South Dakota tribes looking to take back flags in Capitol building
PIERRE, S.D. — Two tribal leaders have sent word to the governor that they want their tribe’s national flags removed from the state Capitol.
The releases sent by Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Lester Thompson Jr. and Oglala President Julian Bear Runner expressed anger over the governor’s approach to pushing a package of bills, which relate to possible future protests of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Other tribal leaders have voiced their disappointment that Governor Kristi Noem never had any discussion with them about the impact of the bills. Critics believe these two bills are actively looking to disrupt possible future protests, and infringe on protester’s right to free speech.
The bills have received many critiques since their release, in part because Gov. Noem consulted with TransCanada before their release, but didn’t discuss them with tribal leaders. The timing also angered opponents since the release came the week after Gov. Noem’s announcement that she wanted the tribes’ flags represented at the Capitol building.
In response to critics, Gov. Noem released the following statement after the House and Senate passed her legislative package:
“These bills are pro-economic development, pro-free speech, and take a proactive approach to spreading the risk and costs associated with building a pipeline. I applaud the legislature for their thoughtful review and decisive leadership. I believe this approach will be part of the next generation of major energy infrastructure development.”
Thompson said in a Tuesday press release that the Crow Creek flag will not be presented at the Capitol “until Governor Kristi Noem and the legislature respect our people, shared history, and traditions.”
Bear Runner said that these bills came as a complete surprise, despite meetings with the governor before their release. To him, the state has taken a step backwards in tribal relations. Bear Runner said, “In order for there to be a conciliation between the state of South Dakota and the Oglala Sioux Tribe there must be a truth telling. There has not been a truth telling in this case.”
Until relations and common ground can be found, Bear runner is “respectfully requesting that our flag be removed so we do not have to come and remove it ourselves.”