Governor Kristi Noem says the state will take legal action against two tribal governments if checkpoints on state and U.S. highways are not removed by Sunday.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe say they are using checkpoints to monitor highway traffic into the reservation. The move is to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Late last month, the Bureau of Indian Affairs said the tribes cannot set up checkpoints without consulting with the state.
A month ago, Governor Noem said the state had been working closely with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to allow essential travel and first responders into the reservation.
Now, the state says neither consultation nor agreement was reached between tribal and state governments.
A spokesperson with the governor’s office says safety recommendations do not constitute an agreement.
“We are strongest when we work together; this includes our battle against COVID-19,” said Governor Noem. “I request that the tribes immediately cease interfering with or regulating traffic on US and State Highways and remove all travel checkpoints.”
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Fraizer says they’re declining the governor’s request. He says the tribe will not apologize for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death.
A spokesman for the Oglala Sioux Tribe says Noem’s assertions are without legal merit.
That tribe closed the borders shortly after the first reported case of COVID-19 in South Dakota but says it is allowing commercial and essential travel.