We have a potentially explosive situation at the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Reservations. If you’ve been looking at the news, you may have seen that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has threatened our tribes with legal action because we have taken the rational step of setting up COVID-19 checkpoints on roads entering our homelands.
Native communities have the right to protect ourselves from the spread of disease, and the law is on our side. You can help. Email Kristi Noem right now and tell her to walk back her threat to Lakota tribes before lives are lost!
Caption: In our new video, my colleague, Chase Iron Eyes — who serves as public relations director for Oglala president Julian Bear Runner — discusses the urgency of protecting our citizens. (Photo courtesy of Warrior Women Project.)
Governor Noem has failed to mandate common sense protections for tribes and all the people of her state during the COVD-19 pandemic, so the Oglala and Cheyenne River Nations have taken matters into our own hands by setting up these checkpoints on reservation roads to limit the pandemic’s spread.
They are not roadblocks, and there is no truth to Governor Noem’s repeated assertions that essential or emergency traffic is being detained or turned back. Here at Cheyenne River, we are requiring visitors to fill out a health questionnaire or travel through the reservation without stopping. And just yesterday, two more positive cases at Pine Ridge forced a 72-hour lockdown to enable contact tracing and keep folks safe.
Although Governor Noem asserts that the tribes have not engaged in adequate consultation with state officials, both the Oglala and Cheyenne River Nations have interacted with a swath of state agencies on this issue. 17 state senators have now published an open letter declaring that she has no legal authority to regulate activity on reservation roads without tribal consent.
Governor Noem in no position to issue threats. She’s failing to protect her own constituents within our jurisdiction, so we will. This is a life or death situation, and we have a right to live.
Wopila tanka — my gratitude for your action!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project