The checkpoints are necessary partly due to South Dakota’s slow and ineffective response to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Oglala Sioux Tribal President Julian Bear Runner. South Dakota is one of five states that hasn’t issued a shelter-in-place mandate, despite a steady increase in confirmed cases of Covid-19. “Due to this lack of judgement and planning of preventative measures ... , the Oglala Sioux Tribe has adopted reasonable and necessary measures to protect the health and safety of our tribal members and other residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,” Bear Runner wrote to Noem in another May 8 letter. The governor’s missive threatened: “If the checkpoints are not removed within the next 48 hours, the state will take necessary legal action.” However, at her weekday pandemic media briefing three days later, she mentioned no specific action in answer to reporters’ questions about the issue.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Sioux and the Oglala Sioux Tribe are refusing to bow to an order to take down #Coronavirus checkpoints on their reservations. What's a Republican state governor to do? #HonorTheTreaties #COVID19 #SouthDakota #Sovereignty https://t.co/Iyu58iJsWS— indianz.com (@indianz) May 19, 2020
Governor Noem and Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Darryl LaCounte have asserted that the checkpoints must be removed because they are in violation of a BIA memorandum declaring that tribes must consult with state officials before “closing or restricting travel on state or U.S. highways.” Both Chairman Frazier and President Bear Runner insist they have not closed any roads and are using the checkpoints to mitigate and track the spread of the coronavirus. “Non-residents whose travel is considered non-essential are advised to pass through the reservation without stopping,” wrote President Bear Runner to Noem. “It is not our intent to deny them passage through the reservation, including on U.S. Highway 18 and State Highways 44, 391, and 407.” At the heart of the debate is the scope of tribal authority on state and federal highways that run through tribal territory. Chairman Frazier and President Bear Runner argue that the law supports the tribes. Native Sun News Today
"Dear President Trump": First Kristi Noem made a legal threat. Now Republican @govkristinoem of #SouthDakota is asking the White House for help in taking down #Coronavirus checkpoints on two reservations. #COVID19 #Sovereignty #HonorTheTreaties https://t.co/I7j8FPVU62— indianz.com (@indianz) May 21, 2020