The governor of South Dakota appeared at the afternoon event, hosted by her office and the Tribal Relations Department, surrounded by staff and people from Pierre and surrounding areas, in what was to be a unifying event.
The event drew Standing Rock Sioux Tribal President Mike Faith, as well as educator Joe Circle Bear and a dance group from Sisseton, as well as numerous staff and attendees from Pierre.
David Flute, secretary of the tribal relations department, opened the event, touting Noem as a friend of the state’s nine tribal nations, saying, “One of (his) campaign promises was to embrace the culture and tribal heritage is the governor’s vision to do something like that, to bring our people together. “
But shortly after noon, when Noem stepped onto the podium to address the crowd, half a dozen protesters, one carrying a boombox, another with a megaphone and waving a flag, marched along the sidewalk. in front of the Statehouse. A protester shouted “racist governor” and invoked Noem’s response to COVID-19, saying “you think you can get away with lies” while holding a sign that read “Governor Noem, you don’t not represent Oceti Sakowin. “
Noem continued to speak, as the National Highway patrollers, who secure the Statehouse, quickly gathered along the lawn. An officer turned off the Blue-tooth speaker, which had exploded hip-hop, competing for sound with the official program.
“Today we have the great opportunity to celebrate the legacy that makes South Dakota so special,” continued Noem. “For years my family and I have attended tribal ceremonies in many communities in South Dakota. It is a huge honor to welcome one here today.
Soon the dancing began, as a drum group began to sing, with Noem, the first gentleman Bryon Noem and members of his staff circling the lawn in traditional dancing.
Protesters also turned their attention to the Circle Bear drumming group and host, accusing Indigenous participants of “selling.”
“Everything you do should be accompanied by a prayer,” Circle Bear answered into the microphone. “You cannot corrupt your own life.”
Next, one of the protesters spoke to Forum News Service, reading a message on his phone.
“We are here today in the so-called Pierre, South Dakota, Oceti Sakowin Turtle Island at Governor Kristi Noem’s so-called powwow intended to deceive people,” read the protester, who did not attend. not identified.
State-tribal relations under the Noem administration reached a low point with his signing of the so-called “riot control” bill in 2019, a response to protests against the Dakota access pipeline, although this law was ultimately blocked in federal court. In 2021, Noem sued the Biden administration in federal court to prosecute the fireworks at Mount Rushmore and reinstate the license for the Keystone XL pipeline. Both movements have drawn tribal criticism.
Earlier this month, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer mentionned he supported the interior ministry’s cancellation of the fireworks at the national monument, which stands on land sacred to the Lakota people and other tribal nations. Various tribal leaders, including the president of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, Harold Frazier, also expressed approval of Biden’s executive order to end KXL.
However, Noem also found common cause with tribal lawmakers on some issues, signing of the law a bill sponsored by Representative Peri Pourier, a Democrat from Pine Ridge, who liaises with the attorney general’s office for missing and murdered natives.
Noem left the event after about 40 minutes, although the dancing continued.
Brian GreyBull, a teacher, who had traveled with Sioux Voices dancers from Sisseton to the Lava Traverse Reservation in northeast South Dakota, said that when invited by Flute to bring the high school dance group to Pierre, he had first asked their parents and guardians.
“I went to see the parents first, just because of the opinions … like that,” said GreyBull, indicating where the protesters were. He added that “99%” of parents responded “ask the kids.” If they want to go, take them ”.
He said the girls wanted to attend the event.
“They hear the negative,” GreyBull said. “But they want to be positive. That’s why we’re here.”
Leta Wise Spirit, a resident of Pierre who is a registered member of Standing Rock, also attended Thursday’s event with her family.
“This is the first year they have had this,” said Wise Spirit. “I think it’s great. It brings everyone together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.”
When asked if the screams disrupted the event for her, Wise Spirit replied, “No. If you ignore it, it goes away.”