Tribal flags celebrated at South Dakota Capitol, but one leader thinks there’s still work to be done

PIERRE, SD (AP) - Governor Kristi Noem And tribal leaders celebrated the new display of the two tribal nations' flags at the South Dakota Capitol on Wednesday as a symbol of unity. But at least one tribe wants to do more before giving up its flag.

Three years after Noem signed legislation to display flags at the state capitol of the nine tribal nations within South Dakota's borders, representatives of the Standing Rock and Rosebud Sioux tribes presented their flags.

While relations between Noem and various tribes have not been without tension during her tenure, tribal leaders praised the move as cooperative and unifying.

"For me, we want to build these relationships so we can help our people," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairwoman Janet Alkire said in an interview.

Alkire said the flag display symbolizes the spirit of cooperation and commitment to ensure state-tribal partnership.

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Alkire said she wants South Dakota lawmakers to see the flag and her tribe's colors when performing their duties to the state and know that they also represent Standing Rock.

Noem highlighted state-tribal relations and agreements on issues such as law enforcement, sales tax collection and distribution, social services, Medicaid and other areas.

“It is my great honor to work with our tribal nations,” Noem said. “It's a privilege to be able to spend time with them, learn the culture more deeply, and be a part of the way of life they enjoy and share with future generations " And share with me and my family.”

But the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe isn't ready to introduce its own flag, "things aren't the way they are right now," said Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Peter Lengkiek.

“We don't see enough transparency, enough accountability. “We don’t see any acceptance from the tribes,” Lengkik said. “The governor, these legislators, they will stand there and say we have these nine tribes and this and that, but true acceptance of the tribes, I have not seen yet.”

Noem has faced the ire of tribes for years. In 2019, Oglala Sioux Tribe declared him unwanted on its reservations after supporting legislation targeting pipeline protests; The tribe later canceled the move. In 2020, Noem clashed with two tribes highway checkpoints Enacted to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In 2021, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe There was a dispute in court with Noem On his attempt to shoot the Independence Day fireworks at Mount Rushmore. And last year, Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Emergency response criticized To a deadly blizzard.

Noem spokesman Ian Fury said the 2021 law provides tribes the opportunity to gift their flags to the state. The governor's office is talking to the seven tribes that have not yet done so and "are reiterating that invitation," Fury said.

Democratic state senator Shawn Bordeaux, a former Rosebud tribal councilman, quipped that they stole the idea from North Dakota. He was key in efforts to advance the Capitol display of tribal flags that began in 2019. He said he would like to put the disagreements from years ago over the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the past.

“I talked about our kids coming to the Capitol, acknowledging the fact that their flag hangs here. I want to look forward, but it's not right to look back,” Bordeaux said.

Later in the day, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Vice Chairwoman Cindy Allen-Weddell addressed the Legislature and spoke about her tribe. He praised collaborative legislation in the past, including the development of a skilled nursing home on the tribe's reservation and authorizing state reimbursement to the tribe for Medicaid-eligible patients.

"The tribe urges the state to collaborate with it and other South Dakota tribes to build a better South Dakota," he said.

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