Without flags from all nine tribes’ governments, South Dakota Capitol panel isn’t sure what to do

Capitol News Bureau
KELO pierre capitol building

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s secretary of tribal relations raised a caution Wednesday. David Flute said he doesn’t expect all nine tribal governments will provide their flags for a display the Legislature wants in the state Capitol rotunda.

Flute, a past tribal chairman for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, didn’t explain why he was making that statement to the state Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission.

But it’s well-known that Governor Kristi Noem, who appointed Flute to the state post, angered many tribal members two years ago, when she convinced state lawmakers to approve criminal penalties for interfering with the then-planned construction of the KXL oil pipeline that some people opposed. Lawmakers also passed Noem’s bill creating a fund to assist communities along the route.

The Capitol commission now has the responsibility for carrying out the Legislature’s directive regarding the tribal flags. Noem proposed the idea two years ago, just before the KXL legislation.

The plan Wednesday from the state Bureau of Administration calls for tribal flags replacing nine of the 12 that now hang in groups of three at corners of the third floor of the rotunda. Two flags — the nation’s Stars and Stripes and South Dakota’s — would stay, as would a tribal buffalo warrior’s ceremonial staff.

State officials don’t want the tribal flags in a standing display on the second floor because they would need to be moved elsewhere in the Capitol during the annual Christmas trees display that attract hundreds of people and because visitors might not treat the flags respectfully.

But state officials also know they will need scaffolding to replace the current flags with tribal flags and would prefer that all nine could be done at one time.

Commissioner Scott Bollinger said his office would add information about the tribal flags to the visitors’ brochure and would create a plaque that could be replaced or repaired if damaged. Flute said each tribal government could be asked for an explanation of its flag’s history and symbols.

The governor supported the legislation that Representative Shawn Bordeaux sponsored. The Rosebud Sioux member’s bill also says the Legislature “may hold a ceremony open to the public to honor and recognize the flag display during each legislative session and representatives from each branch of state government and from each tribe shall be invited to participate.”

The nine tribal governments whose geography overlaps South Dakota are Yankton Sioux, Flandreau Santee Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Oglala Sioux and Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux.

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