Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station
The Yankton Sioux Tribal Headquarters in Wagner.
John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight

Yankton Sioux Tribe bans Noem from reservation

UNDATED – Six of the nine Native American tribes in South Dakota have now voted to ban Gov. Kristi Noem from their lands.

The Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee voted unanimously on Friday to ban the governor, citing her comments about drug cartels, Native American children and what one tribal council member characterized as performative rather than substantive efforts to engage tribal leaders.

The committee is the primary elected body for the Yankton Sioux Tribe, whose lands are situated in southeastern South Dakota.

“It’s about standing in solidarity together, all the Oceti Sakowin,” said Council Member Ryan Cournoyer, referencing the name for speakers of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota languages.

Earlier this week, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate voted to bar the governor from the Lake Traverse Reservation for similar reasons. Previously voting to ban Noem were the Oglala, Rosebud, Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.

Calls and messages to the leadership of the remaining tribes in the state — the Flandreau Santee, Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux tribes — were not immediately returned Friday.

Gov. Noem’s spokespeople also did not offer an immediate response to the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s vote. Noem has been busy reacting to the fallout from her new book, “No Going Back,” in which she sparked a national backlash by revealing she had fatally shot a dog and a goat. Noem also faced criticism for claiming in the book that she had met North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — a claim she and the book’s publisher ultimately retracted.

Beyond tribal solidarity, Cournoyer told South Dakota Searchlight that the governor’s comments during town halls in Mitchell and Winner earlier this year were particularly offensive.

In Mitchell, speaking of tribes, Noem said, “Their kids don’t have any hope. They don’t have parents who show up and help them. They have a tribal council or a president who focuses on a political agenda more than they care about actually helping somebody’s life look better.”

Comments suggesting that Mexican drug cartels have “set up shop” on the state’s reservations have been a sticking point since her delivery of a speech about the U.S. border with Mexico on Jan. 31. Since the speech, delivered to a joint session of the South Dakota Legislature, the governor has written an op-ed column titled “banish the cartels” and claimed without offering evidence that tribal leadership is “personally benefitting” from the cartels.

Noem also angered some tribal leaders during a meeting between the tribes and the federal government in early April in Rapid City. The meeting was about Pè Sla, a stretch of prairie land in the Black Hills considered sacred by the tribes.

She hadn’t been invited, and Oglala Sioux Tribal Council President Frank Star Comes Out criticized her surprise arrival as an unwelcome distraction and a “publicity stunt” meant to bolster her chance at becoming Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate.

Cournoyer was at that meeting, and said the governor “charging in there” with her team made her words about working with tribes to solve problems ring hollow.

“It was more for the media than to show she wanted to work with us,” he said.

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