Why Native American tribes are banning Kristi Noem

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has been banned by at least six of the nine Native American tribes in her state as of Wednesday, after she made comments earlier this year the tribes say were offensive.

Relations between the governor and the tribes have been strained since she took office in 2019, but her comments, including saying tribal leaders benefit from drug cartels, have caused the tribes to vote to ban her in recent months.

The most recent tribe, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, voted Tuesday to ban Noem, and one tribe’s vote, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, is still up in the air. Nevertheless, Noem may soon be unable to step foot in about 20 percent of the land in the state she governs.

Here’s what you need to know about the bans.

Tribes vote to ban Noem

The Oglala Sioux Tribe became the first tribal nation in South Dakota to ban Noem from its land in early February. The tribal president released a statement banning Noem after she made comments about the U.S.-Mexico border in late January.

Noem delivered remarks to the state Legislature during which she said South Dakota would send more resources, like South Dakota National Guard Troops, to Texas as it dealt with the influx of migrants arriving at its border, calling it an “invasion.”

The tribe’s president also pushed back on Noem for placing blame on President Biden for the border crisis.

In April, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe became the second tribe to ban Noem from its reservation. Members of the tribal council were frustrated when Noem unexpectedly showed up at the quarterly Pe’ Sla meeting March 29 in Rapid City.

The tribe’s chair claimed Noem attended the meeting with cameras to use it for “her agenda,” Indian Country Today reported. He also criticized Noem for her comments about drug dealers.

“We’ve got some tribal leaders that I believe are personally benefiting from the cartels being there, and that’s why they attack me every day,” Noem said at a town hall in Winner, The Associated Press reported.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe intergovernmental affairs officer told The Hill that many tribes believe Noem doesn’t respect or “fully understand” tribal sovereignty.

Days later, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe banned Noem for her “racially charged” comments. The tribe’s chair said in a statement that Noem’s comment linking tribes and Mexican cartels was “irresponsible” and a “sad reflection of her fear-based politics.”

In mid-April, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe became the fourth tribal nation to ban Noem. Officials said the ban is justified not only due to her recent comments but her relationship with the tribes since taking office, South Dakota Searchlight reported.

The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal Council voted unanimously May 7 to ban Noem, claiming it was important to protect the tribe’s values and ensure a safe and inclusive environment, as well as prevent the “further marginalization of tribal nations,” the tribe said in a statement to Dakota News Now.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe voted Tuesday to ban Noem, the most recent ban over her comments.

On Friday, the Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee voted to ban the governor, but the ban would not be final and enforceable without a vote of the tribal members, USA Today reported.

A tribal secretary said the tribe didn’t officially vote to ban Noem, according to a KELO-TV story. When The Hill reached the tribe by phone by The Hill, it could only confirm the KELO article.

Noem doubles down on comments

The tribes are generally seeking an apology from the governor, which doesn’t seem likely. In an April statement to The Hill, after four tribes already banned her, Noem doubled down on her comments.

She urged tribal leaders to “immediately banish the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for murders, rapes, drug addiction, and many more crimes on tribal lands.”

Noem said the “real question you should be asking is: ‘Why won’t tribal leaders banish the Mexican drug cartels who are responsible for this devastation?’”

The Hill has reached out to Noem’s office for an updated statement, but a spokesperson said Tuesday following the Crow Creek vote that banning her does nothing to resolve the issue.

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chair Peter Lengkeek pushed back on Noem’s accusation, saying the tribe has “cartel products, like guns and drugs,” but the products pass over state highways to get to the reservation, so likening all tribes are involved “really shows the ignorance of the governor’s office.”

Noem said regardless of the bans, she will be taking action to increase public safety on reservations. She launched a “history-making opportunity” by creating a law enforcement training course that will take place in the coming months for the state’s tribes.

She also said she’s looking for help on the federal level. She’s asked the Biden administration to fund tribal law enforcement and create agreements for law enforcement and highway patrol to enforce tribal law.

Noem, who has been floated as a possible running mate for former President Trump, has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after drawing criticism for writing in her memoir that she shot and killed her 14-month-old dog who misbehaved, and it was found the book had several inaccuracies, including claims of a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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