Tribe president says Noem’s approach to tribal relations is not working

(The Center Square) – Oglala Sioux Tribe President Frank Star Comes Out said Gov. Kristi Noem should examine how she is handling tribal relations after the governor called Mexican drug cartel presence in Indian country “a problem across the nation.”

In a statement sent to The Center Square, Star Comes Out said Noem’s current approach to tribal relations is not working for her or the tribes.

“A better approach would be to reinstitute the previous Board for the South Dakota Indian Affairs Office with a representative from each of the nine Tribes,” said Star Comes Out. “This has worked in the past. It would ensure better communications between the Tribal governments and the State government and ensure that Tribes’ interests are heard, not just the State’s.”

This week, Noem called on tribal leaders to banish cartels from tribal lands.

“The cartels instigate drug addiction, murder, rape, human trafficking, and so much more in tribal communities across the nation, including in South Dakota. I will work with you to sign Law Enforcement Agreements to immediately assist you, respect your sovereignty, and uphold tribal law,” said Noem.

Star Comes Out responded by saying Mexican drug cartels operate outside of their reservation and that the Oglala Sioux Tribe has banished convicted drug dealers.

“We remind the Governor that any cartel dealers must first pass through state jurisdiction prior to any presence on Tribal Jurisdiction, what is being done about this?” Star Comes Out asked.

Noem said tribal law enforcement is underfunded by the Biden Administration and called for law enforcement agreements between South Dakota and the state’s Native American tribes.

“Although the state and tribes might not always agree, the need for law and order in our communities is imperative to combat illegal activities in our most vulnerable and rural areas,” said the governor.

Star Comes Out says inadequate funding for law enforcement is not unique to the Biden Administration and has existed for decades – something the tribe is addressing with a pending federal lawsuit.

”Perhaps, if the South Dakota Governor is so concerned about Tribal Law Enforcement, she could equalize the state Law Enforcement Funding, so Tribes receive equal amounts per person as the state does,” Star Comes Out said.

The back and forth between Noem’s office and the tribes comes on the heels of a Tribal-Federal meeting where both the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe say Noem made an uninvited appearance and brought members of the press with her.

“Governor Noem attended the meeting uninvited,” said Chairman Ryman LeBeau of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in a statement. “We told the organizers to recognize her but not to stray from the meeting agenda.”

Noem called for an audit last week of federal funds going to South Dakota’s Native American tribes.

“Every time that a South Dakota tribe has asked me for assistance, I have done what I can, both while in Congress and as governor,” said Noem. “I will continue to speak the truth, call out corruption wherever I see it, and fight to protect the lives of Native Americans in our state – because that’s what they deserve.”

Meanwhile, Star Comes Out said that Noem’s recent offers of assistance “ring hollow.”

“Accusing Sioux Tribes of harboring Mexican drug cartels on their reservations and calling for an audit of all federal funds tribes receive simply does not translate into a genuine ‘handshake’ or offer of assistance,” said Star Comes Out.