DPS urging Yankton Sioux Tribe to use immediate options available for flood response

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Department of Public Safety has recommended that the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s request to use the South Dakota National Guard for flood response be declined because other options are immediately available to the tribe.

Tribal Chairman Robert Flying Hawk sent a letter on Sept. 20 to Governor Kristi Noem asking for assistance for the White Swan community in Lake Andes. Specifically, the chairman requested any or all use of the National Guard.

In a letter to Flying Hawk from Department of Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Craig Price said that last Friday, staff from the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Emergency Management met with tribal and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to discuss the building of a berm. Price stated the corps provided instructions and technical advice on how to build the berm and tribal officials said they had the money, materials, personnel, and equipment to build the berm themselves.

“While it is our assumption you want the National Guard to construct the berm, it is our recommendation that, in this situation, the National Guard is not a last resort, because the tribe still has other resources available that can quickly be implemented,” Price wrote.

According to Price, state agencies have tried to stay in contact with the tribe since flooding began this spring. He said the state’s assistance is still available to the tribe.

“We provided the pumps you requested to lower water levels. We also raised roads to re-establish access to Lake Andes for tribal members. We’ve worked with FEMA and your tribal housing officials to identify possible housing solutions.” Secretary Price wrote. “We are still ready to assist the Yankton Sioux Tribe to keep your tribal members safe and rebuild after flood waters recede.”

Secretary Price said both the state and tribe understand that cooperation is needed to help the area deal with the lingering flood issues. “The state has worked together with many communities to deal with their flooding issues and I know we can continue to do the same thing here,” he wrote.