towns have experienced serious problems, but they are places where illegal aliens have been permitted to congregate--people who have no documentation to work in the U.S. and no loyalty to the precepts of America. On the other hand, immigrants who have been granted the right to work and live in America have shown an appreciation and enthusiasm for the opportunity and have been proven to be hard and efficient workers.

But the racists keep contriving and fabricating reasons for their opposition.

Clint Rux, an Aberdeen alderman who represents the Southeast District, has provided us with an account of what he has considered in voting for the beef plant to be built near Aberdeen. Here is the information and thoughts he has worked with:

  • Even if all 500 new employees are Hispanic, that will only account to 2% of the population of Aberdeen. Many communities that have the troubles that people are talking about have Hispanic, or minority populations, over 20%.
  • A University of California-Berkely study shows that the farther away you get from the southern border, the less percentage of Hispanics that will work in these types of facilities. In the Northern Plains that accounts to about 30% of any given workforce of a plant of this type. That would mean that on average only about 150 may be Hispanic or Latino. This is because of the large rural population that is used to dealing with animals, and our colder climate.
  • Minority populations that come to a beef plant do the jobs that many white people will not do. In the Huron turkey processing facility, many of the Latinos work in the part of the line that guts and feathers the turkeys. This work is deemed too disgusting and demeaning for us white folks to do.
  • There have been many processing plants that have closed recently in this area. Theses workforces will be drawn to this plant. Many of these people are white.
  • The owners of this plant have repeatedly announced their intention to hire Native American workers. This is for a specific reason. The Native Americans have developed a unique trait that is a product of evolution. Native Americans have less tendency to get carpal tunnel syndrome. This is due to thousands of years cutting up meat. Studies have also shown that Native Americans are more creative and precise in doing cutting projects, and can do this quickly.
  • There will be other jobs associated with this plant that are high tech, and cutting edge that will pay substantially better. They will also hire a lot of Northern students with biology and science degrees, and pay extremely well. Look up IKOR in Aberdeen and see what they are doing.

Here are some things that are positive about this plant.

  • For each job created at this plant, 5-10 more will be created somewhere else in our regional economy. That accounts to 2500-5000 more jobs created not including the original jobs at the plant. These will be in agriculture, healthcare, education, and service industries.
  • This plant will provide health insurance which will reduce the burden on county healthcare systems. It will also pay employees slightly better than the going rate for plants of this size.
  • Farmers who will supply the greatest portion of the beef will save $1000 in transportation fees to take their animals to slaughter. This is per load of cattle. That is more money to each farmer who sells cattle to plants. Farmers will then have more money. And they will put it to good use.
  • This will be the only plant to fullfill the South Dakota Certified Beef program in large scale quantities. This will open many markets that have fears of mad cow disease. Currently this program is only being utilized by small providers. This will be the largest operation to deliver in quantity. Japan is insisting on certified beef. This could potentially open a large market to this country to meet their need.
  • This plant will have to meet or exceed clean air standards. There will be no flexibility on this. It will have to have state of the art treatment, and air quality facilities to achieve this. It will be using equipment like thermal oxidizers, and waste water pre-treatment to eliminate impact on environment. It will also not discharge any blood products. These will be removed from the cow and sold to IKOR. It will have virtually no smell. If you stand outside of the turkey plant in Huron you would not know they are slaughtering thousands of turkeys. Many new processing facilities are being built in the middle of towns.

The biggest obstacle to the full and successful operation of this plant is the racist attitudes of some of Aberdeen's people.

They're in it for money, not journalism

The most thorough and incisive report on the possible effects of the sale of the Star Tribune is done by two of its reporters.

They quote a newspaper industry analyst:

"These people are not in this for the journalism," said John Morton, veteran newspaper industry analyst and president of Morton Research Inc. in Silver Spring, Md. "They're in it tomake money, squeeze costs and make an impact on revenue."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Star Tribune heads for dust-biting

The Star Tribune is being sold to a New York investment firm, Avista Capital Partners. The paper was purchased in 1998 by McClatchy for $1.2 billion. It was sold by McClatchy to Avista for $530 million.

The sale is one which indicates what is happening to newspapers and the news business in general. While the Start Tribune has continued to be profitable, it has also faced the problems of declining revenues and declining subscriptions that other major newspapers face. According to stories from the Star Tribune and the web sites of parties to the transaction, the impact of the Internet on classified ad sales is the most significant part of declining performance. Note that "performance" is totally defined by the ability to make money. Performance in terms of getting the news and getting it right is not mentioned.

