SIOUX FALLS – The South Dakota Democratic Party (SDDP) has hired two new staff members to build inroads to youth and native populations. Cante Heart, of Rapid City, serves as the newly formed Native Outreach & Field Director. And Sydney Swenson, a recent graduate of SDSU, works as the Data & Field Director in Sioux Falls. They join Executive Director Pam Cole.
“We are shaping the future of our party through grassroots efforts, one relationship at a time. Cante and Sydney bring a direct approach to native people and youth, and both care deeply about others. Through them we will build bridges of understanding and progress throughout our state.” – Pam Cole, SDDP Executive Director.
Cole has been on the job since early March of this year, and during this time has helped bring Chairman Randy Seiler’s vision of a Native Caucus to fruition. Cante Heart, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, acts as staff liaison under the leadership of caucus chair Rep. Peri Pourier, of Pine Ridge. Cante earned her degree in Business Administration from Oglala Lakota College, and is the proud mother of three young daughters.
Cante teamed up with the SDDP in 2018 to work on voter registration and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, and now will work with the party to form long term goals. She brings a deep understanding of the tribes in South Dakota, and has formed working relationships all across the state. Cante understands that in order to bring native people to the ballot box, a tradition of voting must be nurtured. And encouraging native people to run and serve in local, state and federal offices will better reflect and represent the people of South Dakota.
“I love uplifting Indigenous voices in all capacities,” Cante said. “As Lakota people, we need to be good relatives and treat each other with respect and dignity. It is up to us to create new relationships and bridge the gap between natives and non-natives for the betterment of our present and future generations,” Cante said.
Cante has spent most of her career working in community organizing. She serves on the Board of Directors for HeSapa Otipi, Abbott House, the Initiative “Dignity,” and modeled for the sculpture in Chamberlain.
Sydney Swenson serves as the staff liaison of the Youth Engagement Caucus. Retired USD political science professor and College Democrats advisor Betty Smith, of Yankton, chairs the group. Sydney, originally from Madison, South Dakota, is the daughter of two K-12 teachers. She served as an intern for the State Senate Democrats this past legislative session. Through this, she has built good relationships with not only Democratic legislators, but also many Republican ones as well.
While at SDSU in Brookings, Sydney earned a B.A. in Political Science, Global Studies, and Spanish. She was an active member both the SDSU College Democrats and Feminist Equality Movement. She worked closely with Brookings County Democrats, and understands the importance of bringing different generations together.
“Having the opportunity to work with South Dakota Democrats of all ages and from all walks of life is truly a dream come true. I love our uniquely diverse state and look forward to bringing new ideas to the party through efforts of unity, equity, and inclusion. Everyone has something to bring to the table, and we all have a lot to learn from each other. ” – Sydney Swenson.
Both the Native and Youth Engagement Caucuses meet monthly or more, and are part of a new initiative to build the capacity of the South Dakota Democratic Party.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the work we are doing together. We are learning and sharing as we go. We are not only working hard this election season, but will also press forward to unify our party for the long haul.” – Pam Cole.
Please direct questions to Pam Cole via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (605) 695-1996.