Oglala Sioux Tribe president seeks more from South Dakota governor in COVID-19 fight

Coronavirus

This Sept. 9, 2012 file photo shows the entrance to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Sioux tribe. Native American tribes across the U.S. for weeks have been shutting down casinos, hotels and tourist destinations, and shoring up services amid worries that the spread of the coronavirus quickly could overwhelm a chronically underfunded health care system and affect a population that suffers disproportionately from cancer, diabetes and some respiratory diseases. (AP Photo/Kristi Eaton, File)

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, S.D. (KELO) — Several Native American tribes in South Dakota are calling on Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) to take more action during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oglala Sioux Tribe president Julian Bear Runner sent a letter to Noem on Thursday.

“It makes no sense to put people at risk because you feel most people have common sense. That is an oversimplification of the threat posed by this disease,” Bear Runner wrote. “Things could not be more urgent for South Dakota’s tribal nations, especially.”

Bear Runner is calling on Noem to take stronger actions in the state.

Similar messages are being said to the north, at a council meeting on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation which is in both North and South Dakota.

“South Dakota is the state where this virus is so out of hand that there is no hope of controlling it. It’s going to just grow in that state because she [Noem] didn’t act,” said councilwoman Avis Little Eagle.

A Native American advocacy group is also starting an email campaign to protect the safety of the nearly 72,000 Native Americans living in South Dakota.

“For our communities, the elderly, and the immunocompromised, Noem’s refusal to act is governmental negligence,” said Case Iron Eye from Lakota People’s Law Project. “She’s costing lives. We need as many people as possible, right now, to help us wake her up.”

The governor previously has said she doesn’t see a scenario where a state-wide stay-at-home order would be issued.

KELOLAND News reached out to Noem’s office for a statement and will update this story when we receive a response.


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