Oglala Sioux Tribe leaders disappointed with decision to host 80th Sturgis rally amid COVID-19 pandemic
STURGIS, S.D. — Visitors are already flocking to the Black Hills ahead of the 80th Sturgis Rally, and while this is expected to bolster the economy, not everyone is excited.
The rally will begin on Friday, August 7, and despite the pandemic and push back from the Sturgis community, with over half voting against the rally, approximately 250,000 visitors are still expected to attend.
Leaders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe are also aware of the risks, and are disappointed with the decision to continue, as they would be disproportionately affected in the case of an outbreak.
The Native American community has large rates of diabetes, heart conditions, and have living conditions that would not promote quarantine. During the course of the pandemic, the reservation has put checkpoints in place, as well as issued several lock downs and stay at home orders.
Chase Iron Eyes, the public relations liaison for President Julian Bear Runner said, “We’d rather not have 250,000 outsiders, out of stater’s coming in just for the purpose of engaging in, cutting loose with a little drunken debauchery, or whatever cultural aspect the motorcycle rally represents.”
Tribal members have also been advised not to attend the rally and not expose themselves or the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Checkpoints are still in use, and only open to tribal members as well as any essential commercial traffic, although other traffic may be given access to pass through with the understanding they are not permitted to stop on the reservation.
“So for this rally, any traffic that would purport to come through our borders and our health and safety checkpoints will be turned around the same as any other person that is coming through strictly for tourist purposes or for the purposes of potentially spreading the coronavirus,” said Iron Eyes.
With the high volume of visitors coming to town, tribal leaders have increased protection of their borders, and will be supplementing their border patrols with tribal military veterans. Iron Eyes said,
“They activate when they perceive an objective and reasonable threat to their health and safety and welfare of our families, and our homelands, and our way of life.”
During the rally, curfew stipulations have been removed, but the stay at home order is still in place with social distancing encouraged, and masks in stores being required.