State and Tribes at crossroads with checkpoints

Published: May. 12, 2020 at 8:35 AM CDT
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Signs lead up to the entrance of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, warning drivers of an upcoming COVID-19 checkpoint. Drivers must pass through one of nine checkpoints at the entrances of the tribal land.

"We know, and we've always said this, this virus doesn't travel, it's the people with the virus that travel," said Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier.

Checkpoints were started at the entrance of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on April 3rd.

"We are monitoring who comes and goes through our reservation," Frazier said.

Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier said he and the rest of the tribal leaders have one goal with the checkpoints, keeping a list of people who have entered the reservation from possible COVID-19 hot spots.

"We had a first positive case, we knew when they came back into our reservation we had information they had come from what we call a hot spot," Frazier said.

The checkpoints have received some questions from State leaders in Pierre.

"We need to let essential services through the area, allow road crews to come in and do maintenance where available, and we have to allow emergency services to come through, and I'm not sure of that with these checkpoints operating the way that they are" said Governor Kristi Noem.

Chairman Frazier says workers at the checkpoints aren't telling drivers they can't pass through.

"If you're essential, just stop there, and a minute of your time, fill out a health questionnaire and keep rolling, agriculture is one of our biggest things, medical definitely because we don't have the health services here, that's essential," Frazier said.

Governor Noem says she is pursuing legal action to remove the checkpoints that are on Federal and State highways.

"I've had candid conversations with leaders, we need some clarity, so that's what I'm working on," Governor Noem said.

She says she does believe the disagreements can be resolved.

In the meantime, Frazier said the checkpoints will continue to operate.