Native American tribe bans South Dakota governor from reservation

Protest centers on Keystone XL pipeline

By Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation South Dakota, Oglala Sioux

Pine Ridge, S.D. - The Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota has told the state's governor that she's no longer welcome to access the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the largest in the country, because she signed bills that allegedly target Keystone XL pipeline protesters.

The tribe's president, Julian Bear Runner, informed Gov. Kristi Noem of the council's unanimous decision in an open letter.

"I am hereby notifying you that you are not welcome to visit our homelands, the Pine Ridge Reservation, until you rescind your support for SB 189 and SB 190 and affirm to your state and this country that First Amendment rights to free, political speech are among the truths you hold to be self-evident," he said in the letter.

He added that if Noem did not honor the directive, "we will have no choice but to banish you."

Tribal banishment is a permanent ban from the reservation, and violations are punishable by law with fines or even jail time.

Trump may appeal ruling halting Keystone XL pipeline

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."

"Governor Noem has spent considerable time in Pine Ridge building relationships with tribal members, visiting businesses, discussing economic development, and working with leadership," reads the statement.

"It's unfortunate that the governor was welcomed by Oglala Sioux's leadership when resources were needed during recent storms, but communication has been cut off when she has tried to directly interact with members of the Pine Ridge community."

"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."

The Pine Ridge Reservation, straddling Oglala Lakota, the southern half of Jackson County and Bennett County, takes up approximately 3,500 square miles of the state.

Noem signed the Pipeline Package at the end of March as a way to "ensure the safety and efficiency of pipeline construction in South Dakota."

One of the bills approved is the Riot Boosting Act, which allows officials to collect money from demonstrators convicted of "riot boosting," or fueling riots.

"I fully support the freedoms of speech and assembly, but we must also have clear expectations and the rule of law," said Noem in a statement. "My pipeline bills make clear that we will not let rioters control our economic development."

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the governor and accused the act of violating the First and 14th Amendments by limiting free speech and rights to due process.

"No one should have to fear the government coming after them for exercising their First Amendment rights," Courtney Bowie, legal director of the ACLU of South Dakota, said in a statement. "That is exactly what the Constitution protects against, and why we're taking these laws to court. Whatever one's views on the pipeline, the laws threaten the First Amendment rights of South Dakotans on every side of the issue."

Several Native American groups have protested the extension of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would cut through Montana and South Dakota, including some tribal lands.

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