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GOP Governor Called Out For Playing With Flamethrower As Indigenous South Dakotans Freeze

Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem played with her new toy as people on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations reportedly burned clothes to keep fires lit.

Twitter screenshot of Kristi Noem using her flamethrower

As winter storms continue to wreak havoc across much of the country, many of the nation's most marginalized and underserved populations continue to struggle to access much-needed resources like firewood.

Indeed, Indigenous Americans on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation and Rosebud Indian Reservation have been largely stuck in their homes as a result of wind gusts exceeding 60 miles per hour and at least 16 inches of snow. The situation has grown so dire people on reservations have taken to burning their own clothes to keep warm.

South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem finally announced she would activate the National Guard to deliver firewood to people on the reservations but her latest social media posts in which she showed off her "amazing" flamethrower have underscored the distance between the "haves" and the "have nots."

A video of Noem using her flamethrower on a pile of boxes and wrapping paper from Christmas gifts so she could burn it rather than throw it out has circulated online.

You can see the video for yourself below.

Photos showing her using the flamethrower were also shared.

Ian Fury, the head of Noem's communications team, even shared a picture of the flamethrower, which has the state motto engraved on it.

Noem later revealed that she had received the flamethrower as a Christmas present from her staff and bragged about the gift during an appearance on "Fox and Friends":

“I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want a flamethrower. It has our state motto, even, on it, which is ‘Under God, the People Rule.’ So they even had it personalized specifically for me." ...
“I would just recommend getting one because they are super handy."

Noem's interview came after The Argus Leaderreported that a 12-year-old with a medical condition died on the Rosebud Reservation because of "weather and impassable roads [that] kept responders from reaching the child in time."

The newspaper noted that the tribe lacks the funding for more efficient snow removal methods and that the conditions have created practically immovable snowdrifts that have hardened like "cement."

Although about 60 percent of residents have wood-burning stoves, they can't do anything except wait for supplies. Additionally, tribal residents who rely on propane-fueled furnaces for heat are also in trouble because their outdoor propane tanks need refilling and the impassable roads have made it difficult for propane haulers to reach homes.

Many have criticized Noem for the tone-deaf display.

Noem has clashed with South Dakota's Indigenous population before, perhaps most notably after she sued Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, seeking to have fireworks at Mount Rushmore for Independence Day.

Mount Rushmore, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is on land considered sacred by the Oceti Sakowin Indigenous nation, who've long objected to mining. Although the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 exempted the Black Hills from all White settlement, the United States violated the treaty once gold was discovered.

Fireworks displays had been halted at the site in 2009 by the National Park Service due to fire risks and other reasons, but Noem nonetheless hired the private Washington D.C. law firm Consovoy McCarthy to bring the case, with South Dakota state taxpayer money paying for the suit.

A federal judge eventually ruled against Noem, who called the ruling “arbitrary and capricious" and later filed an appeal. In March 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) again denied Noem's application for a permit to have fireworks at Mt. Rushmore for the 4th of July, citing opposition from Indigenous American groups and the possibility of wildfires.