South Dakota’s Tribes Forbid Governor Kristi Noem From Entering Their Territory

( — South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem is effectively banned from entering roughly 20% of the state she serves.

While this seems shocking, it becomes clearer in light of Noem’s remarks that have offended the tribal leaders of many of South Dakota’s Native American tribes. Back in January, she made public comments alleging that drug cartels were recruiting local tribe members. She has continued to make statements for months, suggesting that local tribes could be targeted for exploitation by foreign cartels.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is the latest South Dakata tribe to vote to ban Noem from their reservation. Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Peter Lengkeek commented that they may have cartel products like guns or drugs, like anywhere else in South Dakota but they do not have cartel presence on their land. He went on to suggest that Noem’s comments were born of ignorance, and that her office isn’t willing to connect with local tribes and learn.

Second term Governor Noem has a long and contentious history with South Dakota’s tribes. In 2020, during the pandemic, the Oglala Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes refused to obey her order to take down unsanctioned checkpoints on roads that passed through their lands. She also supported the Keystone Pipeline project, which many tribes vehemently opposed. Other causes of tension between South Dakota tribes and Governor Noem include certain state sales tax proposals and a package of bills that she supported in 2019.

So far, six of the nine Native American tribes in South Dakota have now voted to ban Noem from their lands. Some are demanding an apology from her over the cartel allegations and also some remarks she made at town hall events in Mitchell and Winner earlier this year. The offensive statements framed the situation for children on the reservations as hopeless, and intimated that parents and leaders within the tribes are uncaring. Some political commenters have suggested that Noem is deliberately stoking animosity from the tribes for some sort of political gain. As Noem will be ineligible for another term because of South Dakota term limits, it may be for her successor to repair the state’s relations with tribal leadership of their local Native tribes.

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