Governor Noem taking action on tribal checkpoints for “clarity” moving forward

Coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Health care workers tested more than 3,600 people during last week’s mass testing event in Sioux Falls for Smithfield employees and their family members. About 870 of the tests came back positive.

“I was pleased that it wasn’t higher than 24 percent, but I’m still glad that we were able to identify these people, help them stay at home, stay away from other people, and get better,” South Daktoa Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said.

Governor Noem is also talking about the letters she sent to tribal leaders asking them to take down traffic checkpoints on U.S. and State highways at the edges of their reservations, or face legal action.

“The checkpoints, I certainly understand the spirit behind them and have communicated that if they wanted to do that kind of activity on BIA roads it would be less of a jurisdictional issue. On U.S. and State highways, it’s different and we need to have clarity,” Governor Kristi Noem said.

Noem says she’s heard stories about people not being able to get through and she worries that ambulances and other essential services might not be able to access reservations.

“We need to be able to see those essential services move through the checkpoints, we need to be able to get ranchers to their cattle, people to their property, and to make sure we’re allowing people who want to travel through the area to continue to do so and not be stopped and turned around,” Governor Kristi Noem said.

Noem says she’s taking action for clarity moving forward.

Governor Noem is also allowing the stay at home executive order for vulnerable populations in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties to end today.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe President responded to Governor Noem’s demand to remove the checkpoints Monday evening. Here’s the response:

“Now Governor Noem says the checkpoints should be subject to consultation and agreement from all sides,” Iron Eyes said. “That’s the same argument we have made for time immemorial regarding so many instances where our land was stolen. We have consulted local law enforcement officials, and they agree with us. Meanwhile, Governor Noem has not responded to our attempt to dialogue about statewide policy. The bottom line is that we deserve a say in our own public health and safety, and our position is that we are well within our rights as a sovereign nation.”

“We have a potentially explosive situation here at Pine Ridge and at Cheyenne River. Because South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has failed to mandate common sense protections for tribes and all the people of her state during the COVD-19 pandemic, the Oglala and Cheyenne River nations have taken matters into our own hands. We have set up checkpoints to prevent the spread of COVID-19 onto and within our homelands. Over the weekend, Governor Noem threatened legal action if we do not remove the checkpoints. She has transitioned from a stance that already failed to provide for the public health and safety to a stance that now actively threatens our people.”

“Governor Noem’s refusal to issue broad stay-at-home orders, close nonessential businesses and stop utility shut-offs and evictions was bad enough during the pandemic. Her lack of necessary action already led to a viral spike in Sioux Falls that caused hundreds to fall sick. It has led to more than 3,600 positive test cases and 34 deaths in South Dakota as of today’s reporting. Governor Noem is in no position to issue threats. She does not have the law on her side. The governor is failing to protect her own constituents within our jurisdiction, so we will.

“This is not just a public health and safety issue, it is also an issue of tribal sovereignty and international human rights. We have set up checkpoints limiting access to our own tribal nations. No more genocide. We say enough is enough. We will stand to defend our right to live in our homelands, free from tyranny, free from disease. This is life or death situation, and we have a right to life.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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