Sioux tribe of South Dakota refuses to remove checkpoints that governor declares illegal

Sioux tribe rejects request to remove virus checkpoints

Governor Kristi Noem sent letters to the Sioux Oglala and Cheyenne River tribes on Friday asking that checkpoints along the United States and national highways across tribal land be removed.

His office released an update on Sunday clarifying the request: “Checkpoints on state and US highways are not legal, and if they do not fall, the state will take the matter before the Federal Court, as Governor Noem noted in his letter on Friday. “

Cheyenne River Sioux tribe president Harold Frazier told CNN that the main purpose of the tribe’s checkpoints is to monitor and try to track the coronavirus if it should arrive. tribal lands.

“We want to make sure that people coming from” hot spots “or from heavily infected areas, we ask them to go around our land,” said Frazier.

Asked about Noem’s request that the tribe remove the checkpoints because they “interfere with traffic regulation on American and national freeways,” Frazier said they will stay put.

“With the lack of medical resources, this is our best tool we currently have for [the spread of Covid-19]”Frazier told CNN. Frazier said the reserves are ill-equipped to deal with a coronavirus epidemic, adding that” the closest health care, intensive care is three hours from where we live ” .

Frazier said that the Sioux tribe of Cheyenne River operates only an eight-bed facility on the reserve and no intensive care unit (ICU) for the 12,000 people who live on the reserve.

Governor says: ‘perfectly clear it’s illegal’

Sunday letter from Governor Noem’s policy director Maggie Seidel says memorandum concerning road closures on tribal land published by the Office of Indian Affairs of the United States Department of the Interior, written April 8.

The memorandum states that the tribes << peuvent restreindre l'utilisation des routes ou fermer >> roads belonging to tribes temporarily without first consulting the Home Secretary or private landowners in conditions involving << des situations de sécurité immédiate ou mettant la vie en danger >>, like the pandemic.

But he says tribes can only restrict access on roads owned by others, such as state governments “on behalf of the owner of the road concerned, after the tribe has consulted and reached an agreement on the parameters for road closures or temporary restrictions “.

Seidel said that no consultation had taken place and that no agreement had been reached, saying that “the memorandum clearly states that it is illegal to stop traffic on these roads”.

In Friday’s letter, Noem said, “We are stronger when we work together; this includes our battle against Covid-19”.

“Saving lives rather than saving face”

Frazier said in a press release on Friday that while he agreed that it was important to work together, “you continue to interfere in our efforts to do what science and the facts dictate seriously compromise our ability to protect everyone on the reserve. ”

“Ignorant statements and heated rhetoric encourage individuals already stressed by this situation to take irrational action,” he said. “We invite you to join us in protecting the lives of our people and those who live on this reserve. I regretfully refuse your request.”

The purpose of the tribe’s actions, said Frazier, is “to save lives rather than save face”.

CNN also contacted the Sioux tribe of Oglala for comments, but did not receive a response.

Checkpoint policies

According to the checkpoint of the Sioux tribe of the Cheyenne river policies published on social networks, residents of their reservation may travel to South Dakota in areas that the state has not considered a Covid-19 hotspot if it is for an essential activity such as medical appointments or for obtain supplies not available on reservation. However, they must complete a health questionnaire upon departure and return each time they pass through a checkpoint.

Residents of South Dakota who do not live on the reservation are only allowed if they are not from a hotspot and it is for an essential activity. But they must also complete a health questionnaire.

Those from a South Dakota or out-of-state hotspot cannot come to the reservation unless it is for an essential activity – but they must obtain a travel permit available on the tribe.

The two tribes also issued strict residence orders and curfews for their communities. Noem has not issued a home stay order for the state.

There have been 198 cases of Covid-19 among Native Americans in the state since Sunday, according to state health department figures. The state has more than 3,500 confirmed cases and at least 34 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.


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