May 11, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is telling tribes to take down road checkpoints they had set up to keep out unnecessary visitors because of concerns over the coronavirus.

The Republican governor says she will take legal action if the tribes didn’t remove the checkpoints in 48 hours.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have set up the checkpoints in an attempt to lock down their reservations amid fears infections could decimate members.

The move sets up a potential legal showdown between the governor and tribes that assert their sovereign rights allow them to control who comes on reservations.


The governor’s news release on this topic can be read below:

May 8, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem today sent letters to Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and President Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe demanding that checkpoints be removed from State and US Highways. If the checkpoints are not removed within the next 48 hours, the State will take necessary legal action.

“We are strongest when we work together; this includes our battle against COVID-19,” said Governor Noem. “I request that the tribes immediately cease interfering with or regulating traffic on US and State Highways and remove all travel checkpoints.”

On April 8, 2020, the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (DOI) issued a memorandum regarding South Dakota tribal government authority to close or restrict travel on State and US Highways. The memo makes it clear that tribes must consult with the state of South Dakota and enter into an agreement with the state before closing or restricting travel on State or US Highways. Neither consultation nor agreement among the tribal and state government occurred. Regardless, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe established checkpoints on State and US Highways to control and restrict non-tribal member travel.