South Dakota governor warns she’ll take tribes to court if they don’t dismantle coronavirus checkpoints

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A legal struggle is emerging between South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and self-governing Native American tribes over coronavirus road checkpoints in the state.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have implemented travel checkpoints that prevent non-residents from entering reservations unless they are providing essential services.

The governor announced that she will take the tribes to court unless they dismantle the travel checkpoints within 48 hours.

In a May 8 letter to the Oglala Tribe president, Gov. Noem, a Republican, wrote that “The State of South Dakota objects to tribal checkpoints on US and State highways regardless of whether those checkpoints take into consideration the safety measures recommended by the [South Dakota Department of Transportation]. Safety recommendations do not constitute consultation and certainly do not equal agreement.”

She also sent a similar letter to the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Gov. Noem also implied that the tribes were out of compliance with an April 8 memorandum from the U.S. Department of the Interior. In a press release, Noem maintained that “The memo makes it clear that tribes must consult with the state of South Dakota and enter into an agreement with the state before closing or restricting travel on State or US Highways. Neither consultation nor agreement among the tribal and state government occurred.”

Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier has responded, according to Fox News, that “I absolutely agree that we need to work together during this time of crisis, however you continuing to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation.

“The virus does not differentiate between members and non-members. It obligates us to protect everyone on the reservation regardless of political distinctions. We will not apologize for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death.”

A spokesperson for the Oglala Tribe president added that “We’d be interested in talking face to face with Governor Noem and the attorney general and whoever else is involved,” and noted that the tribe would defend its sovereign rights to make public health decisions.

It is nonetheless possible that the state and the tribes could reach a settlement over this power struggle that could keep the matter out of court.

In addition to the restrictions on non-residents, “Those from a South Dakota hotspot or from outside the state cannot come to the reservation unless it is for an essential activity — but they must obtain a travel permit available on the tribe’s website. Both tribes have also issued strict stay-at-home orders and curfews for their communities,” CNN explained.

According to Fox News, “there were at least 169 coronavirus cases among Native Americans out of 3,145 total statewide and 31 deaths as of Friday.”

The latest statistics from the South Dakota Department of Health, however, indicate a total of 3,393 COVID-19 cases in the state, of which 1,234 are active. There were 34 fatalities, and 2,125 of those afflicted have recovered.

Setting aside this particular dispute, Kristi Noem has found herself targeted by the fear-mongering liberal media and the outrage mob because she was one of the very few governors in the U.S. to decline to order a full lockdown for her state.

“I had a real honest conversation with the people in our state. I told them I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of our state, of South Dakota, I took an oath when I was in Congress obviously to uphold the Constitution of the United State. I believe in our freedoms and liberties. What I’ve seen across the country is so many people give up their liberties for just a little bit of security and they don’t have to do that.” Noem told FNC’s Laura Ingraham last month.

Criticism of Noem, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019, mounted when a coronavirus outbreak caused the temporary closing of the Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls.

Gov. Noem pointed out, however, that: “Regardless if I had chosen to put a shelter-in-place order across the state of South Dakota, that plant would have been up and operating because it’s such an important part of our food supply and, frankly, having it running is a national security issue.”

Irrespective of what blue-check Twitter thinks of her, grassroots state residents even threw an impromptu parade for the governor late last month for the way she handled the COVID-19 pandemic in South Dakota in a way that kept the state’s economy open.

Watch the emotional video below:

 

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Robert Jonathan

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