State Watch

Native American tribe leader says tribal sovereignty protects coronavirus checkpoints

Stefani Reynolds

The chairman of South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said Wednesday that tribal immunity protects the coronavirus checkpoints Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has ordered partially removed.

Harold Frazier said he would consider Noem’s request to restrict the checkpoints to only tribal roads rather than parts of highways that run through the reservation. However, he told The Associated Press that under tribal sovereignty, the tribe can operate checkpoints anywhere on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

“This is our home and this is our land,” he told the AP. “One does not come into somebody’s house and tell them how to live.”

Both the Cheyenne River tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe have set up checkpoints on the roads into their reservations, which Noem said have impeded the state government’s response to the pandemic.

“We do have people that have been going to these areas that have been involved in essential services that have not been allowed to go forward,” Noem said Tuesday. “We have people who live in tribal areas, and also have property there such as cattle or ranches, and they’re not allowed to go there and check on their property or to do normal day-to-day business.”

Although Noem said she would sue the tribes if they did not remove the checkpoints that pass through state and federal highways, this week she offered to meet if they would entertain the idea of only setting them up on tribal roads, according to the AP.

Frazier told the AP he has asked the governor to forward any complaints the state government receives to the tribe but suggested she is exaggerating the inconvenience. Frazier told the AP he has visited several of the checkpoints and that in his experience, passing through took under two minutes.

Both tribes have been critical of Noem for not imposing a lockdown order like nearly every other state, with Frazier noting that the tribe only has 18 test kits, making it essential that they know who is entering and leaving.

The Hill has reached out to Noem’s office for comment.

Tags Coronavirus Kristi Noem

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