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Noem Letter To Tribe Proposes 3-Part Checkpoint Removal Plan

Governor Kristi Noem is proposing a three-part plan to the Cheyenne River Tribe to remove checkpoints on US and State highways in reservation boundaries.

Noem says the plan respects tribal sovereignty, federal law and state sovereignty.

In a letter to Chairman Harold Frazier, Governor Noem says she wants the two governments to work cooperatively in addressing COVID-19.

Her plan includes no tribal checkpoints on US and State highways. She says that means no one entering or traveling on those roads will be stopped or impeded. Noem suggests tribal interaction with travelers at checkpoints is unlawful and could increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

She further suggests the tribes set up checkpoints on BIA and tribal roads. Meaning, anyone turning off a US or state highway could be subject to a tribal checkpoint. Noem asks that if checkpoints exist on BIA roads that the tribe makes reasonable accommodations for the “good of your own people.”

Noem is sending the letters after demanding the checkpoints be removed over a 48-hour time-frame last weekend. The governor said if the checkpoints remained, the state would take the matter to federal court.

The checkpoints are still up, but the governor says a lawsuit is currently not in the works.

However, the governor does say she wants clarification on a jurisdiction issue and who makes the call over checkpoints on state and federal highways.

A 1990 ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court finds that—absent tribal consent—the state does not have jurisdiction on highways within reservation boundaries. Noem declined to comment on that ruling.

“There are several different court decisions at play here in this situation that we have so to comment on one would not be appropriate,” Noem says.

Noem says her office has received complaints that travelers on state and federal highways are being turned around. Chairman Harold Frazier of Cheyenne River denies the governor’s claim.

In a statement, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe say they will consider the governor’s proposal.

In the meantime, the tribe wants the state to forward any complaints about the checkpoints to the tribal COVID-19 command center.