SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Highlighting an aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic on their respective reservations, three South Dakota tribes are calling on President Donald Trump to respect tribal sovereignty.
The leaders of the Cheyenne River, Oglala and Rosebud Sioux each criticized President Trump’s response to the pandemic and said the president is “staging a photo-op at one of our most sacred sites.”
All three tribes highlighted measures in place on reservations to slow the spread of COVID-19. Each community has had shelter-in-place orders and highway checkpoints at the borders for health screenings and to limit travel. Tribal nations also conduct contact tracing and set up quarantine sites.
As of Wednesday, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is reporting six positive cases with no deaths, the Oglala Sioux Tribe is reporting a total of 80 positive cases and one death and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has reported 74 positive cases and one death.
“In a time of crisis, where more than 127,299 Americans have died, the president is putting our Tribal members at risk to stage a photo-op at one of our most sacred sites,” Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said in a news release. “This is an administration that has not only mishandled the federal government’s response to the virus from the start, but has attempted to trample on our rights as a sovereign nation to conduct safety checks at our boundaries. We will not allow this administration or anyone to interfere with our right to take measures to protect our people.”
Julian Bear Runner, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said the tribes won’t apologize for taking aggressive measure to combat the spread of the virus.
“These are our families, our elders, our friends, our community, and they deserve protection. Since, the federal government is not doing its job—we will,” Bear Runner said in a statement.
Rodney Bordeaux, President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, cited other state governments taking proactive measures to slow the spread.
“Our tribal governments also have rights, and obligations to our people to protect them. Apparently, the administration wants to punish Tribes for that. We will not stand by and let that happen,” Bordeaux said.
All three leaders support a lawsuit of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe against President Trump, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior and other White House officials about threatening withdrawal of COVID-19 and police funding if the checkpoints aren’t eliminated.