The Sioux tribe of the Cheyenne River in South Dakota refuses to remove its coronavirus checkpoints, ignoring a 48-hour ultimatum issued by Governor Kristi Noem.
Governor Noem sent Friday leaders of the Sioux Cheyenne River and Sioux Oglala tribe to call for the removal of checkpoints they had set up along the United States and national highways last month to prevent unnecessary visitors.
The Republican governor said she would take legal action if the tribes did not clear the checkpoints within 48 hours.
But on Sunday, Cheyenne River President Sioux, Harold Frazier, said checkpoints are the tribe’s best tool for tracking and stopping coronavirus if it spreads to tribal lands.
“We want to make sure that people coming from” hot spots “or from heavily infected areas, we ask them to go around our land,” said Frazier.
Asked about Noem’s request about the belief that checkpoints “interfere with traffic regulation”, Frazier insisted that the structures are going nowhere.
“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],’ he said.
The governor of South Dakota demands that the Native American tribes remove the checkpoints on the American and national freeways leading to their reserves. The image above shows a checkpoint held by members of the Sioux tribe law enforcement agencies on the Cheyenne River
Tribes have said they are concerned that an epidemic of coronavirus on their reserves will overwhelm their fragile health care systems.
South Dakota is home to nine federally recognized tribal nations with sovereign rights over their lands
Cheyenne River Sioux tribe president Harold Frazier said checkpoints are the best tool they can use to track and stop coronavirus if it spreads to tribal lands.
In response, Maggie Seidel, senior advisor to Governor Kristi Noem, reiterated that checkpoints are not legal, and if they do not go down, the state will take the matter to Federal Court, “he said. she stated in an email Sunday.
The tribe’s resistance sets up a potential legal confrontation between a governor who has avoided sweeping residence orders and the tribes who assert their sovereign rights allow them to control who comes on the reserves.
Tribes have taken stronger action than the state because they fear the virus will overwhelm the fragile health systems that serve many people with underlying health conditions.
Frazier said the Sioux Cheyenne River reserve lacked sufficient resources to cope with an epidemic of coronavirus, noting that “the closest health care, intensive care is three hours from where we live.”
The president said the tribe only has an eight-bed hospital on the reserve, which does not have an intensive care unit for its 12,000 residents.
Much like the Sioux tribe of Oglala, the Frazier tribe still allows essential businesses to access reservations and said that checkpoints were put in place to prevent tourists or other visitors who might be carrying coronavirus infections.
“I demand that the tribes immediately stop interfering with or regulating traffic on US and state highways and removing all movement checkpoints,” Noem said in a statement.
In his letter, Noem refers to a memorandum regarding road closures on tribal lands, which states that tribes “may restrict the use of roads or temporarily close” roads belonging to tribes without first consulting the Secretary to interior or private owners in conditions involving “immediate or life-threatening security situations, such as the pandemic.
However, tribes can only restrict access to roads owned by state governments “after the tribe has consulted and reached an agreement on parameters for temporary road closures or restrictions.”
A statement from the governor’s office said that the tribes had not consulted with or obtained an agreement from the state.
“We are stronger when we work together; this includes our battle against Covid-19, ”said Noem.
But the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe said they had met with local, state and federal officials to discuss the checkpoints and would not shoot them down.
Republican Governor Kristi Noem has so far resisted the imposition of statewide foreclosure orders as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in South Dakota
The Sioux tribe of Cheyenne River issued a statement accusing Noem of “interfering in our efforts to do what science and the facts dictate” and of “ignorant statements”
Tribal President Harold Frazier issued a statement to Noem on Friday, saying, “You continue to interfere in our efforts to do what science and the facts dictate seriously compromise our ability to protect everyone.” in the reserve ”.
“Ignorant statements and heated rhetoric encourage individuals already stressed by this situation to take irrational action,” he said. “We invite you to join us in protecting the lives of our people and those who live on this reserve. I regretfully refuse your request.
Frazier said that the purpose of checkpoints was “to save lives rather than saving face”.
Chase Iron Eyes, spokesperson for the Sioux President of Oglala, Julian Bear Runner, said he expected the tribe to stand up for their rights as a sovereign nation to prevent threats to their health.
“We would be interested in talking face to face with Governor Noem and the Attorney General and anyone else involved,” he said.
The Sioux tribe of the Cheyenne river published its policies on checkpoints on social networks. Under conditions, residents can travel to areas of the state that have not been considered a COVID-19 hotspot for essential activity, such as a medical appointment.
All residents of South Dakota who do not live on the reservation are only allowed to do so if they are not visiting from a hotspot, if the visit is for an essential activity and if they complete a health questionnaire before doing so. to do.
The Sioux tribes of Cheyenne River and the Sioux of Oglala have both implemented strict stay-at-home orders for their respective communities. Noem, meanwhile, objected to the publication of such instructions for the state.
The image above shows a Smithfield Foods pork factory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on April 16. The factory, which was closed for three weeks after hundreds of employees were infected with COVID-19, reopened this week, although more cases of COVID-19 have been reported
Governor Noem also held calls with Smithfield employees Thursday and Friday as the pork factory where hundreds of workers were infected reopens after being closed for more than three weeks.
Noem spokesman Ian Fury said she spent about two hours talking to the total workers and that the governor’s office contacted all of the factory workers.
But an organization defending Smithfield employees disagreed.
South Dakota Voices for Justice said in a statement that the employees invited to the call were “handpicked by the company’s HR”.
The organization said it was still asking Noem to meet with advocates, as well as employees, “so that we can work together to keep workers safe and Smithfield’s return to producing essential supplies.” food of our country “.
After the Department of Health organized a mass test for Smithfield workers and their families this week in Sioux Falls, officials reported on Friday an increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus with 239 new infections.
Almost 250 new cases were reported on Saturday after a mass test in the Sioux Falls area.
State epidemiologist Josh Clayton said health officials hadn’t been able to determine which test results came from the mass event, but said it was likely that rising cases confirmed came from these results.
A total of 203 of Friday’s confirmed cases were reported in Minnehaha County, which contains most of Sioux Falls.
Public health officials have said that 232 of the 249 new cases reported on Saturday were in Minnehaha County.
A total of 435 people tested positive in Minnehaha County in the past two days, for a total of 2,767 cases in the county.
The total state-wide number of cases now stands at 3,517, with the death toll up to 35.
Three new deaths were confirmed on Saturday, all from residents of Minnehaha County over the age of 70. Officials said 79 people were hospitalized with the virus.
While 3,517 tested positive, the actual number of infections would be much higher as many people have not been tested and people can become infected without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks.
For others, especially the elderly and people with existing health conditions, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia.