Noem now banned from all South Dakota tribal lands

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is now banned from all tribal lands in the state after the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe voted to bar her from their reservation Wednesday, citing her repeated claims that tribal leaders work with drug cartels.

Noem sparked the controversy in March when she said tribal leaders benefit from the presence of cartels operating on their land.

“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,” the governor said at a forum in March. “But I’m going to fight for the people who actually live in those situations, who call me and text me every day and say, ‘Please, dear governor, please come help us in Pine Ridge. We are scared.’”

Relations between the governor and the tribes have been strained since she took office in 2019. Some tribes have accused Noem, who was floated as a potential vice-presidential pick for former President Trump, of making decisions to boost Trump’s campaign efforts.

All nine tribes in the state have banned Noem from their lands — nearly 20 percent of the Mount Rushmore State — over the remarks, which she has refused to back down from. Earlier this month, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe and the Yankton Sioux Tribe voted to bar Noem from reservation land. The Standing Rock Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Rosebud, Cheyenne River Sioux, Oglala Sioux and Lower Brule Sioux tribes all had similar votes earlier this year.

Noem doubled down on the sentiment again in an interview last week.

“They are … definitely have set up operations in South Dakota. We’ve seen the Bandidos there, MS-13 is there,” she said. “They’ve recruited members from the tribes.”

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe spokesperson Alli Moran told The Hill last month that several tribes “share the same sentiments” regarding Noem, specifically that she does not respect or “fully understand” tribal sovereignty.

The governor blamed the criminal activity on the Biden administration and called on the tribal governments to step up their efforts against gang violence.

“These are some of my poorest communities, and they want safe communities. They want their children to be safe,” she said last week. “They don’t want to have the type of violence happening outside their doors.”

“I have no jurisdiction there because I’m a governor,” Noem continued. “If they’re a sovereign nation, the federal government has to step in, and the tribal leaders have to step in.”

In a statement to The Hill on Thursday, Noem brushed off the bans as “political attacks.”

“I want to focus on solutions that lead to safer communities for all our families, educational outcomes for all our children, and declining addiction numbers for all our people,” the governor said in a statement. “We cannot tackle these issues without addressing the problem: dangerous criminals who perpetuate violence and illegal activities in all areas of our state. We need to take action.”

“It is my hope tribal leadership will take the opportunity to work with me to be an example of how cooperation is better for all people rather than political attacks,” she added.

Updated at 3:24 pm.

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