As of Thursday afternoon, Noem had not yet filed an appeal in the 8th Circuit. In her lawsuit — which attracted the attention of Republican officials from 17 states — she requested, and was granted, expedited status in order to force a decision before July 4. Should Noem proceed with the case, Cheyenne River and its advocates stand ready. But attorney Nicole Ducheneaux, who represents the tribe, characterized the entire affair as a charade, aimed at boosting the governor’s appeal among Republicans, many of whom continue to believe in the false premise that Trump didn’t actually lose the 2020 election. “In light of the high burden in this case, which the state did little to meet, Governor Noem’s lawsuit does not appear to have been a serious effort to win an injunction,” said Ducheneaux, a Cheyenne River citizen. “Instead, it looks more like a piece of political theater aimed at exciting the Trump-Noem base.” “We are dismayed that Governor Noem has used the federal court to jeopardize our religious freedoms and our beautiful American landscape in service of her political ambitions,” added Ducheneaux, from the Native-owned Big Fire Law and Policy Group. “The Lakota people have been fighting to protect our sacred Black Hills for nearly 200 years. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is committed to finishing this fight in the Eighth Circuit and beyond if Governor Noem wants to take it there.” The current dispute began when the Biden administration denied Noem a permit to stage the Independence Day fireworks display at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Though the site is currently controlled by the U.S. government, it lies within territory promised to the Sioux Nation by the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. The history of the broken treaty was laid out in the decision on Wednesday. “Though that treaty preserved the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Indian Reservation, a gold rush beginning in the 1870s resulted in abrogation of the treaty and dispossession of the Black Hills from the Lakota, which ninety years later prompted the Supreme Court of the United States to observe: ‘A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history,’ the judge wrote. Noem’s lawsuit notably names Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland as the defendant. In making history as the first Native person named to a presidential cabinet, she noted that a predecessor in her role “once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ us.” “I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology,” Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, remarked before winning confirmation as the first Native person to lead the Department of the Interior, where she oversees public sites like Mount Rushmore.
President @JoeBiden said that the 4th of July will be when we “mark our independence from this virus.”— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) June 3, 2021
But his administration doesn’t want to hold such a celebration with fireworks at Mount Rushmore. Why? Their reasons are completely arbitrary & unlawful.https://t.co/ycTJ86dImp
The fireworks fiasco, as the Big Fire firm put it, isn’t Noem’s first attempt to run roughshod over the tribe. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she threatened to bring legal action unless Cheyenne River removed coronavirus checkpoints on the reservation. Noem never made good on her threat and the tribe kept operating the checkpoints to ensure that outsiders weren’t bringing the deadly virus into the community. But she found a willing ally in the Trump administration, as a top White House official attempted to exert pressure on Frazier in hopes of punishing him for standing up to the Republican governor. “Well, I guess she’s had complaints of people coming to a checkpoint on, I guess there is one federal road and one U.S. road where there is a complaint,” Mark Meadows, who was serving as chief of staff to Trump, told Frazier on a call last June, according to a transcript filed in federal court as part of a lawsuit separate from the fireworks debacle.
The White House took the pressure campaign even further. Tara Sweeney, a Trump appointee who was the first Alaska Native person to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, threatened to cut law enforcement funding to the tribe, according to court documents. “In order for the tribe to retain its law enforcement contracts or to avoid emergency reassumption, there were some immediate steps that needed to take place,” Sweeney told Frazier on a follow-up call that included a second White House official. As the dispute dragged on into the fall, Sweeney refused to let the matter go. In a previously unreported incident, she was even prepared to send Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation to take down the checkpoints, giving Noem and Trump a major boost ahead of the November presidential election.
HOT OFF THE COURT DOCKET!— indianz.com (@indianz) June 24, 2020
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe v. Donald J. Trump, President of the United States.@CRSTChairman v. @realDonaldTrump @POTUS @WhiteHouse @WilliamCrozer45
🔥 @bigfirelaw 🔥 pic.twitter.com/GXVJDxvJVW
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