The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council in South Dakota voted on Wednesday to forbid Republican Gov. Kristi Noem entry to their Pine Ridge Reservation until she agreed to rescind support for two controversial bills they say threaten their rights to protest.
The reservation itself is quite large — its area covers more square miles than Rhode Island and Delaware combined — and so the gesture is one that is seen as a serious matter.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe is upset with Noem for taking actions in support of the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would pass through or otherwise affect tribal areas.
The bills in question would make so-called “riot boosting” a criminal action in the state, and would allow the government or third-party entities working on behalf of the state to sue anyone who engaged in the practice, the Argus Leader reported this week.
Gov. Kristi Noem (R) visited the Pine Ridge Reservation just a couple weeks ago. That might have been her last time there now that the Oglala Sioux Tribe has told her she isn't welcome. #NoKXL https://t.co/mXR55Qp1DV
— indianz.com (@indianz) May 3, 2019
“Riot boosting” is the act of encouraging others to take part in violent acts of protest. The bills would define a riot as the use of force by three or more people acting together, according to Inside Climate News. The bills would also allow individuals living outside of the state to be charged with riot boosting if they encouraged others to protest the pipeline project in a violent way.
The Oglala Tribe sees the bills as infringing on their rights to protest, as their actions could be deemed riotous if interpreted by the government as being deemed as much, even if no harm comes to anyone involved. The definition of riot boosting, the tribe wrote in its letter to Noem, is “unconstitutionally vague.”
“I am hereby notifying you that you are not welcome to visit our homelands, the Pine Ridge Reservation, until you rescind your support for Senate Bill 189 and Senate Bill 190 and affirm to your state and this country that First Amendment rights to free, political speech are among the truths you hold to be self-evident,” Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner wrote in the letter to Noem.
The governor had consulted with TransCanada before she introduced the bills to the state legislature, the Oglala Tribe noted, but she did not meet with any of the Sioux tribes who stood to be affected by the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Noem’s failure to discuss the bills with the tribes was “particularly offensive,” Bear Runner added.
The bills were passed in the final week of the legislative session this year, in less than three days after they were submitted.
When the bills were passed in March, two Sioux tribes, one of them the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the other the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, told leaders in Pierre that they were no longer welcome to fly their flags at the state capitol building, the Associated Press reported.