State Watch

South Dakota governor asks Trump to intervene in checkpoint dispute with Native American tribes

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) asked President Trump to intervene in her ongoing dispute with two Native American tribes that have established coronavirus checkpoints on the roads in and out of their reservations.

In her Wednesday letter to the president, Noem wrote that the Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes’ checkpoints were disrupting interstate travel and commerce, and that they increased the risk the virus could spread to the reservations. 

She said the checkpoints specifically increased “the frequency of exposure as tribal members interact with travelers that would otherwise pass through the reservation.”

“This is not a matter of tribal sovereignty, as South Dakota received easements giving South Dakotans and other highway travelers access rights over and upon the US/state highways on tribal land,” Noem wrote. “These easements demonstrate the State’s rights in the roadways and further support the process set forth in the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] memo.”

Noem previously sent letters to Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Julian Bear Runner, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, on May 8 threatening legal action if they did not remove the checkpoints within 48 hours. Frazier said the checkpoints were protected by tribal sovereignty.

In the memo Noem referenced, the Bureau of Indian Affairs wrote that tribes have the right to close or restrict tribal roads but said the same could only be done on federal or state highways “on behalf of the affected road owner after rate tribe has consulted and reached an agreement.”

Noem has said she will allow the tribes to keep the checkpoints on BIA roads but that they must remove them from the federal and state roads.

The Hill has reached out to Frazier and Bear Runner for comment.

Tags checkpoint Coronavirus Donald Trump Kristi Noem Native Americans

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