Cohort 9 Rebuilder Cante Heart (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) hopes to get elected to the Rapid City Council in June. She joins four other Native women running for municipal office in Rapid City—an unprecedented number. We sat down with Cante to learn more about her candidacy, what inspires her, and her motivation for seeking public office.
Native Governance Center: Give us a little information on your background, family, and community.
Cante Heart (pronounced chun-tay): I was raised by a strong Lakota woman. She taught me to always try to help my people in any kind of way possible. Even though I didn’t grow up on the reservation, I was always thinking of ways I could do this. Early on, I was instilled with Lakota values. And we kind of moved around a little bit, but Rapid City and South Dakota have always been home to me.
NGC: Tell us about your candidacy for Rapid City Council (District 5). What inspired you to run?
CH: I’ve always wanted to run, and I’ve always wanted to be a leader for my community. So, what started it is, I wanted to inspire my community to get involved as far as voting, as far as stepping up into leadership positions. And I felt that if the younger generation could see a familiar face, or, you know, could identify with me, then it’d inspire them to get involved, too. And so, basically, I’m doing it for the up-and-coming leaders who need to be recognized and need to be taken seriously, too.
NGC: Why do you feel it’s important to have Native representation in local governments?
CH: It’s important to make running for office and running for leadership positions the new norm for our people. And also, to make voting the new norm. Because we’re the original inhabitants of this land, so we should also have a say in what goes on to shape the future of our community—whether it’s municipal, or statewide, or on a national level. Our population makes up at least a fourth of the city, and every year we bring in so much revenue due to the events that go on, like the Black Hills Powwow and Lakota Nation Invitational. You know, there are all of these surrounding reservations that do their shopping in Rapid City. It’s been home to us forever. Our representation on city council needs to reflect our population. So if our population is ¼ Native, then our city council needs to be, too.
NGC: What advice do you have for other Native women running for public office?
CH: I think they should do what’s in their heart. And to not let anyone’s opinions bring you down. Because if your mind is in it and your heart is in it, then you can never lose. Our ancestors are behind you 100%, and to never take no for an answer. If you have the heart to do it, and the inspiration and the support, you can do anything.
NGC: Do you see any intersections between the Rebuilders program curriculum and your candidacy?
CH: I definitely get most of my inspiration from my Rebuilder family! They inspire me because of everything they’re doing in the community. They set the tone for being a leader. I think the Native Nation Rebuilders leadership program was a huge inspiration, and it’s kind of the foundation that made me want to run.