“It is still unlawful for Indians to walk down the street if they are in groups of three or more because they would be considered a war party and may be fired upon,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, shown here as she waited to testify at a pipeline hearing with A. Gay Kingman, left, and South Dakota State Rep. Peri Pourier, right.

Native Sun News Today: Tribes protest passage of bill protecting Keystone XL Pipeline

‘Riot boosters’ will pay with passage of Noem’s law
Freedom of speech is main issue
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE – Despite poignant opposition from tribal leaders, Gov. Kristi Noem’s “next-generation” bills to shield the South Dakota treasury from costs of anticipated conflicts over the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline construction sailed through the state Legislature on March 7.

“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,” she said when the voting was done. “I believe this approach will be part of the next generation of major energy infrastructure development.”

Her SB 189 means anyone convicted for felony riot or encouraging it will now be faced with civil penalties in addition to criminal prosecution. Those who “encourage rioting” are dubbed with the unprecedented label of “riot boosters.”

Her SB 190 requires pipeline builders to post a bond to be used for law enforcement in the event of a conflict. The money from the divergent sides of a conflict will go into a state war chest called a “peace fund.”

GOSD dropped the bills on legislative committees March 4, in an 11th-hour move that obliged lawmakers to suspend the usual rules of review. The office said this was necessitated by the fact that Noem is only recently elected and needed every last minute to elaborate the proposals.

However, their introduction coincided with a tribal chairs’ trip to the U.S. Capitol to testify at the Appropriations Committee hearings there, timing that angered constituents. Of the nine tribes South Dakota state jurisdiction overlaps, only one chair could attend.

“The scope of who could be sued for riot boosting and a clear definition of what constitutes a ‘riot booster’ is unclear,” said Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chair Lester Thompson Jr.

“The vague, broad language opens the door to infringe upon the right to freedom of speech across any and all issues, not just the Keystone pipeline but for any group that assembles in protest on any issue,” he complained.

“Furthermore, if a peaceful protester is provoked by the opposition with intent to create a riot, what resource does one have under this bill to address that issue?” he asked at a committee hearing.

Faith Spotted Eagle, representing the Ihanktonwan Nation, chimed in, saying she had personal experience at the 2016-2017 conflict between the Oceti Sakowin and police over the Dakota Access Pipeline construction near Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.

“A lot of the ‘riot boosters’ were the law enforcement people themselves,” she said. “It was really dangerous to be around those police,” she said.

Spotted Eagle objected that descendants of the original inhabitants of modern-day South Dakota are exponentially more vulnerable to penalization with the new measure. “There’s still a law in the books of South Dakota that says if there are five or more Native Americans on your property, they can be considered to constitute a raiding party and you are permitted to shoot them,” she said.

“It is still unlawful for Indians to walk down the street if they are in groups of three or more because they would be considered a war party and may be fired upon,” she said. “So, you see a lot of things have not changed in the philosophy.”

She said her tribe considers the bills to be “an attempt to legislate by ambush.” The state offered the tribes no opportunity to cooperate, she lamented. The legislation is “clearly a means of revenue generation called predator economics,” she continued. “You call us rioters; we call you predators.”


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Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com

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