South Dakota Sioux tribe refuses to take down checkpoints that governor says are illegal


The Name of the Lord of Christ sent a letter Friday to the leaders of the Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes demanding that checkpoints along the United States and state highways through tribal lands be removed.

Her office issued an update Sunday clarifying the request: "The checkpoints on state and U.S. highways are not legal, and if they do not come down, the state will take the matter to federal court, as Governor Noem noted in Friday's letter."

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe chairman Harold Frazier told CNN that the main purpose of the checkpoints the tribe created is to monitor and try to detect coronavirus if it ever enters the tribal land.

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"We want to make sure that people coming from & # 39; hot spots & # 39; highly infected areas, we ask them to travel around our country," Frazier said.

Frazier was asked about Noem's request that the tribe take down their checkpoints as they "disrupt traffic on US and state highways," Frazier said they will continue.

"With the lack of medical resources, this is our best tool we have right now to try to prevent [the spread of Covid-19]Frazier told CNN. Frazier said reservations are poorly equipped to deal with a coronavirus outbreak and added that "the nearest critical care emergency care is three hours away from where we live."

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Frazier says the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe operates only an eight-bed facility on the reservation and no intensive care unit (ICU) for the 12,000 people living on the reservation.

The Governor says: & # 39; Clearly it is illegal & # 39;

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Sunday's letter written by Gov. Noem's policy director, Maggie Seidel, points to a memorandum regarding road closures on tribal lands issued by the US Department of the Interior's Office of Indian Affairs, written April 8.

The memo states that tribes "may restrict road use or shut down" tribal-owned roads temporarily without first consulting with the Minister of the Interior or private landowners under conditions involving "immediate security or life-threatening situations", such as the pandemic.

But it says the tribes can only restrict access over roads owned by others as state authorities "on behalf of the road owner concerned after the tribe has consulted and reached an agreement that addresses the parameters of the temporary road closure or restrictions."

Seidel says that no consultations have taken place and that no agreement has been reached that "the note makes it quite clear that it is illegal to interrupt the flow of traffic on these roads."

In Friday's letter, Noem said "we are strongest when we work together; this includes our fight against Covid-19."

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"Save life instead of save face"

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Frazier said in a news release Friday that while he agreed that it is important to cooperate, "you continue to interfere in our efforts to make it science and facts seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation."

"Ignorant statements and fiery rhetoric encourage individuals who are already stressed out of this situation to take irrational actions," he said. "We invite you to join us to protect the people and people living on this reservation. Unfortunately, I reject your request."

Frazier said, the purpose of the tribe's actions is to "save lives rather than save faces."

CNN has also reached out to the Oglala Sioux Tribe for comment, but has not heard back.

Checkpoint guidelines

According to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe checkpoint guidelines posted on social media, reservation residents can travel in South Dakota to areas the state has not considered Covid-19 "hotspot" if it is for an essential activity such as medical appointment or to make supplies unavailable on reservation. But they must fill out a health questionnaire when they leave and when they return each time they go through a checkpoint.

Residents of South Dakota who do not live on the reservation are only allowed there if they do not come from a hotspot, which is an essential activity. But they must also fill out a health questionnaire.

Those from a South Dakota hotspot or out of state cannot get to the reservation unless it is an essential activity – but they must have a travel permit available on the tribe's website.

Both tribes have also given strict orders and bans for their communities. Noem has not issued home orders for the state.

There are 198 cases of Covid-19 among Native Americans in the state as of Sunday, according to state health department numbers. The state has more than 3,500 confirmed cases and at least 34 deaths, as a result Johns Hopkins University.

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