Governor Kristi Noem says she wants to build relationships and partnerships with South Dakota’s tribal communities.
Toward the end of her first State of the State address, she says she wants the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction safe, clean and efficient.
But a Native American lawmaker says that stance will further strain tribal relations with the state.
Republican Governor Noem says she wants to build state-tribal relations. She says those bonds could address challenges tribes face in education, law and order and economic development.
But the only other time tribes were mentioned during her state of the state address was in relation to pending construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The route will pass nearby several of the state’s reservation borders.
During her speech, Noem indicated issues could arise during her tenure that will require the strength and resolve of the state’s first responders, military and law enforcement. She says they are training and preparing for any kind of actions taken against pipeline construction.
“Let me be very clear on this: I want the construction of this pipeline to be safe, clean and efficient. We will make sure that people, water and the environment are protected. My administration will work with the tribes, the companies, and as necessary, law enforcement, to make this as uneventful as possible.”
One Democratic legislative leader says she didn’t say enough about tribal relations.
State Senator Troy Heinert is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He says it will take a lot of work to build trust between communities.
“I heard her stance on stance on the Keystone pipeline, that’s not a popular stance in tribal communities,” Heinert says. “So, getting to work on that—and we want people to be safe, as well. We don’t want to see anyone injured if this was to go through. But, if we’re going to talk about creating habitats and conservation, then I also think it’s fair to listen to our concerns.”
The Keystone XL project is tied up in the courts, and pipeline construction is halted.