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Tribe will not attend governor’s public safety summit

Amelia Schafer
ICT + Rapid City Journal

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Oglala Sioux Tribe will not be attending South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s Tribal Public Safety Crisis Summit on June 24 and is encouraging the other eight tribes to do the same, according to President Frank Star Comes Out.

“The tribes need to stay united on Noem’s false accusations that Mexican cartel members are operating on the Sioux Reservations and not attend her summit,” Star Comes Out said in a May 30 press release.

On May 28, Noem announced a June 24 Tribal Public Safety Crisis Summit in Pierre to communicate and work to solve high rates of drug addiction, violent crime and trafficking of women and children on tribal reservations throughout the country, including in South Dakota.

In recent months, all nine South Dakota tribes have voted to ban the governor from their lands. On Tuesday, May 21, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe was the last to vote to ban the governor.

In her May 28 press release, Noem said the tribal summit will hopefully be a means for collaboration between the nine tribes and the state of South Dakota.

“I hope this conversation can get the ball rolling towards real solutions,” she said in the press release.

In the same statement, Noem again asserted that drug cartels and their affiliates are behind the rise in crime on tribal land. She said cartel presence is the result of mismanagement of the southern border by the Biden Administration, a point she made on May 17 during a press conference in Pierre.

Cartel presence has been confirmed on other reservations in neighboring states such as the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and several Montana reservations. However, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Dakota, the cartel is not operating on Pine Ridge, Star Comes Out said.

On May 17, Noem referred to the 2022 kidnapping of an FBI agent on the Pine Ridge Reservation by three Latino individuals, one of whom was not a citizen. However, the South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s public affairs specialist told ICT and the Rapid City Journal on May 17 that the cartel was not involved in this case.

Star Comes Out expressed frustration with Noem’s recent involvement in crime in Indian Country, referencing the 1883 Ex Parte Crow Dog case.

In 1881, a Lakota man named Crow Dog shot and killed another Lakota on what was then the Great Sioux Reservation in present-day South Dakota. The tribal government convicted Crow Dog and ordered him to pay restitution to the victim’s family under traditional law. However, the Dakota Territory also charged Crow Dog with murder and sentenced him to death.

In the end, the Dakota Territory was found to not have jurisdiction over the case. The decision affirmed that tribal nations are political sovereigns with a right to be ruled by their own law on their own land.

“Noem should improve law enforcement within her own state in which the Mexican cartels are actually operating and bringing illegal drugs to our reservations,” Star Comes Out said. “Lack of state law enforcement in South Dakota is actually contributing to the importation of illegal drugs on our reservations. She needs to clean up her own backyard.”

Instead of attending, Star Comes Out said the Oglala Sioux Tribe will be focused on engaging in its annual Little Big Horn Victory Day festivities.

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Chairman J. Garrett Renville said he also will not be attending. Renville has prior commitments in North Dakota. Standing Rock Chairwoman Janet Alkire said she also cannot attend due to prior commitments, but the vice chairman may attend.

The summit was announced less than a month before it was set to take place, causing issues for many tribal leaders.

Additionally, throughout the month of June, the inaugural South Dakota tribal law enforcement training will be conducted in Pierre. As of May 17, at least 13 officers were signed up from tribes in South Dakota to engage in the training. 

This story is co-published by the Rapid City Journal and ICT, a news partnership that covers Indigenous communities in the South Dakota area.

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