Gov. Noem turns to White House in stalemate over tribal checkpoints
PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem broke a nearly two-week-old stalemate between the state and two tribes in South Dakota after “weeks of attempts” to resolve conflicts over tribal checkpoints.
In early May, Gov. Noem demanded the Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux Tribes remove their checkpoints on state and federal highways. The tribes have since refused and after multiple conversations between the State and tribal leaders, the Governor ordered the state Attorney General to investigate the checkpoints. The investigation, which Gov. Noem says is on-going, has “produced affidavits and video recordings.”
In a letter sent to President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Gov. Noem says “interrogations of travelers are occurring on US/State highways, unlawful tribal checkpoints are being operated in violation of applicable law”, and “some travelers are being turned around as a checkpoint becomes a blockade.” She goes on to claim interstate commerce is being “adversely affected.”
“The Dept. of Justice has jurisdiction here,” said Gov. Noem. “We’re asking them to do their jobs and also asking for the help and partnership of the White House and the congressional delegation to do so.”
Five affidavits and other documents have been provided to the White House, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and South Dakota congressional delegation in support of a deeper investigation.
“As a final alternative to formal litigation, I’m asking for immediate federal assistance to bring a prompt end to these unlawful tribal checkpoints/blockades,” said Gov. Noem in the letter.
Last week, the Governor proposed a three-part plan that called for the removal of tribal checkpoints on federal and state highways, allowed checkpoints on tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs roads, and requested that any existing checkpoints on those roads be “reasonable.”
Chairman Frazier responded to the letter to say the plan would be taken into consideration.
“We appreciate your concern about preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and our taking action for the good of all people on the reservation,” said Chairman Frazier.
The state has uploaded documents pertaining to the tribal checkpoints to their COVID-19 resource page. The page includes letters between Gov. Noem, the Department of the Interior, and Cheyenne River Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier as well as documents granting easements on four highways through the Cheyenne River Reservation dating back to the 1950s. Not included from the page are any documents referencing the Oglala Sioux Tribe or the letters also addressed to O.S.T. President Julian Bear Runner.