SANI-T began when founders, Dowell Caselli-Smith and Laurette Pourier saw the critical need to address racism in Rapid City, South Dakota. Laurette, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation, saw the need based on her personal experiences. She became even more aware of the need for action from her professional experience with local systems and agencies while providing services for Native families as director of a Native Headstart program. Dowell had been a thirty-year resident on the Pine Ridge Reservation as department head of the Oglala Lakota College, and has strongly advocated for Native Americans most of his life.
Responding to the difficulties and struggles Native people experience, Dowell and Laurette organized monthly meetings with both Native and Non-Native people to focus on identifying and implementing strategies to eliminate racism and improve living conditions for Native people in and around Rapid City, South Dakota. The diverse group of dedicated community members met for nearly a year before having strategies, volunteer schedules and bylaws in place.
Society for the Advancement of Native Interests-Today was established receiving non-profit, 501c3 status in November of 2002. We determined to be a peaceful, professional and pro-active entity where Native people could come to be heard, validated and to find resolution and healing.
SANI-T's first honorary members were Carol Maicki and Doris Hodge, both very instrumental in the concept and development of the organization. Carol Maicki, a former SD state senator, donated the start-up funds and office equipment that helped get the organization started. Doris Hodge was an educator and a member of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Both outstanding women guided the group with their wisdom and passion until their passing in 2005 and 2003, respectively. We hold them in esteemed honor.