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Noem, Potential Trump VP Pick, Banned from 15% of her State

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Photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

As South Dakota governor Kristi Noem vies for a top position in a second Trump White House, she appears to be more focused on shoring up her vice-presidential chances than on making allies at home — to the point that she is no longer welcome in around 15 percent of the state she governs.

Over the past few months, Noem has made several comments about alleged drug trafficking on Native American reservation lands, infuriating a number tribes in the state. In February, the Oglala Sioux Tribe banned her from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the fifth largest in the United States, for claiming without evidence that drug cartels were connected to murders on the reservation.

The ban did not dissuade her from making more incendiary remarks. In March, Noem said at a community forum in Winner that there are “some tribal leaders that I believe are personally benefiting from cartels being there and that’s why they attack me every day.” When tribal leaders demanded an apology, Noem doubled down, issuing a statement to the tribes to “banish the cartels.” In response, the Cheyenne River Sioux forbade Noem from setting foot on their reservation, the fourth largest in the U.S. On Wednesday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the sixth largest in the U.S., banned her as well. On Thursday, a fourth tribe, the Rosebud Sioux, followed suit.

Noem has drawn the ire of tribes before this year. In 2019, the Oglala Sioux Tribe barred her from their land after she signed two bills that would allow for more serious prosecutions of protesters demonstrating over the Keystone XL pipeline. But with four out of nine reservations in South Dakota now banning her from entry, she is unwelcome on around 15 percent of the land in her vast state.

“I don’t believe it’s the tribes that are banishing me,” Noem said on Thursday in response to the four bans. “It is their tribal governments, and it is their presidents, their chairmen. I do not believe it is the community members.” But Democratic state senator Shawn Bordeaux, a former Rosebud Sioux tribal-council member, told the Associated Press that her message about alleged cartel activity on South Dakota reservations is meant for an audience of one. “She figures by saying something that might go national, maybe Trump will elevate her a little higher and pick her to be on his team, which is sad,” he said.

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