South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem at press conference on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has turned to the federal government for help in her ongoing showdown with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribes over roadside checkpoints.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Noem said she asked the South Dakota Attorney General to investigate the “unlawful” checkpoints the tribes set up to protect citizens on their reservations from the coronavirus. 

"That investigation, while it is still ongoing, has produced both affidavits and video recordings of these unlawful checkpoints that are in place," Noem said, though she did not elaborate on the contents of the material.  

Noem said information from the investigation has been sent to the White House, Department of Justice, the Interior Department and South Dakota's congressional delegation.

By asking the federal government to intercede, Noem is escalating the dispute, which began two weeks ago when she threatened legal action against the tribes for setting up checkpoints at the entrances and exits to their reservations. 

The two tribes say Noem has not done enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the state. South Dakota is one of a small handful of states that never issued a “stay-at-home” during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There have been 4,177 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 46 deaths from the disease as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the South Dakota Dept. of Health. There are currently 1,108 people sick with the disease, according to the health department.
 
In response to Noem’s legal threats, leaders of the Cheyenne River Sioux and Oglala Sioux maintain that tribal sovereignty allows them to self-govern and make their own laws for their reservations.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota announced it would provide support for the tribes in the checkpoint battle with Noem.  

The perplexed governor says she asked for their assistance to resolve the situation.

Even though Noem threatened to take legal action, she said Wednesday she had not begun any litigation. 

"The state is committed to slowing down the spread of COVID-19 and committed to protecting the public health of our tribes and every single citizen in the state,” Noem said.

Read Noem's Letter to the White House

This is a developing story and will be updated.

 

Support Independent Indigenous Journalism

Native News Online is an independent, Indigenous-led newsroom with a crucial mission:  We want to change the narrative about Indian Country. We do this by producing intelligent, fact-based journalism that tells the full story from all corners of Indian Country.  We pride ourselves on covering the tribes you may have never heard of before and by respecting and listening to the communities we serve through our reporting. As newsrooms across the country continue to shrink, coverage of Indian Country is more important than ever, and we are committed to filling this ever-present hole in journalism.

Because we believe everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities, the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. But we hope it inspires you to make a gift to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount, big or small, gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. 
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi Rickert
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. He can be reached at [email protected]