“The future of South Dakota”: Lakota students honor South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem with a star quilt at the 2019 State Tribal Relations Rotunda Ceremony in the capitol in Pierre on February 27, 2019. Photo courtesy South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations

Native Sun News Today: Governor aims to stifle Keystone XL dissent

Tribal chair locks horns with governor over KXL Pipeline dissent package
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today Contributing Editor

EAGLE BUTTE – Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chair Harold Frazier had an immediate thumbs-down response March 4 to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s announcement of two bills to kneecap dissent over the proposed construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline.

“I am disappointed again with the leader of South Dakota. The governor has not discussed any proposed legislation with the Sioux Nation or Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe,” Frazier said in a written statement.

“This proposed legislation is designed to further an agenda of shoving this pipeline down our throats,” he said. “She is putting the economic needs of the foreign company TransCanada ahead of the future of South Dakota.”

The tribes of the Great Sioux Nation have gone on record year after year in opposition to building the tar-sands crude-oil conduit across the waters and lands of their 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory. They reiterated their stance on the floor of the Legislature during opening sessions.

Nonetheless, Noem and her team met with TransCanada Corp. and law enforcement to discuss the Keystone XL Pipeline project and “to listen and develop legislative solutions that allow for an orderly construction process for this pipeline and others. The legislation is the result of those discussions,” she said in a written statement.

Frazier recoiled: “If the governor truly wants save money, she should consider not allowing a pipeline through the state. This legislation only shows that they are more concerned with saving money while suppressing South Dakotans rights of assembly and intimidating anyone who is considering options to stand up for what they believe is right.”

Noem maintained she is “a supporter of property rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. We should celebrate differences of opinion, but here in South Dakota, we will have the rule of law, because rioters do not control economic development in our state,” she added.

“This package creates a legal avenue, if necessary, to go after out-of-state money funding riots that go beyond expressing a viewpoint but instead aim to slowdown the pipeline build. It allows us to follow the money for riots and cut it off at the source.”

The South Dakota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also had a swift and biting reply to the introduction of the package, stating: “It is clear that Noem is taking aim at protests that could occur around the pipeline.”

In a written release, state ACLU Policy Director Libby Skarin said, “The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment.

“Unfortunately, government officials sometimes violate this right through means intended to thwart free public expression, sometimes by casting or framing protected speech as riotous. Based on Gov. Noem’s statement, it’s clear that she’s taking aim at the protests that could occur around the Keystone XL Pipeline. At best, these bills are entirely unnecessary. At worst, they are meant to chill speech.”

Frazier criticized the last-minute introduction of the bills. “No one knew about this legislation and it has been concocted and pushed in the back rooms and out-buildings designed to keep the people of South Dakota in the dark.

“Nothing speaks to the deviousness surrounding the actions of a rich corporation more than the actions of the politicians under their influence,” he added.

The ACLU chimed in: “Introducing new legislation on the 33rd day of the legislative session is problematic. The public may not have a chance for input.”

The last day for a bill or joint resolution to pass both houses is March 7. Rules may be suspended to allow for Noem’s bills to proceed without a committee hearing in order to meet that deadline.


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Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com

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