Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe says they are misrepresented in Gov. Kristi Noem’s Rushmore fireworks lawsuit

KELOLAND.com Original

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. (KELO) — The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is speaking out in an attempt to set the record straight on what they say is an issue in which they have been misrepresented. The Tribe has filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by Gov. Kristi Noem against the U.S. Department of Interior over her desire to shoot 4th of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore this summer.

At issue is Noem’s assertion that the state and federal governments consulted with Tribal governments on the impact of fireworks at the monument. According to a news release sent out by the Tribe, the office of the Chairman has no record of any consultation regarding fireworks in the Black Hills, an area sacred to the Sioux people.

Release from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

The release more than hints at the strained relationship between state, federal and Tribal governments.

“While the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is well aware that no state or federal government ever takes consultation with Tribal nations seriously, this incident of utilizing a politically appointed state office of tribal relations to negate serious consultations with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is indicative of policies detrimental for government-to-government relationships to continue in good faith.”

Statement from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

KELOLAND News reached out to Gov. Noem’s office for comment on the motion to intervene and the Tribe’s claim of misrepresentation, as well as to ask about the state’s consultation with the Tribe, the Governor’s relationship with South Dakota’s tribal community.

In email exchanges with Ian Fury, Noem’s communications director, Fury stated “There were multiple consultations with the Tribes prior to last year’s Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration.” He then referred to a declaration filed by NPS Regional Director Herbert Frost, which provides evidence of consultations with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe about Noem’s 2020 fireworks celebration. The documents, which Fury tweeted pictures of, are dated January and February 2020.

Fury’s claim centers on a line in the release which refers to Noem’s lawsuit and a permit. Fury says that because there is currently no permit for 2021 fireworks, the Tribe must be referring to the 2020 fireworks, on which they were consulted.

“On the permit” are the operative words. There is no permit for 2021 – hence the lawsuit. So in this statement, CRST is clearly referring to the 2020 Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration.”

Ian Fury, Communications Director for Gov. Kristi Noem

This claim is made despite the fact that the paragraph above this line explicitly references the denial of the permit to have fireworks this summer (2021).

Fury would not answer when asked if the tribe was consulted on the matter of 2021 fireworks.

Speaking on the Governor’s relationship with the Tribes, Fury highlighted the Governor’s Round Dance, an event held Thursday afternoon to celebrate tribal heritage and culture. “To our knowledge, this will be the first time ever that a round dance has been held on Capitol grounds,” says Fury.

Noem’s relationship with South Dakota’s tribal communities has at times been a contentious one since she’s taken office, angering many in 2019 when she pushed state legislators to approve a ‘riot-boosting’ act that was struck down by a federal judge that same year. Opponents say the law, which added criminal penalties for interfering with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, was an attempt to suppress peaceful protests and violated the first amendment.

More recently, Noem was at odds with Tribes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening legal action against tribes that had erected checkpoints on highways leading onto their reservations.

KELOLAND News been in contact with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, but has not yet been able to receive comment.

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