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Gov. Noem responds to “State of the Tribes” address

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has responded to the “State of the Tribes” address given at the State Capital in Pierre Thursday. The following is the statement released in its entirety by Governor Noem’s spokesperson Ian Fury:

Our state’s Native American heritage and culture is such an important part of what makes South Dakota a special place. Governor Noem recognizes that. She acknowledges it every time we deploy resources to help the tribes, sign law enforcement MOUs to keep our tribal people safe, and incorporate Native American heritage and culture into our education standards. She invested in the first ever tribal-run meth treatment facility to help the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She has repeatedly invested in regional mental health resources, which will also help our tribal communities. She highlighted the Department of Tourism’s efforts to advance tribal tourism in her State of the State Address this week. She has repeatedly made efforts to reconcile our differences and come together as one state.

I wish the same spirit of shared culture and reconciliation was present at today’s State of the Tribes Address. Chairman Lengkeek of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe chose instead to deliver a message of division and perpetuate false narratives about Governor Noem and her Administration.

I will make corrections to many of his statements today, in turn.

Chairman Lengkeek criticized Governor Noem’s proposed Social Studies Standards, both in content and in process. He repeatedly stated that “Oceti Sakowin history is South Dakota history.” We agree! Governor Noem’s standards represent the largest emphasis on Native American history of any proposed standards to date. Commission members very specifically focused on the importance of incorporating Native American history by infusing them throughout every grade level, and they contain significantly more references to Native American topics than the current standards. It is important to note that a number of the proposed standards are directly aligned to the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings (OSEUs); the Standards repeatedly cite to the OSEUs. Teachers are encouraged to continue using the OSEUs as they address Native American history and civic topics, as well as in other academic content areas where they might be applied. However, Chairman Lengkeek insinuated that the OSEUs are not being utilized – Governor Noem’s standards ensure that they will be.

Regarding the recent winter storms, Chairman Lengkeek stated that “emergency services were slow to react.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, former Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Rodney Bordeaux recently wrote a letter to Governor Noem thanking her for the efforts of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (which are detailed here) and the South Dakota National Guard (which are detailed here and here) to assist in the storm response. In fact, after the false media narrative that the Governor was not responding to tribes like Rosebud was corrected, Rosebud Chairman Scott Herman stated that he was grateful for the assistance the state provided. Communication between the Office of Emergency Management and the tribes remained robust throughout. It’s a shame that Chairman Lengkeek chose to perpetuate a false narrative.

Chairman Lengkeek then blamed the state for the fact that the Code Talker Memorial at Capitol Lake hadn’t been completed. Every veteran memorial at Capitol Lake was built through fundraising by various veterans’ organizations. And that was the plan for the Code Talker Memorial, as well. The fundraising efforts have not materialized, so now they are asking the state to foot the bill. The reason this conversation resurfaced in the first place after years of silence was that Governor Noem and Secretary David Flute reopened the door to discussion about the Code Talker Memorial.

In an unprompted diatribe, Chairman Lengkeek also implied that he wants boys to play girls’ sports.

Governor Noem pushed for the funding of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons office when disgraced, impeached, and removed former Attorney General Ravnsborg neglected it. She has entered into agreements with tribes to fight the meth epidemic, and her Department of Tribal Relations has hosted meth summits to fight this scourge – the 5th of which will be held later this month. She has hosted tribal leadership breakfasts, luncheons, and a Round Dance at the State Capitol. Chairman Lengkeek was invited to these but chose not to attend. She has visited tribal leaders on their reservations at their invitation. She has never received such an invitation from Chairman Lengkeek. She has also delivered major broadband investments to the reservations, including $456,000 in grants to Flandreau Sioux Tribe and $474,500 in grants to Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Unfortunately, other tribes chose to reject the Governor’s broadband grants.

“It is time to put aside personal and political discord and recognize and embrace our shared history for the benefit of all South Dakotans,” Chairman Lengkeek said at the end of his address. We agree – but that message is polar opposite to the spirit with which he delivered this address.

Sincerely,

Ian Fury

Chief of Communications

Governor Kristi Noem (SD)

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