Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Explains Why It Won’t Ban South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem

The Lower Brule Sioux tribal council has become the latest to vote in favor of banning South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem from its land.

On Wednesday, the group joined Crow Creek, Sisseton Wahpeton, Oglala, Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, and Rosebud Sioux tribes in declaring Noem persona non grata following distasteful accusations she made during a town hall meeting in March. In that meeting, Noem claimed Indigenous parents were not involved with their children and that the majority of them were unemployed.

“Their kids don’t have any hope. They don’t have parents who show up and help them. They have a tribal council or president who has a political agenda more than they care about actually helping somebody’s life get better,” Noem said, reported Sioux Falls local news outlet KELOLAND.

Noem also claimed that tribal leaders benefited from drug cartels and human traffickers venturing into the state. She said it was the reason why the leaders “attack[ed her] everyday.”

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe became the seventh out of nine South Dakota tribes to ban Noem, while the leadership committee of the Yankton Sioux Tribe supports a ban but is yet to make an official decision.

That leaves the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe as the only Indigenous group where Noem is welcome.

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Communications Director Francis Wakeman told The Daily Beast that while Noem’s rhetoric is “not too helpful,” it had no immediate plans to bar her from their tribal land.

“We’re really busy with our own economic development and our own tasks right now,” he said. “The governor has her agenda; we have ours. We’re just continuing forward. So, we’re not going to get into the issue of banning the governor or anything at this time.”

He said that he understood other tribes were having issues with the state leader, but explained that the Flandreau Santee Sioux didn’t “have that relationship right now with the governor.”

Wakeman said he actually agreed with some of the things Noem has said about the academic needs of Indigenous children not being met.

“When it comes to chronic absenteeism, we do have a high rate of that. … We’re… working with our parents to address those concerns, but we are happy that [Noem is] concerned about Native education,” Wakeman said.

“We understand where [Noem is] coming from, but at the same time, [non-Indigenous politicians] kind of have to understand where Native people are coming from. It’s not been a good experience for any of us.”

Wakeman detailed how boarding school trauma still provides anxiety when it comes to Flandreau Santee children attending school.

“I came from one generation away from a mother that had a bad experience at boarding schools within the state,” he explained. “So, there’s a lot of apprehension on Native people when you start tossing the word ‘education’ around because we have such a traumatic experience with it.

“Those are the types of issues that kind of pop up whenever we talk about children in education, but we are addressing those things,” Wakeman added, “and we are trying to be culturally sensitive to those that have suffered abuses.”

The comments come as Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Clyde Estes said on Wednesday it was standing in solidarity with fellow South Dakota tribes and banning the governor.

“A couple months ago I sent a letter to the Governor’s office asking for an apology to our Native Youth on the comments she said about our children having no hope and also saying parents were absent and we have never received a reply or letter of apology,” Estes said in a statement to KELOLAND News. “Also we stand united with our Oceti Sakowin Tribes in solidarity against the blatant, disrespectful, hurtful words coming from the Governor regarding tribal governments and tribes. We are hopeful she thinks about her words and actions about the tribes in the state and we will continue to pray for her.”

The decision by Lower Brule Sioux Tribe comes a day after the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe unanimously decided that Noem couldn’t step foot on their land due to the “derogatory remarks” that she made at that town hall meeting in March.

“We banned [Noem] on her derogatory remarks about the cartels and ghost dancers,” Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Council member Kyle Loudner told the news outlet.

He added that the Governor also ignored a state of emergency that the tribe had attempted to put in place. In July 2023, the Crow Creek Sioux issued a declaration that the tribe’s treaty with the U.S. was being broken because there were inadequate resources and law enforcement, which affected the health and safety of its members.

Noem’s office did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment Wednesday.