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South Dakota Gov. Noem, tribes in virus checkpoints standoff

SeattlePI.com Monday, 11 May 2020
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem appeared headed Monday for a legal confrontation with two Native American Indian tribes over highway checkpoints intended to keep the coronavirus away from their reservations.

The issue pits an ambitious governor who has taken a mostly hands-off approach to restrictions on daily life during the pandemic against tribes who say her actions jeopardize their members. And it's the latest flare-up in a relationship that has been tense since Noem took office in 2018, most notably in a longstanding conflict over construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Cheyenne River Sioux, in northern South Dakota, and the Oglala Lakota Sioux, in the southwest corner of the state, began their roadblocks in April. Both tribes cited the threat of the virus, combined with their vulnerable populations and poor medical facilities, as urgent reasons to control access.

On Friday, Noem gave the tribes 48 hours to dismantle the checkpoints and said the state would sue if they didn't. Both tribes said over the weekend the checkpoints would stand on their reservations, which range from 3,500 to 4,000 square miles in size — larger than some states.

“We will not apologize for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death,” Cheyenne River Sioux chairman Harold Frazier said in a statement.

He described a health care system on the reservation with eight hospital beds and six ventilators, saying that the infection could “spread like wildfire” if they weren't vigilant.

The tribes say they are still allowing essential businesses onto the reservations and said the checkpoints were set up to keep out tourists or other visitors who could be carrying coronavirus infections. The reservations are collectively home to about 30,000...
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South Dakota Gov. Noem, tribes in virus checkpoints standoff

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem appeared headed Monday for a legal confrontation with two Native American Indian tribes over highway...
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