Tribe Council Bans Governor Noem Amid Controversy

 April 12, 2024

An escalating dispute has captured attention as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has officially prohibited South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem from entering its reservation territories.

According to The Hill, the move was incited by Noem's contentious remarks linking tribal leaders with Mexican drug cartels, placing her on a ban list that now includes three tribal lands.

The council of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe made the decision preceding the weekend, marking a significant stance against Governor Noem. The tribe, which resides along the boundary of North Dakota and South Dakota, expressed discontent with Noem's allegations that suggested a connection between some tribal leaders and illicit drug activities sponsored by Mexican cartels.

Allegations Stir Controversy and Division

Earlier this year, Governor Noem had been outspoken about issues she perceives at the U.S.-Mexico border, sparking controversy and leading to her ban from the Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes. These actions have underscored a growing rift between the state administration and indigenous communities, with about 10% of South Dakota's land now closed to the governor.

Janet Alkire, the Chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, called Noem's comments "irresponsible," criticizing them as a reflection of "fear-based politics" that fail to unify or address real issues. A special meeting was convened at Alkire's behest to discuss and vote on the ban, showcasing the tribe's resolve to challenge Noem's allegations head-on.

The governor, meanwhile, defended her position, underscoring her administration's efforts to bolster public safety within tribal territories. This includes introducing a law enforcement training program aimed at enhancing the capabilities of tribal authorities to tackle public safety and crime prevention.

New Training Initiative Amidst Strained Relations

Despite the bans, Governor Noem announced a new initiative last Thursday—a law enforcement training course designed for tribal communities. According to Noem, this move represents a critical step toward mitigating public safety issues prevalent within these territories.

Noem has sought to frame her actions and comments within the context of her concern for public safety on reservations. She has characterized her interventions as pragmatic responses to the challenges facing tribal communities, drawing attention to the broader issues of crime and safety needing attention.

The governor's defiance against the backdrop of her banishment has sparked a broader debate on governance, indigenous sovereignty, and the intersections of race, politics, and crime.

Community Reactions Mixed Amidst Governor's Controversial Ban

Janet Alkire voiced her discontent with Noem's approach, suggesting that more constructive efforts are required to truly tackle the issues at hand.

Janet Alkire criticized Governor Noem, saying, "Rather than make uninformed and unsubstantiated claims, Noem should work with tribal leaders to increase funding and resources for tribal law enforcement and education."

Despite the backlash, Noem stands by her comments, arguing that her outspokenness on these matters reflects a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths for public safety.


The standoff between Governor Kristi Noem and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe highlights a complex intersection of politics, cultural preservation, and public safety concerns. The controversy over Noem's comments regarding tribal leadership and drug cartel activities has led to her banishment from reservation land. This action underscores the tensions between state leadership and tribal sovereignty. As public safety initiatives roll out, the efficacy of Noem's strategies and the possibility of reconciliation remain uncertain.

About Victor Winston

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

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