As Gov. Noem burns trash with her new flamethrower, tribes shovel themselves out
Tribes get burned once again on Wounded Knee Massacre anniversary.
Today, the 132nd anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre — during which approximately 300 Lakota women, children and families were murdered and wounded by U.S. Cavalry — is a good day to chat about South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) new flamethrower.
It seems this Christmas the governor was gifted by her staff with a Pulsefire LRT flamethrower, complete with an specialized, engraved plate of the state’s motto, "Under God, the people rule."
Her communications staffers have proudly shared details of their present, and they’ve posted pictures and video of Noem on social media already using it to burn garbage.
When I first read news of the gift, I immediately thought of some folks I know on the Rosebud Sioux and Pine Ridge reservations, dealing with the difficulties they usually face with the state and federal governments in terms of lacking funding and poor trust and treaty relationships and opposition toward their sovereign nations.
At a time of intense cold and ongoing storms — and continued poverty on those reservations in particular — I couldn’t help but wonder how much the flamethrower cost, having never purchased one myself.
$650, according to her staff, confirmed in local news reports. Not paid for by taxpayers, they say.
I also couldn’t help but think about the many Natives I’ve interviewed over the years who have been disappointed by Noem’s leadership — whether it be her anti-Native sovereignty and cultural positions, on topics like Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, to lacking economic support for tribes in her state and region to an outright hostility lately toward Native-focused education.
No doubt, she has tribal allies, and her staff, when she previously served in the U.S. Congress, has spoken to me about her support for some tribal issues.
Still, of all Republican, bipartisan friends of Indian Country, Noem’s tactics and allyship tend to rank among the most suspect.
I next wondered what the cold, suffering people on the reservations in her state thought of her new flamethrower.
The Argus Leader shared a bit, writing that “people on social media have critiqued the gift, saying at the same time Noem was disposing of her trash, thousands of Native Americans living on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations were trapped due to harsh winter conditions without heat.”
Citizens living in Pine Ridge were forced to burn clothing as propane gas deliveries had stopped and there was no accessible firewood, according to the Rapid City Journal. A state of emergency was declared by the Oglala Sioux Tribe during the winter storm.
At least one person, a 12-year-old child, from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe died, because they were unable to receive medical treatment.
Noem’s staffers, as they tend to do, are pushing back on the idea that she hasn’t done enough for tribes at this time of crisis.
Her spokesman shared with the newspaper a list of what the Department of Public Safety has done to help tribes during the latest winter storm.
“Such efforts included clearing roads on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations, coordinating transport for more than 40 dialysis patients to Rapid City, helping stranded drivers and delivering food, firewood and propane to communities,” according to the report.
And: “Before the Christmas holiday, Noem also declared a state of emergency for South Dakota and activated the National Guard to bring firewood to the Rosebud Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe.”
The pushback rang hollow to me, at least, as I watched her proudly burn that trash with her new flamethrower, while I continued to read reports of reservation inequities.
It also appears to ring hollow for Rosebud citizen OJ Semans, who shared on social media yesterday that it was his own tribe that came to his house at 11:30 p.m. and opened up his snow-blocked driveway.
“So while the National Guard was opening up the blacktop roads, our members were getting our people out,” Semans shared.
“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the National Guard coming to the Rosebud, [but] they didn't compare to the work our [tribal citizens] are doing.”
Semans further noted that Noem in July supported sending 50 personnel from the National Guard to Texas for 30 to 60 days to help with that state’s emergencies.
But similar, ongoing support hasn’t happened for Rosebud, he lamented.
“[A]s a matter of fact, they are already gone,” Semans said of the National Guard as of yesterday.
Semans concluded by calling it “a shame” that Noem “neglected the South Dakota citizens living on reservations.”
Agreed. Here’s hoping the governor can put down her new toy long enough to realize it.
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Ol' Jilly Joe O'Biden (Democrat) taking off to vacation in the Caribbean Islands during inclement 22' winter conditions for us and US economic upheavel forecast is about out of touch with everyday Americans than playing w a gift (torch).
She should feel shame.... as for many in powerful positions to provide help and justice. The long history of abuse, neglect and dishonesty is appalling. Worse yet is that the people who should be fixing this are in fact the same people doing the abuse, neglect and profiteering....And that they are repeatedly elected by a populous that supports their action is a further atrocity.