August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Cheyenne River Lakota manning border health checkpoints, won't back down after governor's threats



Cheyenne River Lakota manning border health checkpoints, won't back down after governor's threats

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

EAGLE BUTTE, South Dakota -- Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier responded to the South Dakota Governor's "fiery rhetoric" in the media and said the governor never contacted his office with the threats toward border checkpoints. Chairman Frazier reaffirmed the tribe's position to protect its members during this time, as the coronavirus spreads through South Dakota.

Chairman Frazier said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem did not contact him -- but instead made statements in the media with threats over the tribe's border checkpoints.

In her media statements, Gov. Noem threatened to file suit if the Cheyenne River Lakota and Oglala Lakota if they did not take down their health checkpoints at their borders.


"We found it in the press, in the media," Chairman Frazier said during his live weekly update on Saturday. Since he was never officially contacted, he said he didn't know when the 48 hours ends.

During the weekly broadcast, the interviewer stated that Gov. Noem claimed to the media that U.S. Marshals would arrest Lakotas at their checkpoints -- if they did not take down border checkpoints.

"There is nothing more important than human life," Chairman Frazier said. "As human beings, we have a right to live. That is one of the greatest rights that we have, the right to live."

Chairman Frazier said prior to the Treaty making era, Lakota lived under the Creator's law, and after Treaties came about, Lakotas started living under man-made laws which can be changed by people.

During his weekly address on May 9, Chairman Frazier said, there have been 77 coronavirus tests with 76 negative and one positive. He said the tribe has 240 test kits available. He pointed out that there are new cases in South Dakota, including those at Sisseton-Wahpeton and Rosebud Sioux.

The virus does not care who you are or where you live, he said.

In a letter of support to Chairman Frazier from Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Delbert Hopkins, Jr., pointed out that a non-member entered the Enemy Swim housing district of Sisseton-Wahpeton and infected nearly one dozen people over a period of a few weeks. (See statement below.)

"Let's the checkpoints stay until it is safe to remove them," said Hopkins, Enemy Swim District Chairman in the Lake Traverse Nation in northeastern South Dakota.

Chairman Frazier responded to the governor's fiery rhetoric with a written statement.

"The English definition of consultation is "a meeting with an expert or professional, such as a medical doctor, in order to seek advice." In the Lakota language, wóglaka means "to speak about something." In meeting with county commissioners, municipal, South Dakota Department of Transportation, Public schools and Federal agencies we have met the definition of consultation in both of our languages."

"We have not stopped any state or commercial functions as you claim in your request," Frazier said in his statement.

"I absolutely agree that we need to work together during this time of crisis, however you continuing to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation," the statement said. "Ignorant statements and fiery rhetoric encourage individuals already under stress from this situation to carry out irrational actions."

CNN reported on Sunday afternoon on Mother's Day: 

Despite South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem requesting the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe take down its coronavirus checkpoints, tribe Chairman Harold Frazier told CNN they’re going to stay put.

The main purpose of the checkpoints set up by the tribe is to monitor and try to track coronavirus should it ever come into tribal lands, Frazier said.

“We want to ensure that people coming from ‘hot spots’ or highly infected areas, we ask them to go around our land,” Frazier tells CNN.

Noem’s request to take down the checkpoints came because she said they “interfere with regulating traffic on U.S. and state highways.”

“With the lack of resources we have medically, this is our best tool we have right now to try to prevent (the spread of Covid-19),” Frazier told CNN.

Frazier said reservations are ill-equipped to deal with a coronavirus outbreak adding that, “the nearest health care, critical care is three hours away from where we live.”

Frazier said the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has only an eight-bed facility on the reservation and no intensive care unit for the 12,000 people who live on the reservation.

A letter written by Noem’s policy director, Maggie Seidel, points to a memorandum pertaining to road closures on tribal lands issued by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, written April 8.

The memorandum states tribes “may restrict road use or close” tribal-owned roads temporarily without first consulting with the secretary of the interior or private landowners under conditions involving “immediate safety or life-threatening situations.” Seidel points out that the memorandum does not give tribes the authority to manage the flow of traffic to state and US highways.

“The checkpoints on state and U.S. highways are not legal, and if they don’t come down, the state will take the matter to Federal court, as Governor Noem noted in her Friday letter,” the letter reads.

Chairman Frazier's statement

The English definition of consultation is “a meeting with an expert or professional, such as a medical doctor, in order to seek advice.” In the Lakota language, wóglakA means “to speak about something.” In meeting with county commissioners, municipal, South Dakota Department of Transportation, Public schools and Federal agencies we have met the definition of consultation in both of our languages.

We have continuously worked with the county commissioners and municipal leaders to ensure all members and nonmember issues have been addressed. We have not stopped any state or commercial functions as you claim in your request.

Many have been inconvenienced by the current situation but the virus does not differentiate between members and non-members. It obligates us to protect everyone on the reservation regardless of political distinctions. We will not apologize for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death.

Article 16 of the Ft. Laramie Treaty signed in 1868 by your government and our respected ancestors dictates the following, “stipulates and agrees that no white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the same; or without the consent of the Indians first had and obtained, to pass through the same.”

I absolutely agree that we need to work together during this time of crisis, however, you continue to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation. Ignorant statements and fiery rhetoric encourage individuals already under stress from this situation to carry out irrational actions.

We invite you to join us in protecting the lives of our people and those that live on this reservation. I regretfully decline your request. I stand with our elder Councilman Ed Widow that the purpose of our actions is to, “save lives rather than save face.”

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