Kristi Noem doubles down on cartels being in SD reservations

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) doubled down on claims Thursday that drug cartels are operating in the state with connections to Native American tribes, after multiple tribes in the state banned her from their lands over the comments.

Noem said in a NewsNation interview that she has evidence of cartel activity in the state and will present the evidence to the public Friday.

“They are definitely have set up operations in South Dakota. We’ve seen the Bandidos there, MS-13 is there,” she said. “They’ve recruited members from the tribes.”

The governor previously claimed that tribal leaders benefited from cartel activity. Those comments caused five South Dakota tribes to ban Noem from their lands. A leadership board of a sixth recommended she be banned in a vote Friday.

She blamed the criminal activity on the Biden administration and called on the tribal governments to step up their efforts against gang violence.

“These are some of my poorest communities, and they want safe communities. They want their children to be safe,” she said. “They don’t want to have the type of violence happening outside their doors.” 

“I have no jurisdiction there because I’m a governor,” she continued. “If they’re a sovereign nation, the federal government has to step in and the tribal leaders have to step in.”

Relations between the governor and the tribes have been strained since she took office in 2019. Some of the tribes have accused Noem, who has been floated as a potential vice presidential pick for former President Trump, of making decisions to boost Trump’s campaign efforts.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe spokesperson Alli Moran told The Hill last month that several tribes “share the same sentiments” regarding Noem, specifically that she does not respect or “fully understand” tribal sovereignty.

Noem has repeatedly doubled down on the comments since being banned from the tribal lands, calling on tribes to back her law enforcement initiatives in a post shared on social media last week.

“Tribals 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,” Noem wrote last week. “We can only do this through partnerships because the Biden Administration is failing to do their job.”

Thursday’s comments came while Noem was on a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Noem ordered the state’s national guard to the border earlier this year to assist Texas’s efforts toward border security.

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