Noem: Tribes, not the state, are hesitant to work together

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 1:11 PM CST
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Even before the State of the Tribes Address was announced, Governor Kristi Noem was already in a tense situation with tribal leaders around the state.

Coming off a freshly lifted banishment from the Pine Ridge Reservation, she was put in another bind when the Legislature's Executive Board announced her secretary of tribal relations, Dave Flute, would make the address on Thursday, January 16. While Flute is a former chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, the State of the Tribes Address has been delivered by a sitting chairman or president from one of the tribes for the last four years.

In response, several tribes announced plans to boycott the address and instead set up an unofficial Great Sioux Nation Tribal Address slated for the same day.

Ultimately, plans were changed and Flute was swapped out for Crow Creek Sioux Chairman Lester Thompson.

The debacle is just the latest in a string of resistance efforts against the governor's office not seen in the previous administration. However, Noem insists she has worked to make amends.

"We have been to every tribe in the state and asked, 'how can we help?'" Noem said on Tuesday.

To that end, she says they have managed to get agreements signed on things like law enforcement collaboration and drug prevention and treatment. However, there's still hesitation.

"I would say most of the hesitation is on the tribal side, not the state side," Noem said. "We have been willing to do these kinds of agreements. Many times where the concerns arise is the tribes protecting their sovereignty"

Noem says the state is willing and ready to work more closely with the tribes, but will also respect their rights as sovereign nations.

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