Despite South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem requesting the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe take down its coronavirus checkpoints, tribe Chairman Harold Frazier told CNN they’re going to stay put.
The main purpose of the checkpoints set up by the tribe is to monitor and try to track coronavirus should it ever come into tribal lands, Frazier said.
“We want to ensure that people coming from ‘hot spots’ or highly infected areas, we ask them to go around our land,” Frazier tells CNN.
Noem’s request to take down the checkpoints came because she said they “interfere with regulating traffic on U.S. and state highways.”
“With the lack of resources we have medically, this is our best tool we have right now to try to prevent (the spread of Covid-19),” Frazier told CNN.
Frazier said reservations are ill-equipped to deal with a coronavirus outbreak adding that, “the nearest health care, critical care is three hours away from where we live.”
Frazier said the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has only an eight-bed facility on the reservation and no intensive care unit for the 12,000 people who live on the reservation.
A letter written by Noem’s policy director, Maggie Seidel, points to a memorandum pertaining to road closures on tribal lands issued by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, written April 8.
The memorandum states tribes “may restrict road use or close” tribal-owned roads temporarily without first consulting with the secretary of the interior or private landowners under conditions involving “immediate safety or life-threatening situations.” Seidel points out that the memorandum does not give tribes the authority to manage the flow of traffic to state and US highways.
“The checkpoints on state and U.S. highways are not legal, and if they don’t come down, the state will take the matter to Federal court, as Governor Noem noted in her Friday letter,” the letter reads.