Gov. Noem won't test tribal ban from reservation

Published: May. 7, 2019 at 11:46 AM CDT
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South Dakota’s governor says the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s decision to tell her she is “unwelcome” on their reservation came as a surprise.

Gov. Kristi Noem says the laws passed in a matter of days during this year’s legislative session are meant to address problems caused by “out-of-state rioters funded by out-of-state interests.” The legislation allows officials to pursue money from demonstrators who engage in “riot boosting,” or encourage violence during a riot.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning, Noem said the Keystone XL pipeline is coming through the state so she wanted a plan in place for how to handle possible problems.

"When I took office in January, the question wasn't 'If I was going to get to decide if the pipeline was coming through South Dakota, or not,'" Noem said. "The pipeline was going to be built. So knowing this, I gave my team the direction to build a plan that would protect our counties and local governments that come with pipeline construction - and to protect our people from the cost and dangers that accompany violent riots."

Noem says she won't test the decision, but she hopes to change the directive.

Oglala Sioux Tribe president Julian Bear Runner said in the letter to Noem if she ignores the directive “we will have no choice but to banish you” from the Pine Ridge Reservation - which is one of the nation’s largest with an area, the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. The Tribal Council voted 17-0 on May 1 to approve the action.

Dakota Radio Group reports Noem admits not talking to tribal leadership before the bills were introduced, but says they were part of the discussion before the legislation passed.

The governor says she was given friendly receptions during her trips to the Pine Ridge Reservation prior to the notice of being unwelcome.

The American Civil Liberties Union and tribes contend the law stifles free speech. The ACLU is suing Noem, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and a county sheriff in federal court on behalf of activists.

Activists and American Indian tribes plan on-the-ground protests against the Keystone XL pipeline if it’s built, similar to protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017. Those demonstrations resulted in 761 arrests over six months and cost the state $38 million.

TransCanada Corp.’s planned Keystone XL pipeline would move Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to Gulf Coast refineries. The $8 billion project has the backing of President Donald Trump but is being fought in the courts by opponents.

Banishment is a formal tribal process in which a person can be barred permanently from the reservation. Violations can result in fines or even jail time, but Bear Runner spokesman Chase Iron Eyes said the tribe’s goal is to show its unhappiness with Noem and that “no one wants to go through the steps to actually banish a sitting governor.”