Gov. Noem: “We’re setting precedent” in resolving checkpoint issues
PIERRE, S.D. – After sending details of an on-going investigation of the tribal checkpoints on both the Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux Tribe reservations to the White House, Governor Kristi Noem stressed the need for clarity in resolving the legality of checkpoints as it paves the way in setting precedence for future checkpoints.
On Wednesday, Gov. Noem sent a letter to President Donald Trump, “asking for immediate federal assistance to bring a prompt end to these unlawful tribal checkpoints/blockades.” Thursday, the Governor said her administration has been told that those materials had been received but that no additional steps have been taken yet.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Governor issued an ultimatum to tribal leaders to remove the checkpoints on state and federal highways or face the legal ramifications. The State has not yet begun any legal proceedings, but the letter to the White House takes the stalemate to a new level.
The Governor has said in previous news conferences and in letters to tribal leaders that the checkpoints are illegal, while the tribes claim sovereignty. Although she has called on Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to conduct an investigation into the checkpoints and asked several federal officials and departments to weigh in, Gov. Noem continues to look to the courts for clarity.
“Remember that with every action that we take and that the tribes take, we’re setting precedent,” said Gov. Noem. “So we can’t just look at this situation in a virus, in a pandemic.”
“If we allow checkpoints to shut down traffic in this situation, then we are setting precedent for that to happen far into the future in many other situations as well.”
An issue separate from checkpoints that the state and tribes have continued to differ is the Keystone XL Pipeline. Gov. Noem said Thursday that the pipeline will not cross any tribal or reservation lands but “there could be vehicles that pass through these areas.”
The tribes have not indicated plans to set up checkpoints beyond their current use to limit the spread of COVID-19 on tribal lands, but the Governor says the state wants “to make sure that the authority to set up those checkpoints is done appropriately.”