Pine Ridge – May 22, 2020 – On Wednesday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem escalated her fued with the Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes. She announced that her team is investigating tribal checkpoints meant to protect the reservations from COVID-19 and that’s she’s asking President Trump to help resolve the issue.
Late Wednesday evening came a response from Chase Iron Eyes, spokesman for Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner and lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project:
“Governor Noem’s decision to escalate the tension right now over checkpoints doesn’t make sense from a public health perspective. We’re permitting people to pass through our reservations — we’re screening people, according to the best advice from medical experts, not preventing travel. 99.9 percent of drivers are allowed to pass through after answering a few questions.
“The United States now has 33 percent of global deaths from COVID-19, despite having just 5 percent of the world’s population. It should be clear to Governor Noem that Trump’s inadequate response to this pandemic is at the root of our nation’s sky-high death rate. Sadly, instead of challenging him, she has parroted the president’s talking points and policies within her state: an extremely limited stay-at-home order, no suspension of evictions or utility shut offs, no closing of businesses.
“Governor Noem has put 72,000 Native Americans and all others in the state at risk. Our communities are particularly vulnerable to this pandemic, so we must take matters into our own hands to protect ourselves.
“The governor is missing an opportunity to set a positive example of executive leadership. The world desperately needs vision right now among elected officials. Why not help us instead of harassing us?”
The Lakota People’s Law Project operates under the 501(c)(3) Romero Institute, a nonprofit law and policy center.