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South Dakota governor banned from seven Native American reservations in her own state

The governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, is no longer allowed to step foot on large swaths of her state after another Native American tribe banished her from its reservation after comments she made about tribal leaders benefiting from drug cartels.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe on Tuesday confirmed that the tribe had voted to ban the Republican governor from its reservation in central South Dakota. It is the latest development in a widening rupture between Native American tribes in South Dakota and the state’s governor. Noem, an ally of Donald Trump, has embraced his hardline rhetoric on immigration and in recent months has repeatedly claimed that drug cartels are responsible for crime on the state’s reservations.

“We do not have cartels on the reservations,” the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe chairman, Peter Lengkeek, told NPR following Tuesday’s vote.

“We have cartel products, like guns and drugs. But they pass over state highways getting to the reservation,” he continued. “So, putting us all together like that and saying that all tribes are involved in this really shows … the ignorance of the governor’s office.”

The action comes a week after the Sissteon-Wahpeton Oyate tribe voted to banish the governor last week and the Yankton Sioux Tribe recommended a ban against Noem. The governor is now unwelcome on seven of the nine reservations located in South Dakota, amounting to roughly one-fifth of state territory.

In statements, several tribal members have accused Noem, once considered a potential running mate for Trump, of political opportunism, saying her comments are disrespectful and dangerous.

“Our people are being used for her political gain,” the president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Frank Star Comes Out, recently told the Associated Press.

This is not the governor’s first clash with some of the tribes in her state. She was previously banned by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council after she backed anti-riot legislation in response to the 2016 Dakota Access pipeline protests and again during the Covid-19 pandemic when some tribes implemented checkpoints to control the spread of the disease on their reservations.

“This decision does not come after one or two incidents but after years of witnessing the governor’s harmful and aggressive actions against tribes,” members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s business and claims committee said, announcing their support for banning Noem, whom they called “anti-tribe”.

In a social media post last week, Noem implored tribes to partner with her office to help “restore law and order” on tribal land and blamed the situation on the Biden administration’s failure to address migration at the southern border.

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“Tribals [sic] leaders should take action to ban the cartels from their lands and accept my offer to help them restore law and order to their communities while protecting their sovereignty,” she wrote.

The controversy comes as Noem, once considered a vice-presidential contender, reels from revelations in her memoir No Going Back that she shot and killed her family dog, Cricket, after it misbehaved after a pheasant-hunting trip. Facing bipartisan blowback over her actions, and withering ridicule, Noem defended her actions on a book tour, arguing that the dog had shown threatening behavior and needed to be put down.

She was also forced to remove an anecdote from the book in which she claims to have met North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, after experts disputed the claim.

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