I’ve been writing about the health screening checkpoints at the borders of the Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes in South Dakota, set up to try to reduce the chances of spreading the coronavirus on tribal lands.
The rapid rise in infections in New Mexico supports how important it is to try to reduce the spread of the virus on native lands. Conditions like crowded homes, sometimes no running water, and the need to travel great distances for food and healthcare by means of crowded vehicles result in the rapid spread of the virus on reservations.
Yesterday the governor of South Dakota sent the letter below about the checkpoints to the White House. Who knows what will happen now?
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday she is appealing to President Donald Trump’s administration in her standoff with two American Indian tribes over coronavirus checkpoints they set up on federal and state highways.
Noem said at her daily briefing that she has sent affidavits and video to the White House, the Department of Justice, the Interior Department and her state’s congressional delegation, asking for help resolving the dispute.
“This is not taking sides. This is simply upholding the law,” the Republican governor said.
The tribes set up the checkpoints last month to keep unnecessary visitors off the reservations.
Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner said tribes have been in regular consultation with state authorities, but he insisted that Pierre ultimately has no authority over their actions.
“The Oglala band is ready to stand against foreign intrusions in our daily lives. We have a prior, superior right to make our own laws and be governed by them,” Bear Runner said in a video message over the weekend.
“We are not moved by threats when they come from a position of weakness.”
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier told MSNBC on Sunday that federal-tribal treaties allow the tribe to monitor who comes through reservations and to turn away travelers if they’re from areas known to be coronavirus hot spots.
“We have every legal right to do what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re just doing preventative action. It’s nothing to try to hinder people.”
Frazier said that with few hospital beds on its reservation, his tribe believes the checkpoints will save lives.
South Dakota tribes defy governor and maintain checkpoints in coronavirus fight.
“We have every legal right to do what we’re doing,” said Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier. “We’re just doing preventative action.”, David Li, NBC News, May 10, 2020
I write with unfortunate news: we’re now dealing with an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at Pine Ridge. We’re up to at least five positive tests here, a rapidly growing number that has forced a 72-hour lockdown.
This demonstrates why it’s absolutely critical that many of you have taken the time to tell South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem not to challenge our COVID-19 checkpoints. Fortunately, your pressure is working. You sent more than 15,000 emails to the governor, and she flinched — failing to follow through on her 48-hour legal deadline.
I thank you, with all of my heart, for listening and acting in friendship with my relatives. If we stand our ground and keep the conversation going, we will prevail — over ignorance in our state capitol and over this pandemic.
Wopila — my sincere thanks for your attention,
Chase Iron Eyes
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Transcript of the video above.
This is Chase Iron Eyes. I’m here on the Pine Ridge Reservation the Oglala Lakota Nation and we as you know we’re going through an existential threat. Indian tribes tribal nations have a prior and superior right to make our own laws and be governed by them.
Kristi Noem is letting her entire state expose themselves to coronavirus. She has publicly stated that she’s going to rely on her constituents’ common sense and resiliency. Resiliency. This is a governor of one of our state’s, the state that currently illegally occupy our land. Kristi Noem knows that entirely half the state of South Dakota belongs to us, belongs to the Lakota Nation, the Great Sioux Nation.
The Lakota people want nothing more than to be left alone. That’s all we’ve always ever wanted, was to be left alone, unmolested, undisturbed. Kristi Noem we are waiting for you to file your suit. You have no legal merit, no grounds.
Our only job is to protect our children. That is our only reason for existing in this place at this time. So I want to let you know that we are completely dedicated to ensuring that we survive far after oppressive, extractive, capitalism and your colonial poison are gone. We rewrite the social contract in our own blood right now for a brand new America.
This has been Chase Iron Eyes and I approve this message. thank you.
Part of transcript from video above
President of the Oglala Sioux tribe Julian Bear Runner: I really feel that
the governor needs to really
have a serious consultation with the
tribe and not try to dictate to us
as tribal leaders. What is in the best interest of our
people. But rather listen and support the
tribes because we live here, we know our
people. I’ve been born and raised
here. We involve our
spirituality within our actions and
that’s what helps lead and guide us and
that has got us through history
to today. And so we incorporate a lot of
our traditions with the decisions that we make as tribal leaders.
My advice to her is to
really sit down and just take
the lead from the tribes. Listen to us and support us.
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