South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem Faces Ban From Tribal Lands Over Controversial Remarks

 May 12, 2024

The political landscape in South Dakota has been shaken as Governor Kristi Noem finds herself banned from the territories of multiple Native American tribes.

According to Daily Mail, the rift follows Noem's contentious assertion that some tribal leaders might be colluding with drug cartels. The Trump VP hopeful is banned from entering nearly 20% of her state.

The tribes involved include the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This collective response marks a significant rebuke from nearly 20% of the state's Native American-governed land.

Historical Tensions Influence Current Conflicts

Relations between the state government and the tribes have been fraught, colored by historical conflicts such as the Wounded Knee Massacre and differing stances on environmental policies. The recent ban is the latest development in a longstanding complex relationship.

March of this year was marked by Governor Noem's controversial comments, suggesting the involvement of tribal leaders with narcotics operations, thereby intensifying existing tensions. These comments were quickly met with backlash from the tribal communities, culminating in the recent bans.

Noem's Political Path and Tribal Disputes

Particularly noteworthy is that Governor Noem is considered a potential running mate for Donald Trump in the forthcoming election, which adds layers of political implications to the tribal dispute. Ongoing disputes have previously seen Noem clashing with tribal authorities during significant events such as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and throughout the pandemic regarding reservation checkpoints.

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science, remarked on the situation, suggesting that Governor Noem might be leveraging the growing tension for political gains. He proposes that this conflict might distract from other potential issues in her political career.

Governor Kristi Noem addressed the controversy directly, stating on social media, "Tribal 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."

Contours of the Ongoing Dispute

The issue of drug cartels and tribal lands is a sensitive topic. Noem’s reference to the Biden Administration's alleged inaction adds another layer of complexity to the narrative, hinting at broader federal versus state operational tensions. Jillson further advanced his analysis of Noem's strategy: "I think that the chaos that Trump revels in is the chaos he creates ... Chaos created by somebody else simply detracts attention from himself."

The political scientist suggests that while Noem might not disregard the publicity stemming from these disputes, the nature of such attention could ultimately detract from her broader political aims, especially if considering a national campaign.


This development reflects deeper historical and political strains that could influence future interactions between the state administration and the tribes. Only three tribes in South Dakota have not imposed such a ban, which may signal varied responses and strategies within the Native American communities of the state.

The resolution of these tensions, and how they will affect both local governance and the larger political landscape, remains uncertain. Observers and stakeholders alike are keenly watching the unfolding events, which are poised to shape the evolving narrative of Native American and state relations in South Dakota.

This series of events highlights not only longstanding issues but also the potential repercussions for Governor Noem’s career, both within and beyond South Dakota.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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