PIERRE, S.D. (KOTA TV) - On Friday, Governor Kristi Noem sent a letter to Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier and Oglala Sioux Tribal President Julian Bear Runner, demanding checkpoints be removed from state and federal highways.
“We are strongest when we work together; this includes our battle against COVID-19,” said Governor Noem. (KOTA TV)
Noem claims that Oglala Sioux Tribe "has not followed the legally established procedure."
Additionally, the letter says that if the checkpoints are not removed, the state will take legal action.
In early April, Pine Ridge began restricting non-residents on the reservation in an effort to prevent COVID 19. An April 8 memo from the Bureau of Indian Affairs gave tribes the authority to restrict access, but added that such measures should be done by working with state governments.
Chairman Harold Frazier from the Cheyenne Sioux Tribe issued a statement following Noem's letter. In Frazier's statement, he said, "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. I stand with our elder Councilman Ed Widow that the purpose of our actions is to, 'save lives rather than save face.'”
Additionally, the United States Department of the Interior sent out a letter on Friday evening, clarifying that Tribes can close or restrict access to tribal lands over tribally-owned roads during the COVID-19 pandemic, because Tribes can, “restrict road use or close,” tribally-owned roads under conditions involving, “immediately safety or life-threatening situations,” to which the pandemic meets this definition.
However, when it comes to roads owned by others, such as roads owned by state or local governments, they can close roads, but only on the behalf of the affected owner after the Tribe has consulted and reached an agreement with those involved. The full memorandum from the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs is also attached within this story.
You can read the official letters, in addition to a statement from Cheyenne Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier, to the right of this story under "Related Documents." The full memorandum from the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs is also attached to the right of this story.
If you are using a mobile device, the documents are at the bottom of the story.