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Harold Frazier, the Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council, refused Friday to remove health checkpoints established at the entrances to the reservation. President Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux have also refused to remove the checkpoints.
The Cheyenne River Sioux and the Oglala Sioux have both erected health checkpoints at entrances to the reservations. Anyone entering either reservation must fill out a health questionnaire before being allowed through. The checkpoints are intended to monitor the spread of COVID-19. Both tribes have also restricted non-essential travel on the reservations, issued stay-at-home orders, and enacted curfew orders. South Dakota has not yet issued stay-at-home orders or enacted curfews.
Earlier on Friday, Governor South Dakota Kristi Noem ordered both tribes to the removal of the checkpoints. She has threatened to take legal action if the tribes do not comply with 48 hours. In her orders, Noem accused the tribes of not following a guidance document issued by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and of interfering with and regulating traffic on state and federal highways. The guidance document instructsNative American tribes to consult with the relevant state governments prior to closing roads not owned by the tribe.
In his response, Frazier called the checkpoints legal, citing the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868 and necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Ft. Laramie treaty prohibits passage through the reservation by non-members of the tribe without permission from the tribe. Frazier has pointed out that the Cheyenne River Sioux have only one confirmed case of COVID-19, and says that because of the checkpoints they know who the infected person came in contact with.
Other Native American tribes have been hit hard by COVID-19. More than half of confirmed cases in New Mexico come from the Navajo reservation. The Navajo make up 11 percent of the state’s total population. Nearly all Native American reservations suffer from underfunded health services, and some areas lack running water.