Last week the Oglala Sioux Tribe president, Julian Bear Runner, sent an open letter to Gov. Kristi Noem informing her that she is no longer welcome on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The tribe took this action reportedly because the governor had signed a bill aimed at potential Keystone XL pipeline protestors.
The S.D. Legislature passed this bill as a preemptive measure to any planned destructive demonstrations against pipeline construction in South Dakota, none of which crosses native reservation lands. It would allow state officials to collect money from demonstrators convicted of “riot boosting,” or adding fuel to riots.
(See District 30 Rep. Tim Goodwin’s column elsewhere in this newspaper).
The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the tribe in saying the law threatens the First Amendment rights of South Dakotans “on every side of the issue.” We don’t see it that way. The state is not prohibiting the protesting of anything. It just doesn’t want happening here what happened in North Dakota with millions of dollars in destruction of property and a mess created after protestors from all over the country occupied land for months in order to stop pipeline construction across that state.
Why attempt to ban the governor from stepping on tribal land after this decision was made by the Legislature in the interest of all South Dakotans? Banning the governor from Pine Ridge would seem to be in conflict with the relationships she is trying to build with tribal officials. On a recent visit to the Black Hills, Noem made it a point to visit with tribal leaders in Rosebud and Pine Ridge about possible programs that would help lift the reservation residents economically.
And it doesn’t make sense from a practical standpoint when you think about the assistance provided to the reservation when resources were needed after recent storms down there. In a statement to CNN, Noem’s press secretary Kristin Wileman said the announcement from the Oglala Sioux tribal leadership “is inconsistent with the interactions she has had with members of the community.”
Wileman’s statement further says, “The governor will continue working to engage with tribal members, stay in contact with tribal leadership and maintain her efforts to build relationships with the tribes.” It takes two to tango so we hope calmer heads will prevail on the reservation and that our governor will again be welcomed there.
The letter sent and signed by Bear Runner would appear to be a divisive one at a time when relationships with the new administration in Pierre and the tribe are just getting off the ground. We have enough division in this country now, and we don’t need more of it to be spreading in South Dakota for any reason.
And last time we checked, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is still part of South Dakota where a visit by our governor should always be welcomed.