The sale leaves the Twin Cities under a haze about what kind of print media will serve the market. Early this year, the Pioneer Press was purchased by McClatchy when it bought the Knight Ridder chain, which also owned the Aberdeen American News. But McClatchy immediately divested itself of a number of the Knight Ridder papers. The St. Paul Pioneer Press was sold to Denver-based MediaNews Group and the Aberdeen paper was sold to Schurz Communications in South Bend, Indiana. (Why does the American News web site have a link to the McClatchy organization?)

Many prominent newspapers have either been sold or are up for sale. While competition from cable news and the Internet is often cited as the moving factor in changing the face of print journalism, the business is experiencing the same process of acquisitions, mergers, and sell-offs that are a part of the corporate business culture. When businesses are acquired, merged, or absorbed into other businesses, many do not survive, and seldom are improvements made to the products or services they once provided.

As the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press set the standards of journalistic enterprise of the northern plains--despite the constant snarks of bloggers who go into petulant fits when newspapers do not print the dogma they worship--the rapid shifting of ownership to organizations devoted to corporate bottom lines rather than journalistic integrity signals a potential shift from fact-based journalism to consumer-driven content for the region.

The paper to watch is the Pioneer Press. MediaNews Group is largely in the news business and includes the Denver Post among its holdings.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Every year the bird of dawning announces a new chance for light in the cold and dark

Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and gracious is the time.

From Hamlet

Tim Giago shows the Lakota way in regard to Sen. Tim Johnson

Tim Giago again shows why the Lakota influence is so important in shaping the character of South Dakota. Here is his column on Tim Johnson:

You can take the entire population of South Dakota and put it into Albuquerque and just about break-even. In fact, South Dakota's population might come up a little short. While most of the rural counties in this state continue to lose population, the counties located on the nine Indian reservations in the state continue to grow.

The new jobs provided by the advent of Indian casinos are bringing the Indian people home, although on most of the reservations unemployment still hovers around 50 percent.When Tim Johnson, D-S.D., ran for re-election against John Thune in 2002, the growing political acumen on the Indian reservations came sharply into play. As the vote tallies came to a conclusion and with only one major precinct still not reporting, Thune led Johnson by about 3,000 votes, and there are those who say that the champagne bottles were about to be pulled from the ice buckets.

The lonely, yet populous precinct yet to report was on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The hearts of John Thune's supporters sank as the count came in and the Lakota voters overwhelmingly got behind Johnson and he squeaked out a 574-vote lead that held.

Although he has spent 10 years in the U.S. Senate, Tim Johnson was the quiet man that was hardly noticed on a national level. He did his job efficiently and without fanfare. He made it a point to seek out the Indian leadership in his home state and discuss the issues important to them. There is not one senator in Washington that has more knowledge about Indian affairs than Tim Johnson.

That is why it came as a frightening shock to nearly every Indian in the state when Johnson fell ill with bleeding in his brain recently. At the Lakota Nation Invitational Basketball Tournament, a 30-year-old annual event that brings nearly 10,000 Indians to Rapid City each December, the conversations of the people centered on the condition of Johnson. One could not walk through the lobbies of any of the hotels and motels without observing Lakota people scanning the headline of the local daily newspaper that read, "Johnson Recovery Probable." Televisions situated in the lobbies were tuned to CNN or MSNBC to get the latest medical reports.

People were talking about how Johnson got behind the Pya Wiconi Project (New Life) to bring fresh water to the reservations and about how he fought the Bush administration to get funds restored to the Indian Health Service.

While the people of South Dakota worried about Johnson's recovery and for the welfare of his wife, Barbara, and their children, the talking heads of the national media speculated about how the balance in the Senate would shake out in the event of Johnson's death or incapacitation. "They are like a bunch of vultures," said one elderly Lakota man.

I must say that I was appalled when I heard that a reporter from back East called the office of Republican governor of South Dakota Mike Rounds, and said, "I understand you have already picked a Republican to replace Sen. Johnson
and I was wondering who it is?

South Dakotans may be considered out-of-touch or even a little backward, but at least we try to refrain from such acts of rudeness and inconsideration of people during their times of grief and concern. We are a small state where 10 percent to 12 percent of the total population is American Indian, but in times of tragedy and sorrow, we all come together as one.

Let me just add that today all of our hopes and prayers, whether in Lakota or English, are for the quick and safe recovery of Tim Johnson, a man who never needed or wanted to be in the spotlight.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. He can be reached at

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Send birthday greetings to Sen. Tim Johnson

Thursday, Dec. 28, is Sen. Tim Johnson's birthday. The Brown County Democrats will host an acknowledgment in the Community Rooms at the Brown County Courthouse from 3:30 to 5:30. There will be cake and cards to sign wishing the Senator a speedy recovery and a happy birthday.k

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States