Kristi Noem digs in on cartels claim after she’s banned from most tribal land in South Dakota

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem has doubled down on her claims that tribe members are in cahoots with drug cartels operating on reservations in the state, leading to seven Native American reservations banning her from stepping foot on the land.

Ms Noem has now claimed in a recent NewsNation interview, according to The Hill, that she has evidence of cartel activity in the state and will present this apparent evidence to the public on Friday.

“They are [sic] definitely have set up operations in South Dakota. We’ve seen the Bandidos there, MS-13 is there,” the governor claimed in the interview. “They’ve recruited members from the tribes.”

Ms Noem has announced she will be holding a press conference at South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre on Friday morning to “discuss the crisis at our southern border and the negative impact the open border and cartel presence are having on South Dakota’s tribal lands.”

The governor has previously alleged, with little evidence so far, that tribal leaders have been “personally benefitting” from cartel activity in the state, leading to Ms Noem being banned from a total of seven out of the nine Native American tribes as of Tuesday.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe was the latest to confirm that the tribe council had voted to ban the Republican governor from its reservation located in central South Dakota.

This means that the Republican leader is banned from entering almost 20 per cent of her state now that over 90 per cent of the state’s tribal lands have barred her from visiting the reservations.

"We do not have cartels on the reservations," Crow Creek Sioux Tribe chair, Peter Lengkeek, told NPR following Tuesday’s vote.

"We have cartel products, like guns and drugs. But they pass over state highways getting to the reservation,” Mr Lengkeek continued. “So, putting us all together like that and saying that all tribes are involved in this really shows to the ignorance of the governor’s office.”

Ms Noem has previously blamed the alleged cartel activity on the Biden administration for not doing their job, and called on tribal leaders to ban the cartels and accept her help to “restore law and order to their communities while protecting their sovereignty.”

She also cemented her cartel claims further on social media this week and has criticised the tribes for banning her rather than banning the alleged cartels.

Kristi Noem speaks at a Trump rally in Ohio in March (AFP via Getty)
Kristi Noem speaks at a Trump rally in Ohio in March (AFP via Getty)

“Banning me does nothing but distract from the crime, drug trafficking, and sex trafficking. Banish the cartels,” she wrote on Wednesday, also again targeting the Biden administration and Congress over their apparent lack of action over this matter.

She also made the sweeping claim the week before on X that “Biden allows drug cartels to come across the border and operate unchecked – trafficking drugs and selling women and children into sex slavery.”

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe joins the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe and the Yankton Sioux Tribe in banning Ms Noem from their reservations in South Dakota.

The tribe leaders have come forward and condemned Ms Noem’s statements, such as the Standing Rock Sioux tribe saying that her attempt to connect cartels with tribes was “wild and irresponsible” while the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe says that they are taking action to “protect our values” and prevent “further marginalization of tribal nations”.

Her allegations come after a series of controversies surrounding her new memoir No Going Back, with reports speculating as to whether this could have damaged her placement on Donald Trump’s potential vice-president list.

In the book, she featured a dubious claim that she met North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, which her publishers have since backtracked on, as well as a story about shooting a misbehaving dog, that sparked severe backlash.