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S. Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Demands Indian Tribes Remove COVID-19 Checkpoints

S. Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sent letters to tribal leaders on Friday telling them she would take "legal action" if they didn't remove checkpoints set up to contain the spread of the coronavirus within 48 hours. The leaders, thankfully, have rejected her demand.
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It seems that meatpacking workers and those unfortunate enough to live in the communities that surround them aren't the only people that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has absolutely no regard for in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, she told Fox's Laura Ingraham that she was going to rely on "common sense" and leave the state open, despite the fact the largest coronavirus hotspot in the United States at that time was at the Smithfield pork factory in Sioux Falls.

Now she's trying to force South Dakota native American tribes to shut down measures they've taken to try to control the spread of the virus:

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe leaders have rejected South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s demand that they remove checkpoints meant to regulate traffic through their reservation, set up to prevent the spread of coronavirus on tribal land.

In early April, the tribes’ governments separately decided to regulate travel on and off their reservations via checkpoints. The Oglala Sioux Tribe closed the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to all non-residents for non-essential travel, though vehicles could pass through without stopping. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also restricted travel, limiting non-residents from entering their reservation unless on essential business or if the tribal government has granted them a travel permit. Residents and non-residents entering the reservation must fill out a health questionnaire.

On Friday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sent letters to Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe demanding that they remove the checkpoints from state and U.S. highways. Noem said if the checkpoints are not removed within 48 hours, she would take “necessary legal action,” according to a statement released Friday.

“We are strongest when we work together; this includes our battle against COVID-19,” Noem said in the statement. “I request that the tribes immediately cease interfering with or regulating traffic on U.S. and state highways and remove all travel checkpoints.”

On April 8, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) released temporary guidance telling tribes to reach an agreement with state authorities before restricting travel on government-owned roads. “Neither consultation nor agreement among the tribal and state government occurred,” Noem said in her statement. “Regardless, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe established checkpoints on state and U.S. highways to control and restrict non-tribal member travel.”

But both Frazier and Bear Runner maintain that they have the legal authority to have the checkpoints and they do not intend to remove them.

“We’re not doing anything wrong. We have every legal right to do what we’re doing,” Frazier tells TIME. “We’re just trying to save lives, and the lives of all the residents of this reservation, not just our [tribal] members.”

Both the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Oglala Sioux Tribe have issued stay-at-home orders and curfews, while the state of South Dakota has not.

As the Time article noted, Bear Runner responded to Noem in the video below and told the publication Noem “threatened the sovereign interest of the Oglala people when she issued an ultimatum,” and “we have a prior and superior right to make our own laws and be governed by them.”

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