17 South Dakota Congressmen sent a bipartisan letter to Governor Kristi Noem stating that the State of South Dakota does not have the authority to enforce State law within the boundaries of a Reservation. The congressmen also criticized the governor’s actions as confrontational, demanding, and causing a constitutional crisis.
Furthermore, they criticized Governor Noem for failing to work with members of the legislature whose districts include tribal people, lands and government.
“We could have helped facilitate conversations and given your office unique insight as to the history, culture, protocols, and vernacular of how to work together with Tribal governments. You elected, however, not to contact us and sent an ultimatum to both tribes,” the letter stated.
Among the legislators who signed the letter were Senators Troy Heinert and Red Dawn Foster, as well as Representatives Oren Lesmeister, Shawn Bordeaux, Peri Pourier and Tamara St. John all who have tribal jurisdictions within their districts.
The legislators stated that the State does not have authority to enforce State law within the boundaries of reservations, a point that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has argued.
“Your letter indicates “[t]he State of South Dakota objects to tribal checkpoints on US and State highways regardless of whether those checkpoints take into consideration the safety measures recommended by the SD DOT.” This is not an accurate statement of the law of the policy of the State of South Dakota. The Legislature has not passed any bill stating as such, nor does the State of South Dakota have the authority to enforce State law within the boundaries of a Reservation”
Furthermore, the congressmen shared that the Governor’s statement that Tribal governments do not possess the ability to establish checkpoints within the boundaries of their homelands “is not accurate.”
They cite the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaties and the 1990 8thCircuit Court of Appeals which held the State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction over the highways running through Indian lands in the state without tribal consent.
“We do not wish to be party of another lawsuit that will ultimately cost the people of South Dakota more money. We wish to work with all parties involved for a reasonable, legal, and appropriate solution that address the concerns of all sovereigns involved,” said the congressmen.
The legislators then requested the governor to meet with Tribes for a government-to-government discussion, “to negotiate a resolution that reflects our combined goal of keeping all people healthy and safe.”
The letter was signed by Senators Troy Heinert, Craig Kennedy, Reynold Nesiba, Red Dawn Foster, Susan Wismer and Representatives Jamie Smith, Steve McClercy, Peri Pourier, Shawn Bordeaux, Erin Healy, Kelly Sullivan, Linda Duba, Ray Ring, Oren Lesmeister, Ryan Cwach, Michael Saba, Tamara St. John.