The Oglala Sioux Tribe has yanked the welcome mat right out from under South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s feet, basically telling her to stay off their lawn.
In a letter to the Republican governor Thursday, Julian Bear Runner, president of the indigenous nation, told Noem she was no longer welcome on one of the largest reservations in the U.S. due to her support for the Keystone XL pipeline and legislation that would target demonstrations against it.
“I am hereby notifying you that you are not welcome to visit our homelands,” Bear Runner said in a letter to Noem following a 17-0 Tribal Council vote Wednesday OK’ing the action, the Associated Press reports.
If Noem ignores his order, Bear Runner continued, “we will have no choice but to banish you” from the Pine Ridge reservation. The reservation spans 2.22 million acres — larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined — in southwestern South Dakota, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
The tribe’s decision was welcomed by many and garnered much attention on the Web, even by director Ava DuVernay.
The Oglala Sioux and other activists say the Keystone pipeline, if constructed through tribal lands, would endanger the tribe’s land and water resources. They say they would protest the Keystone pipeline in much the same way that protests were conducted against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017.
Those demonstrations, in which Native Americans played a key role, resulted in 761 arrests over six months and cost North Dakota $38 million, the AP reports.
This year, Noem supported new laws that made “riot boosting” a crime in South Dakota and would punish people or companies found guilty of doing so, the Argus Leader explains.
The Oglala Sioux feel the laws were passed with the Sioux and other anti-pipeline activists in mind. They say they were “particularly offended,” as the news site reports, that Noem consulted with the pipeline company, TransCanada, about the legislation, but not with the Sioux.
In response, the governor in a statement to the media noted that she was welcomed by the Sioux when they needed aid for recent storm relief and is disappointed by being made unwelcome now.
“The governor will continue working to engage with tribal members, stay in contact with tribal leadership, and maintain her efforts to build relationships with the tribes,” spokeswoman Kristin Wileman said, according to the AP.