"REZpect our Sovereignty": A sign at a coronavirus checkpoint on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo courtesy Tashina Gleska win

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: State power runs amok

Native Sun News Today Columnist

Not only has capitalism run rampant since the fall of Communism, it seems that the state of South Dakota has now taken up the slack as it deals with the Tribal Nations (there are nine of them) in our area. 

This month Governor Kristi Noem threatened the tribes with “legal action” if they don’t remove their travel checkpoints for COVD-19 put in place some weeks ago. Restrictions have been implemented by the Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux Tribal governments for the safety of the Oyate on their treaty protected homelands. 

Noem argues that the tribes do not have the right nor the duty nor the power to close their highways even in the face of the worst health epidemic in our lifetime. She will reverse that decision, and the State of South Dakota will within 48 hours take legal action if the tribes don’t remove their travel restrictions on public roads.

Whether it is a contesting for State Power or simply a willful governor’s wielding of the power that her state has spent 200 years trying to impose on indigenous peoples, there is serious doubt about her purpose.  

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

Does anyone remember the State Jurisdiction Era (1950-80) when a white power movement to Terminate and Relocate tribal nations was a nation-wide disgrace to those who understood the meaning of Racism? 

Noem is a Republican who makes regular trips to the White House in order to make her governing decisions (including support for one of the worst farm bills in recent history), in support of the Trump Presidency and its drive toward “opening up” businesses and plants following its own  nationwide shut down.

Indian Nations have the right and responsibility to protect their people. Politicians like Noem should know the scholarly work of dozens of scholars of Indian Law who have written that the State of South Dakota (1889) has never had the power to de-legitimize the 1868 treaty rights of sovereign native nationhood. There is a legal history here.


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Contact Elizabeth Cook-Lynn at ecooklynn@gmail.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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