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Scott Davis reflects on 12 years as Indian Affairs Commissioner

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 4:46 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Indian Affairs Commission Director Scott Davis is stepping down next month after nearly 12 years.

Davis has worked with a lot of people during his tenure as Indian Affairs Commissioner: three presidents, three governors and 23 tribal chairs.

But now he’s moving on to a new chapter.

A healthy relationship between the tribes and the state isn’t always easy to accomplish.

But the man in charge of helping make that happen on both sides is stepping down.

“I know the need of our people. I know it. I breathe it. I leave it,” said Davis.

Davis said mending relationships after the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations wasn’t easy and took a lot of reflection.

“What did we do wrong, prior to DAPL? Did we not communicate enough? Did we not understand each other enough? Did we just take things for granted?” asked Davis.

Tribal leaders said it all comes down to respect and understanding.

“The relationship that Scott got between the state and the tribes is one of understanding and trust, so we feel comfortable coming up here,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith.

The fact that tribal leaders feel more comfortable entering and participating in meetings in the Capitol, means the world to him.

In discussing the highlights of his career, Davis said the day tribal flags were approved for display at the State Capitol meant respect for all tribal members.

“If there’s one thing I really want for my people, it’s respect. To be listened to, to be taken seriously,” said Davis.

He said, although it took years for it to be allowed, the display of tribal flags lets his people know they’re welcome.

“That’s why those flags in here mean a lot to me because we’re here. We’ve been here first,” said Davis.

Over the past year, tribe-state relationships seem to be strengthening, as the state aided the tribes with resources during the pandemic and helped get IDs into the hands of tribal members during the 2020 general election.

On April 30, Davis will be moving to Sanford where he’ll run Native American Outreach.

He said this new position feels like a blank canvas, where he can help strengthen healthcare for tribal nations.

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