Tatewin Means, Juris Doctorate
Thunder Valley CDC
Tatewin Means is an Indigenous woman from the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota, Oglala Lakota and Inhanktonwan nations in South Dakota. Tatewin has two children, Mankato and Persayah, and currently lives in Rapid City, SD.
Ms. Means grew up in Kyle, SD on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and later moved to Rapid City, SD where she graduated from Rapid City Central High School. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Stanford University in Environmental Engineering with a minor in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. After returning to her home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Tatewin worked for Oglala Lakota College as the Environmental Lab Manager for the Lakota Institute for Science and Technology. During this time, she began the graduate program at Oglala Lakota College in Lakota Leadership and Management. Tatewin then went to law school and received her JD with a concentration in Human Rights Law from the University of Minnesota Law School. She then returned home once again and completed her Masters of Arts degree in Lakota Leadership and Management from Oglala Lakota College.
A longtime advocate for human rights, survivors, children, and families, Tatewin Means served as the Attorney General for the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota from 2012-2017. In the past year, Tatewin was the Graduate Studies Department Chair at Oglala Lakota College.
In 2015, Means was sworn in as the Deputy States Attorney for Oglala Lakota County, a state county within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation boundaries, to prosecute non-Indian offenders for victimless and wholly non-Indian offenses committed on the reservation. This inter-jurisdiction agreement is the first-of-its-kind collaboration between Tribal and State sovereigns—it protects victims of all crimes regardless of the racial status of the offender while also strengthening the Tribe’s sovereignty.
She also served as a German Marshall Fund Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2015 where she strengthened her leadership skills and bolstered a strong network of cross-sectional leaders.
During her time of service, she worked to bring people together to help take on many of the challenges that affect South Dakotans in every community. She worked to reform the criminal justice system that criminalizes addiction instead of treating it and denies young offenders the tools needed to find a better path. She served on the State’s Jolene’s Law Task Force with the goal to eradicate child sexual abuse in South Dakota. She also served on the State’s Juvenile Justice Reform Initiative’s Native American focus group aimed at reducing the overrepresentation of American Indian youth in the State’s criminal justice system.
Always an advocate for survivor and children’s rights, Means’ provided testimony on behalf of the Oglala Sioux Tribe numerous times at Tribal-Federal consultations in an effort to provide federal partners with accurate data and innovative suggestions for an improved collaborative relationship.
Working with programs that are traditionally underfunded or subject to political interference, she helped bring together key stakeholders who were doing work on the ground build support for tribal communities. She helped develop new levels of coordination between reservation, state, and federal governments to provide holistic solutions to many state problems transcending all boundaries.