Noem banned from Pine Ridge Reservation

February 5, 2024

PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP)–A South Dakota tribe has banned Republican Gov. Kristi Noem from the Pine Ridge Reservation after she spoke this week about wanting to send razor wire and security personnel to Texas to help deter immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border and also said cartels are infiltrating the state’s reservations.

“Due to the safety of the Oyate, effective immediately, you are hereby Banished from the homelands of the Oglala Sioux Tribe!” Tribe President Frank Star Comes Out said in a Friday statement addressed to Noem. “Oyate” is a word for people or nation.

Star Comes Out accused Noem of trying to use the border issue to help get former U.S. President Donald Trump re-elected and boost her chances of becoming his running mate.

Many of those arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are Indigenous people from places like El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico who come “in search of jobs and a better life,” the tribal leader added.

“They don’t need to be put in cages, separated from their children like during the Trump Administration, or be cut up by razor wire furnished by, of all places, South Dakota,” he said.

Star Comes Out also addressed Noem’s remarks in the speech to lawmakers Wednesday in which she said a gang calling itself the Ghost Dancers is murdering people on the Pine Ridge Reservation and is affiliated with border-crossing cartels that use South Dakota reservations to spread drugs throughout the Midwest.

Star Comes Out said he took deep offense at her reference, saying the Ghost Dance is one of the Oglala Sioux’s “most sacred ceremonies,” “was used with blatant disrespect and is insulting to our Oyate.”

He added that the tribe is a sovereign nation and does not belong to the state of South Dakota.

Noem responded in a statement Saturday saying, ”in my first year serving as Governor, I repeatedly visited Pine Ridge to work on relationships between the State of South Dakota and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. I wanted to work with them on a number of issues – I still do. In my last visit to Pine Ridge, as I was speaking before an assembly, one gentleman said to me, ‘Governor Noem, I hear lots of bad things about you. And I believe them. But you’re coming here so much now, I’m starting to think that you care.’ Shortly after that meeting, I was banned from the tribe.

 “It is unfortunate that President Sar Comes Out chose to bring politics into a discussion regarding the effects of our federal government’s failure to enforce federal laws at the southern border and on tribal lands. My focus continues to be on working together to solve those problems.

 “I have been working for years to build relationships with our tribes. My state agencies and departments have worked with tribal leaders on a daily basis to deliver services to tribal communities including healthcare, economic development, social services, housing, food programs, suicide prevention, drug addiction treatment, infrastructure costs, and emergency response.

 “I am grateful to have celebrated the hanging of two tribal flags in honor in the Capitol Rotunda last month – we are close to having more flags and look forward to holding the next ceremony soon. We have signed gaming compacts, and the first two bills that I signed this legislative session prioritize relationships between the State and our tribes.

 “These relationships are by no means perfect; there is still disagreement at times. Any relationship takes work and consistent effort.

 “In my speech to the legislature earlier this week, I told the truth of the devastation that drugs and human trafficking have on our state and our people. The Mexican cartels are not only impacting our tribal reservations; they are impacting every community, from our big cities to our small towns. But our tribal reservations are bearing the worst of that in South Dakota. Speaking this fact is not meant to blame the tribes in any way – they are the victim here. They are the victim of cartel-driven criminal activity, and they are the victim of inaction by the federal government.

 “I also recognize and said in my border address that issues with tribal law enforcement predate the Biden Administration. I had conversations about these issues with former Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr. In my experience, unlike the current administration, the previous administration was willing to have conversations about how we can work together to address these challenges.

 “I thank President Star Comes out for his service in our nation’s military. As I told bipartisan Native American legislators earlier this week, ‘I am not the one with a stiff arm, here. You can’t build relationships if you don’t spend time together.’ I stand ready to work with any of our state’s Native American tribes to build such a relationship.”