Oglala Sioux Nation to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem: ‘You’re Not Welcome’

The Oglala Sioux Tribe told South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem that she is not welcomed to visit their reservation after signing two bills that regulate protests over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

In a letter on May 2, tribe President Julian Bear Runner told the Republican governor that she is “not welcome” on the Pine Ridge Reservation until she rescinds her support for SB 189 and SB 190. The state laws were designed to prevent any protests that might hinder the construction of the pipeline, The Washington Post reported.

Bear Runner said that the laws were being litigated against and would not stand. He added, “We are particularly offended that you consulted TransCanada before introducing these bills but failed to consult the Oglala Sioux Tribe, or any of the sovereign bands of the Sioux Nation, though our treaty lands would be traversed and endangered by the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

The tribal leader criticized Noem for attacking protesters’ First Amendment rights and for continuing to support a pipeline that will damage their lands. Bear Runner noted that former President Barack Obama had deemed the pipeline to be “so dangerous to our sacred lands and atmosphere that he shut it down.” President Donald Trump reversed Obama’s decision in 2017, but that decision was blocked by a federal judge in Montana in November 2018. Trump issued a new permit for the construction of the pipeline in March, ABC News reported. Critics claim that the legislation was meant to prevent the same large-scale and high profile protests that erupted in North Dakota over the Dakota Access pipeline. The 2016 protests left more than 750 arrested and cost North Dakota $38 million, according to the Washington Post.

After signing the bills into law on March 27, Noem claimed she supported freedom of speech and assembly, “but we must also have clear expectations and the rule of law,” ABC News reported. Noem said that the bills “make clear that we will not let rioters control our economic development.”

In his letter, Bear Runner said the tribe has “superior legal title” to the land west of the Missouri River that is being sought to construct the pipeline. “These are our lands and our waters,” he reminded Noem. The tribal leader added that the tribal council would have to rescind its directive for Noem to be allowed to visit the reservation. If Noem violates the directive, Bear Runner warned, “We will have no choice but to banish you.”

Kristin Wileman, Noem’s press secretary, said in a statement to The North Star that the governor “has spent considerable time in Pine Ridge building relationships with tribal members, visiting businesses, discussing economic development, and working with leadership.”

“This announcement from Oglala Sioux tribal leadership is inconsistent with the interactions she has had with members of the community,” the statement continued. “It’s unfortunate that the governor was welcomed by Oglala Sioux’s leadership when resources were needed during the storms, but communication has been cut off when she has tried to directly interact with members of the Pine Ridge community.”

The statement concluded that Noem “will continue working to engage with tribal members, stay in contact with tribal leadership, and maintain her efforts to build relationships with the tribes.”

Chase Iron Eyes, the public relations liaison for Bear Runner, confirmed to ABC News that Noem had been welcomed to the reservation after the storms. However, he said that Noem had made two visits to the reservation without contacting tribal leaders. Her recent unapproved visits, the new laws, and her consultation with TransCanada prompted the tribe to make its decision. Iron Eyes said the tribal council did not vote on banishing Noem and does not expect the situation to reach that point.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.