Dan Ahlers is a democratic candidate running for United States Senate in South Dakota. He is originally from Dell Rapids but he has also lived in Rapid City and Gillette, Wyoming, before settling in Dell Rapids permanently. He has been a small business owner and has served in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 2006-2008 and 2017-2019. He has also served in the South Dakota Senate 2008-2010.
Ahlers wants to see better relationships between the state and federal governments and Native Americans and he believes that is starts with treaties. “One of the things that I want to see improved is doing something to honor the treaties between the United States and the tribes,” he said. “If that means we need to sit down at the table and discuss a new treaty then I am open to something like that. People look for symbolic things that they can do, but I want it to be meaningful.”
Part of the treaties that Ahlers seeks to right is land restoration. “I think, at the very least, that the tribal lands need to be continuous, they need to be whole,” he said. “If that means making land deals at the state, federal, or private level then we need to sit down and figure it out.”
He also understand the essentials of the treaties that have historically not been fully held to fruition. “They want good healthcare for their kids, they want good educations,” he said. “I want to improve the quality of life and I want tribal members to feel like they are being heard.”
Ahlers has also seen shortfalls in the state leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in regards to the Kristi Noem having issues with the roadblocks that tribes established to decrease the amount of visitors spreading the virus. “I think that people make assumptions and I’ve noticed as a state legislator that all too often that the state or legislators decide that we will do this stuff without consulting the Native Americans,” he said. “Then we can’t find out why the tribal members are mad.”
Recent trade wars have also illuminated what needs to be changed in South Dakota for Ahlers. “We will be lucky if we see it back in the next 5 years,” he said about lost trade. “South Dakota agriculture, our ranchers, they can’t afford that. I will show up every day. I will work on country of origin labeling, and my opponent has talked about that for 6 years and done nothing.”
When dairy farmers and hog farmers were destroying their product at the beginning of the pandemic, Ahlers hoped that USDA was placing that product on food pantry shelves.
Ahlers is a former movie rental store owner in Dell Rapids. “When I ran in my first election, people got out to vote for me,” he said. “I was Dan the Movie Man while I owned a video store and it didn’t matter what party I was.”
Ahlers is running against former governor and current United States Senator Mike Rounds.
When Ahlers spoke with the Native Sun News Today he was campaigning in the Black Hills while camping in a tent.
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