South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has criticized both the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge reservations for “unlawful” checkpoints set up as pandemic response efforts to the threat of COVID-19. Noem addressed letters to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe May 8 confronting them for establishing checkpoints on highways running through the reservations. These letters reference a memorandum from the Department of Interior from April 8 which provided guidance for tribal COVID-19 responses related to roadways.
Tribes continue to operate checkpoints. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Fraziermtold CNN, “With the lack of resources we have medically, this is our best tool we have right now to try to prevent [the spread of Covid-19]”.
May 20 — Noem announced over twitter, “Following the tribes’ refusal to remove the checkpoints, I asked our state Attorney General to order an investigation into these checkpoints.” Noem is pursuant that these checkpoints are unlawfully operated on state and US highways.
The health of indigneous South Dakotans is balanced between a power struggle with state and tribal governments — both claiming they have the interest of public health in mind.