Hidden History of North Dakota

Celebrating Women: new legislator makes her mark

Bismarck, ND – This week, a freshman lawmaker reached a new milestone. Governor Doug Burgum signed one of Representative Ruth Buffalo’s bills into law. And there could be more to come.

Monday, December 3rd, Representative Ruth Buffalo (D-District 27), a member of the MHA Nation, was sworn in as the first Native American, female democrat to get elected to the state house.

“I’m still learning and there’s so much work to be done. I do feel that I hit the ground running,” she said.

In her first session, Representative Buffalo is the primary sponsor on 8 bills.

“If you look at all the bills I’ve introduced, it’s mainly looking at keeping our communities safe and looking at our most vulnerable: our women and children,” she said.

Only one of those 8 bills has failed so far.

“she’s done very well,” said Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director, Scott Davis. “For those bills to get passed, coming from freshmen legislators in a minority group, you’re going to need bipartisan sponsorship on that.”

A number of the bills address native american issues. Governor Doug Burgum signed one of her bills that will allow Native American students to wear eagle feathers and plumes during graduation.

“Her just having a seat at the table and making our voices heard and other North Dakotans’ voices heard that have been underrepresented is a great thing,” Sheridan McNeil said. McNeil testified in favor of the dress code change.

Three other bills specifically address the problem of missing and murdered people.

“I feel like I’m just doing what’s asked of me. People approach me. It doesn’t matter which nationality. I’m here to represent all North Dakotans and the demographics here in North Dakota are changing,” Rep. Buffalo said.

Her work on the issue even sent her to Washington DC last week to testify on behalf of Savanna’s Act. She said Savanna Greywinds case continues to inspire her work as a lawmaker. Rep. Buffalo was involved in the search efforts when Greywind was still missing.

“Having experienced that first hand, it definitely has sparked a constant reminder that we must do better,” she said.

Another one of her bills was passed on Friday. It aims to improve law enforcement training regarding missing and murdered Native Americans. It still needs the governor’s signature.
 

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