Governor, Tribes Face Off Over Virus Checkpoints

Gov. Kristi Noem sends a letter to Sioux tribes
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2020 4:30 PM CDT
Governor Warns 2 Tribes: Do What I Say, or Else
In this March 18, 2020, file photo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, left, updates media on the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference at Monument Health in Rapid City, SD.   (Jeff Easton/Rapid City Journal via AP, File)

South Dakota is threatening legal action if two Sioux tribes don't remove their highway checkpoints—and one tribal leader doesn't seem too impressed. "We are strongest when we work together; this includes our battle against Covid-19," Gov. Kristi Noem said in letters to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe, per CNN. "I request that the tribes immediately cease interfering with or regulating traffic on US and State Highways and remove all travel checkpoints." The tribes have indeed posted checkpoints in an effort to curb the coronavirus; among the Cheyenne rules, reservation residents can travel to non-hotspot areas for essential activities, and South Dakota residents can enter reservations if they're not coming from a hotspot or have a tribe-issued travel permit.

"You continuing to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation," says Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier in a statement. "Ignorant statements and fiery rhetoric encourage individuals already under stress from this situation to carry out irrational actions. We invite you to join us in protecting the lives of our people and those that live on this reservation. I regretfully decline your request." Last month, the feds issued a statement saying the tribes had to reach an agreement with South Dakota over the checkpoints. The Dickinson Press reports that South Dakota had 1,044 active cases on Friday, up by 198 from the day before, and a death toll of 31. (Meanwhile, the Navajo are fighting a "crushing battle" against the coronavirus.)

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