Signs and flags at a coronavirus checkpoint on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on May 10, 2020. Photo courtesy Tashina Gleska win

Tim Giago: Overcoming the ignorance of South Dakota’s governors

Notes from Indian Country
Overcoming the ignorance of South Dakota’s governors

How does one write a column when afflicted with writer’s block?

That’s a hard question to answer because I have been writing a weekly column for about 40 years and that means I must have written more than 2,000 columns over those years. And in all of those years I do not remember ever having writer’s block.

Maybe it’s because of the Coronavirus that is swallowing all of the news. I wrote one column about it simply because the disease seems to be claiming the lives of older people more rapidly than others and since I am an elder it places me and others my age between a rock and a hard place.

You can’t turn on the television without being inundated by the Coronavirus and the number of lives it has claimed. The count increases daily and one cannot help but be mesmerized thinking about where it is going and when it will end.

Bryan Brewer Gives Update on Pine Ridge Checkpoints

Former Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer gives an update on efforts to man checkpoints across the Pine Ridge Reservation after SD Gov. Krisit Noem ordered the tribe to shut down those checkpoints.

Posted by Indianz.Com on Monday, May 11, 2020
Indianz.Com Live by Kevin Abourezk: Bryan Brewer - Coronavirus Checkpoints - May 11, 2020

And so I try to get back into the routine I had before the pandemic, but find that my every thought is devoured by the pandemic and what this disease is doing to the world. And to make matters worse, the illness seems to have a more profound impact upon minorities; black, Hispanics, and Native Americans. The Navajo Nation has been impacted quite severely. The United States government needs to reassess everything about the Navajo Nation. How can an Indian nation have 30 percent of its population without running water? Unbelievable; and this is America?

I am reminded of the fact that when the Conquistador Hernando Cortes rode in to Mexico to conquer Montezuma and his empire, diseases to which the Indians had no immunity had already done the job for him. Most of the fighting warriors had already succumbed to small pox and other diseases. Even a childhood disease like the measles was fatal to them. One can only wonder how the war would have turned out if the Aztec warriors had been immune to the diseases.

All across North and South America fatal diseases preceded the advancing invaders claiming the lives of thousands of Native Americans. Many of the Cheyenne and Sioux warriors who were victorious against the United States Army at the Little Bighorn went home after the battle to die of the diseases they had picked up from the enemy they had just defeated.

An Interview with Francisca Tobacco near Red Shirt, SD

Thank you for joining for this live interview with Francisca Tobacco, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, who has been helping reinforce a checkpoint for her tribe in the Badlands of South Dakota.

Posted by Indianz.Com on Monday, May 11, 2020
Indianz.Com Live by Kevin Abourezk: Francisca Tobacco - Coronavirus Checkpoints - May 11, 2020

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem knows absolutely nothing about the history of the Indian people residing in the state she governs. When the pandemic began to spread in South Dakota the fears of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people were heightened by the memories of what happened to their ancestors. One Lakota elder recalls hearing a story of a Catholic priest entering a village in the 1800s where everyone in the village was dead.

So it is with this fear in mind that Chairmen Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, decided to set up roadblocks across the reservation to prevent unwanted travelers entering their reservations and perhaps bringing the Coronavirus with them. Gov. Noem threatened the tribes with a lawsuit if they did not suspend the roadblocks. We are still waiting on the outcome of this confrontation.

The deliberate slaughter of the buffalo and the pandemic diseases brought to the Native of this country are not taught in the schools of America and that is a shame because if they had been taught perhaps governors like Noem would not be so hasty to act in such an ignorant fashion. Another South Dakota governor, Dennis Daugaard, wrote a piece for a local newspaper about how the once mighty buffalo herds had simply diminished. He didn’t mention that the herds were deliberately slaughtered in order to starve and conquer the Sioux Nation.

If you can’t kill them fast enough with diseases kill them by destroying their source of food. That was the motto of the settlers moving west.

And so here I sit trying to write a column for you to read and I keep coming back to the pandemic we are now facing and the pandemics that nearly wiped out a people. The only difference is that this virus doesn’t care about your race, color or religion. It is giving Americans a battle that is still in its early stages.

We are back at work at the newspaper and trying our best to protect each other. We hope our readers are happy to have us back.

Tim Giago is the Publisher of Native Sun News Today. He is a former Nieman Fellow with the Class of 1991 and the recipient of many journalism awards including the H. L. Mencken Award. He can be reached at

Note: Content copyright © Tim Giago

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