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South Dakota tribe banishes Gov. Kristi Noem over immigration remarks

Feb 6

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The Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota’s largest, has officially banished Gov. Kristi Noem from its territories, escalating tensions over her comments on crime and illegal immigration on reservations. In a controversial statement on Jan. 31, Gov. Noem linked the surge in crime within the state, including on tribal lands, to illegal immigration.

“The drugs and human trafficking pouring over the border devastate our people,” Noem said.

She claimed that cartels are operating on tribal reservations, particularly citing the Pine Ridge Reservation and Rapid City as areas affected by cartel-related murders and gang affiliations, including a group known as the Ghost Dancers.

The tribe’s response came in a detailed four-page letter from Oglala Sioux Tribe President Frank Star Comes Out, who criticized Noem’s characterization of the border situation as an “invasion” and expressed “deep offense” at the association of the sacred Ghost Dancers ceremony with criminal activities.

“Drug and human trafficking are occurring throughout South Dakota, and surrounding states, not just on Indian reservations,” Star Comes Out stated, emphasizing that the issue was not exclusive to tribal lands.

Following the comments, Star Comes Out announced the banishment of Gov. Noem from the Oglala Sioux homelands, citing the need for the safety of the Oyate, the people of the tribe.

Gov. Noem responded to the tribe’s actions on Feb. 1, defending her statements and her commitment to addressing crime and building relationships with the tribes.

“I did speak truth and everything I said was absolutely true,” Noem said, emphasizing her ongoing efforts to secure resources for tribal areas, including law enforcement, education, and infrastructure.

The Pine Ridge Reservation has faced a growing crime rate, prompting Star Comes Out to declare a state of emergency in November 2023 due to insufficient law enforcement.

The Associated Press reports that the reservation, spanning 5,400 square miles, is patrolled by just 33 officers and eight criminal investigators who handle over 100,000 emergency calls annually.

The tribe’s legal battle against the U.S. government to fulfill treaty obligations for security has seen some success, with a federal judge ruling in favor of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s demand for more law enforcement funding. However, the exact amount of funding remains to be determined.

Despite the banishment, Noem has expressed her willingness to support the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s efforts to negotiate with the federal government for additional resources. She also highlighted her actions to support border security, including deploying South Dakota National Guard troops to the border and backing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border measures.

“Governor Abbott has done the exact right thing,” Noem told Fox News. “I’ll drive him more razor wire from South Dakota if I have to for him to do his job. What people forget is that governors are commanders in chief. We’re responsible for the men and women of our National Guard.”

Critics, including Star Comes Out, suggest Noem’s focus on the border issue is politically motivated, aimed at supporting Donald Trump’s reelection bid and boosting her own vice-presidential prospects.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

TENSIONS FLARE AS SOUTH DAKOTA’S LARGEST TRIBE HAS BANISHED GOVERNOR KRISTI NOEM FROM ITS TERRITORIES. THE OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE TAKING ISSUE WITH NOEM’S RECENT CHARACTERIZATION OF GROWING CRIME ON RESERVATIONS AND ITS TIES TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.  

GOV. KRISTI NOEM | R-SD

“The drugs and human trafficking pouring over the border devastate our people. Make no mistake, the cartels have a presence on several of South Dakota’s tribal reservations. Murders are being committed by cartel members on the Pine Ridge reservation and in Rapid City, and a gang called the Ghost Dancers are affiliated with these cartels. They have been successful in recruiting tribal members to join their criminal activity.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

IN A DETAILED FOUR-PAGE RESPONSE — OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE PRESIDENT “FRANK STAR COMES OUT” — CRITICIZED NOEM’S REPEATED DESCRIPTION OF THE BORDER SITUATION AS AN “INVASION” AND EXPRESSED “DEEP OFFENSE” TO A SACRED CEREMONY WHEN NOEM CLAIMED A MOTORCYCLE CLUB KNOWN AS THE GHOST DANCERS WERE INVOLVED IN MURDERS ON THE PINE RIDGE RESERVATION. 

