The year 2012 had its ups as well as its downs: the voices of four strong South Dakota advocates were silenced one after the other: Bill Janklow, Jim Abdnor, George McGovern and Russell Means.
The celebration of the year 2012 was short-lived in South Dakota. Just two weeks into the New Year came the passing of former governor Bill Janklow.
“I’ll remember him as a strong leader who helped South Dakota believe in itself,” said Governor Dennis Daugaard last January. “He helped us see that we could do more than sometimes we ever thought possible because he had big vision and big goals and helped us see that we could achieve some of them.”
Wild Bill Janklow died of brain cancer at the age of 72 after four decades of service to the state. Four months later the man known as the people’s senator departed peacefully at a Sioux Falls hospice.
“I tell people, everything good that I know about politics I learned from Jim Abdnor,” said Senator John Thune in May. “He was just a genuinely, decent human being in addition to being a really strong advocate and fighter for South Dakota.”
The man Jim Abdnor beat for the United States Senate in 1980 would too pass in 2012. Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle described George McGovern as “A peacemaker, humanitarian, a teacher, a minister, a congressman, a senator, a voice for the voiceless, and a champion for hungry children.”
Democratic powerhouse and 1972 presidential hopeful George McGovern never stopped fighting for South Dakota until his passing in October. He was 90.
In the same week came the loss of former American Indian Movement activist Russell Means, who sacrificed so much for American Indians on reservations across the nation.
“I respected Russell for the convictions,” said Native Sun News editor Tim Giago. “He found something he could believe in and he stood up for it and that’s more than you can say for a lot of people.”
72- year-old means lost his battle to throat cancer.
Although silenced by death, the voices and the legacy of Means, Janklow, Adbdor and McGovern continue to be heard across South Dakota.