Noem submits evidence connected to tribal checkpoints to federal authorities

Checkpoint on border of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has sent evidence of what she calls unlawful activity at tribal COVID-19 checkpoints to the federal government.

In a briefing Tuesday, Noem said she instructed state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to investigate the checkpoints after the tribes refused to take down those checkpoints on state highways.

Noem said that investigation found "unlawful" activity at the checkpoints. She said that evidence has been sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, the White House, and South Dakota's congressional delegation. The governor said she is asking for federal assistance on the issue.

Both the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe put a number of checkpoints up on their reservations' borders at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal officials say they are designed to keep their members safe. They also say they have the sovereign right to enforce the checkpoints.

Noem started pushing the tribes to remove those checkpoints earlier this month, saying they have caused a headache for people trying to access the reservations, even for necessary purposes. The tribes have denied these allegations.

The governor said she asked the tribes last week to consider a plan where they removed checkpoints on state and federal highways, but kept them on Bureau of Indian Affairs roads. She said tribal leaders have not given her a formal decision on that proposal.

More: State's response to tribal checkpoint, including letter to White House