Lakota People's Law Project
The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council unanimously voted yesterday to tell South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem she’s no longer welcome to enter the vast Pine Ridge Reservation. At issue: the Governor’s support for two so-called “riot boosting” bills, which the tribe says unfairly target Native Americans and allies who support them in efforts to keep oil pipelines away from their tribal lands.
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner sent a letter today to Noem’s office informing her of his tribe’s decision.
Noem may technically govern the entire state, but the Oglala Sioux Tribe holds status as an independent nation functioning with its own, sovereign tribal government. Now the Governor has been asked not to set foot upon a swath of land the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
With 17 of 21 council members present, the council voted unanimously to pass the official action in response to the recent adoption of two bills, SB 189 and SB 190. Those bills, collectively termed by Noem as “the Pipeline Package,” invent and increase penalties for those who protest pipelines and other infrastructure projects. Both tribes and the American Civil Liberties Union have expressed concern that the laws will limit the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of American citizens.
Below is the full text of the letter sent today to Governor Noem from the office of Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner. A signed pdf copy can also be accessed here.
Office of the Governor
500 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
Dear Governor Noem,
Pursuant to a unanimous Oglala Sioux Tribal Council Action as of May 1, 2019, 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. Your newly fabricated, unconstitutionally vague notion of "Riot Boosting" is being litigated against and will not stand. We are particularly offended that you consulted TransCanada before introducing these bills but failed to consult the Oglala Sioux Tribe, or any of the sovereign bands of the Sioux Nation, though our treaty lands would be traversed and endangered by the Keystone XL Pipeline.
According to 97% of scientists, climate change is a very real existential threat to humanity - likely the greatest we've ever faced. In light of this, it is clear that the First Amendment - which trumps state law - was intended to protect speech of exactly the type your laws attempt to abrogate. The Keystone XL Pipeline was even deemed by a previous president to be so dangerous to our sacred lands and atmosphere that he shut it down. How can you presume to criminalize those who would agree with that previous presidential judgment and hence take vigorous action to resist dangerous infrastructure?
Water and air are sacred; they are required for our continued life on planet earth. Our institutions of politics and economy must evolve beyond their current condition if we expect to continue the human project long into the future. Indigenous nations have honored and defended the sacred since the dawn of humanity.
We have superior legal title to all the land west of the Missouri River that you and/ or big oil seek to trespass and aggress on. These are our lands and our waters. Before you presume to visit our homelands again, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council must rescind its action as of May 1, 2019. If you do not honor this directive - for example, if you were to repeat your recent visit absent permission from our tribal government - we will have no choice but to banish you.
Nake Nula Waun MaLakota,
Julian Bear Runner
President, Oglala Sioux Tribe
The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the 501(c)(3) Romero Institute, a law and policy center. It is working with the office of Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner to provide logistical support and media outreach.