Livestock has been stranded by record breaking flooding on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said after visiting tribal communities on March 25, 2019. Photo: Gov. Noem

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe declares emergency amid unprecedented flooding

By Acee Agoyo

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is declaring an emergency amid record breaking flooding in South Dakota.

In announcing voluntary evacuations on Wednesday, Chairman Harold Frazier warned of dangerous conditions on the reservation. Several people have already been forced out of their homes and more are expected to be rescued by helicopter, he said.

“Residents in the flood area should take our warnings seriously," Frazier said. "The river has never been this high and it is only rising so take the opportunity to evacuate now. You are placing not just your life but the lives of those who will try to rescue you at risk.”

According to Frazier, the Moreau River set a record height of 27.7 feet over the weekend. Water levels are expected to rise even higher, heading up to 30 feet by Thursday evening.

The conditions at Cheyenne River have been seen across Indian Country in two states. Tribes and their citizens in South Dakota and Nebraska have been hit with unprecedented flooding following a record snowfall.

Two weeks into the disaster, some tribal residents remain isolated in rural areas of their homelands. In addition to Cheyenne River, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Ponca Tribe and the Santee Sioux Tribe are among those affected.

President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Nebraska on March 21. The designation includes all of the tribes with trust lands in the state, according to the White House.

In a post on social media on Tuesday, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), who requested the declaration, said he "met with tribal leadership this morning to listen to priorities and express support as recovery continues."

Over in South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who took office in January, has not submitted a similar request to the federal government though she has signed an emergency declaration for the state. She visited the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, over the weekend and sent National Guard troops to assist with recovery efforts.

She also went to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation on Monday. "There’s a lot of work to be done here," she said in a post on social media.

Gov. Noem in Indian Country

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