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South Dakota Gov. Demands Tribes Remove COVID-19 Checkpoints

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe leaders have rejected South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s demand that they take away checkpoints meant to manage visitors by way of their reservation, set as much as forestall the unfold of coronavirus on tribal land.

In early April, the tribes’ governments individually determined to manage journey on and off their reservations by way of checkpoints. The Oglala Sioux Tribe closed the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to all non-residents for non-essential journey, although automobiles may cross by way of with out stopping. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe additionally restricted journey, limiting non-residents from getting into their reservation until on important enterprise or if the tribal authorities has granted them a journey allow. Residents and non-residents getting into the reservation should fill out a well being questionnaire.

On Friday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem despatched letters to Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe demanding that they take away the checkpoints from state and U.S. highways. Noem mentioned if the checkpoints should not eliminated inside 48 hours, she would take “essential authorized motion,” in accordance with an announcement launched Friday.

“We’re strongest once we work collectively; this contains our battle towards COVID-19,” Noem mentioned within the assertion. “I request that the tribes instantly stop interfering with or regulating visitors on U.S. and state highways and take away all journey checkpoints.”

On April 8, the U.S. Division of the Inside’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) launched short-term steering telling tribes to achieve an settlement with state authorities earlier than limiting journey on government-owned roads. “Neither session nor settlement among the many tribal and state authorities occurred,” Noem mentioned in her assertion. “Regardless, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe established checkpoints on state and U.S. highways to manage and limit non-tribal member journey.”

However each Frazier and Bear Runner keep that they’ve the authorized authority to have the checkpoints and they don’t intend to take away them.

“We’re not doing something fallacious. We’ve each authorized proper to do what we’re doing,” Frazier tells TIME. “We’re simply making an attempt to save lots of lives, and the lives of all of the residents of this reservation, not simply our [tribal] members.”

Each the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Oglala Sioux Tribe have issued stay-at-home orders and curfews, whereas the state of South Dakota has not.

Frazier says of now there is just one optimistic case of coronavirus on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation. He says due to the checkpoint system, they know the place that individual went and who they got here involved with.

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As of Saturday, there are not less than 184 confirmed circumstances of COVID-19 amongst Native Individuals in South Dakota, in accordance with the state’s well being division. There have been not less than 3,393 confirmed circumstances in South Dakota as a complete, in accordance with a observe by Johns Hopkins College.

In a video posted to Fb on Saturday, Bear Runner mentioned that Noem had “threatened the sovereign curiosity of the Oglala folks when she issued an ultimatum,” however continued, “we’ve a previous and superior proper to make our personal legal guidelines and be ruled by them.”

He mentioned he believes the tribe’s checkpoints are in “full” compliance with the BIA’s memorandum since they “haven’t closed non-tribal roads or highways owned by the state of South Dakota or every other authorities,” and it’s not their intent to limit entry to such roads.

Gov. Noem’s workplace responded to TIME’s request for remark, saying that the governor’s letters to the tribal leaders communicate for themselves.

Bear Runner mentioned within the video that he had knowledgeable the state of South Dakota of their “tribal border monitoring plan” on a number of events, and solely realized of Noem’s letter by way of information stories and social media.

Frazier tells TIME that he believes his tribe has many authorized justifications, together with in his tribe’s Structure and within the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868, for his or her journey checkpoints. He added that, as of now, the Cheyenne River Sioux’s 9 checkpoints “take lower than a minute.”

In accordance with a abstract of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s checkpoint insurance policies posted on social media, residents of the reservation are allowed to journey to areas inside South Dakota that aren’t COVID-19 “hot-spots” so long as it’s for an “important exercise.” Once they return to the reservation, they have to fill out a well being questionnaire at a checkpoint. Frazier additionally tells TIME that license plate numbers are written down.

Write to Madeleine Carlisle at

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