FRANK STAR COMES OUT | OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE PRESIDENT

“Drug and human trafficking are occurring throughout South Dakota, and surrounding states, not just on Indian reservations. Reservations cannot be [blamed] for drugs ending up in Rapid City, Sioux Falls and even in places like Watertown and Castlewood, S.D.  This was going on even when Trump was President.”

“I and the Oyate are deeply offended that you alleged the “Ghost Dancers” are affiliated with these cartels. Due to the safety of the Oyate, effective immediately, you are hereby Banished from the homelands of the Oglala Sioux Tribe!”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THE REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR RESPONDED SATURDAY TO THE TRIBE PRESIDENT’S REMARKS.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM | R-SD

“In the speech that I used in specific reference to the ghost dancers gang affiliated with the Bandidos with ties to the Mexican cartels so um you know I understand that that some of the words they would have appreciated being changed problem is I didn’t name that gang um I I did speak truth and everything I said was absolutely true and I’ve been working for years uh to build relationships with our tribes.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

CRIME RATES ON  THE PINE RIDGE RESERVATION HAVE BEEN GROWING. IN NOVEMBER 20-23 STAR COMES OUT DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY CITING THE GOVERNMENT’S FAILURE TO PROVIDE ENOUGH LAW ENFORCEMENT TO THE TRIBE. 

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS THAT JUST 33 OFFICERS AND EIGHT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATORS HANDLE MORE THAN 100-THOUSAND EMERGENCY CALLS EACH YEAR ACROSS THE 5,400-SQUARE-MILE RESERVATION.

THE OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE IS A SOVEREIGN NATION BASED ON TREATIES ESTABLISHED IN 18-68.  Tribal leaders ARGUE THE TREATY INCLUDES AN OBLIGATION  FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE SECURITY FOR ITS MEMBERS.

THE TRIBE SUED THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, DEMANDING IT FULFILL ITS TREATY BY PROVIDING FUNDING FOR 120 LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER.

LAST YEAR A FEDERAL JUDGE RULED IN FAVOR OF THE OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE. HOWEVER, THE JUDGE DID NOT DECIDE IF THE AMOUNT OF FUNDING THE OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE ASKED FOR IS WARRANTED — INSTEAD LEAVING THAT DECISION TO FEDERAL OFFICIALS AND OGLALA SIOUX LEADERS TO DECIDE.

DESPITE BEING BANISHED, NOEM MAINTAINS SHE REMAINS AN ADVOCATE FOR THE OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO SECURE MORE RESOURCES FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM | R-SD

“I’ve told their leadership, their Tribal Council, and their president before, and our other chairmen of our other tribes that if they were going to go to Washington D.C. and sit with the federal government to ask for help on getting more tribal officers, getting more funding for law and order efforts, and even more funding for education or their roads—we all know that our road funding in tribal areas is underfunded—I would sit there with them. I would go with them and be an advocate alongside them.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

GOVERNOR NOEM HAS SENT SOUTH DAKOTA NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS TO THE BORDER THREE TIMES. IN 20-21, SHE FACED BACKLASH FOR USING A 1-MILLION DOLLAR DONATION FROM A REPUBLICAN DONOR TO FUND A DEPLOYMENT TO THE TEXAS BORDER FOR TWO MONTHS. AND SHE HAS REPEATEDLY BACKED TEXAS GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT’S EFFORTS TO INSTALL RAZOR WIRE ALONG PORTIONS OF THE BORDER.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM | R-SD

“Governor Abbott has done the exact right thing. I’ll drive him more razor wire from South Dakota if I have to for him to do his job. What people forget is that governors are commanders in chief. We’re responsible for the men and women of our National Guard.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

“STAR COMES OUT” SUGGESTS NOEM is LEVERAGING THE BORDER ISSUE TO SUPPORT FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S REELECTION BID AND TO BOOST HER OWN VICE-PRESIDENTIAL PROSPECTS.

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