Former South Dakota Gov. George S. Mickelson proclaimed the year of 1990 as the Year of Reconciliation. That was to be the year of peace between Native Americans and white citizens, in memory of the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee on Dec. 29, 1890.
Many South Dakota leaders saw that Year of Reconciliation as a success and a step forward from our state's bitter past of how Native Americans were treated. In conjunction, South Dakota became the first state to make Native American Day a state holiday in place of Columbus Day.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, and May 2, 2019, will be remembered as a significant step back from progress.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe voted to ban Gov. Kristi Noem from their lands for engineering and signing bills that target Keystone XL pipeline protestors. In her response, Noem said that it was unfortunate that her help was welcomed when the reservation had flooding earlier this year, but was cut off when she was trying to "directly interact with members of the Pine Ridge community."
Let's make this much clear: This was a poor look for everyone involved. It's a shame, because both Noem and the tribes have worthwhile arguments on their stances regarding the pipeline.
Native Americans and tribal communities rightly are taking issue with the dangers of pipelines, because they do leak and have the potential to damage natural resources and the environment. Tribes also should have the right to protest; as believers in the First Amendment, we're not interested in seeing those rights curtailed either.
Noem deserves to be taken to task for the way these bills were rolled out, considering they were introduced and passed in a span of four days. The package of bills was signed into law later in the month, but when the legislation was Noem's idea to begin with, her final signature was a foregone conclusion.
But after watching the protests in North Dakota in 2016 for the Dakota Access Pipeline - where hundreds were injured and arrested and acts of violence used against protestors gained unwanted media attention - Noem likely wants to avoid that, and she has leaned on changing the laws to do that and punish those who damage public infrastructure.
It's not likely either side is interested in backing down. And it doesn't seem probable they'll be gathering around the table for compromise. But for South Dakotans at large to lose civility and cooperation between the state and tribes, following years of relationship-building, would absolutely be a shame.