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17 Legislators Defend Tribal Coronavirus Checkpoints

Seventeen legislators have signed a letter to Governor Kristi Noem telling her to drop her demand that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe remove their coronavirus protection checkpoints from highways entering their reservations. The letter, dated May 9, defends the tribal public health interventions as legal under treaty, federal law, and case law:

Legislators to Gov. Noem on tribal coronavirus-protection checkpoints, 2020.05.09.
Legislators to Gov. Noem on tribal coronavirus-protection checkpoints, 2020.05.09.

The case to which the legislators refer appears to be Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. State of South Dakota (1990), in which the Eighth Circuit held that “Absent tribal consent… the State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction over the highways running through Indian lands in the state.” The court began its ruling by quoting the following passage from the South Dakota Constitution, a passage so nice we wrote it twice, in Article 22 and Article 26:

…we, the people inhabiting the state of South Dakota, do agree and declare that we forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundary of South Dakota, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes; and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States; and said Indian lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the Congress of the United States… [excerpt, South Dakota Constitution, Article 22 and Article 26 Section 18].

Subsequent federal law opened the door for the tribes to cede jurisdiction, but the Governor of South Dakota cannot impose state jurisdiction on Indian land without tribal consent. Given Governor Noem’s antagonistic stance toward the tribes and the deep and justified historical fears Native people harbor of white folks bringing disease, it’s unlikely any such tribal consent will materialize. Governor Noem is threatening to sue the tribes, but shaking her Jason Ravnsborg doll at the tribes will inspire tremblings of laughter, not fear.

Tribal communities are more remote, have less access to health care, and have many members who are more susceptible to illness. The tribes thus have a keen interest in taking stronger measures than Governor Noem to stop the spread of coronavirus. The legislators standing up for that Indian sensibility include all sixteen members of the Democratic caucus and one Republican, Rep. Tamara St. John of Sisseton.


  1. Nix 2020-05-11 07:04

    Once again the leadership in Pierre and the Dope Queen of Delusion in particular have chosen cruelty instead of compassion.
    Threats instead of honest communication.
    The bigotry and racism that comes
    out of Pierre should be called out for what it is.
    Weather you want to believe it or not, South Dakota is closer to Birmingham
    AL in 1962 than we are to 2020.

  2. jerry 2020-05-11 09:46

    Queen NOem is trying to deflect her incompetence with this diversion of hate towards the tribes. Much like trump and his false bellowing against China (not white), Queen NOem is trying to hide her failed incompetent team from criticism by showing her racism. Queen NOem fails to see that what the tribes are doing is exactly the kind of leadership it takes to control this virus. The action by Chairman Frazier and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, already has proven results. In fact, thanks to the CRST actions, an unknown location of the virus was discovered in Pierre, you know that had to make the queen embarrassed.

    For what it’s worth, Chairman Bear Runner put restrictions on travel throughout Pine Ridge much earlier. The Oglala’s also banished Queen NOem from that reservation long before those actions.

    “”I am hereby notifying you that you are not welcome to visit our homelands, the Pine Ridge Reservation, until you rescind your support for SB 189 and SB 190 and affirm to your state and this country that First Amendment rights to free, political speech are among the truths you hold to be self-evident,” he said in the letter.”

    White girls, like the queen, can’t jump, all they are is bitchy.

  3. John 2020-05-11 10:35

    “shaking her Jason Ravnsborg doll” . . . spitting coffee . . . thanks . . . exceptional

  4. Moses 2020-05-11 10:37

    A failed administration telling a sovereign nation what to do.Go back and work on failed meth program ,which was a disaster and leave the nation alone.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-05-11 11:56

    My question for the Governor would be, why pick this fight? The tribes aren’t stopping commerce. They aren’t stopping emergency response. They are exercising their sovereign power, but we could also interpret their action as an exercise of local community responsibility to take extra measures to protect a subpopulation with unique needs. Why would the Governor want to deny any community the opportunity to take the additional measures it deems necessary to protect life?

    Practically speaking, how many non-reservation residents really need to drive across the reservation and have been prevented from doing so? And even if there are people who’ve been prevented from driving across the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge, do their driving needs/wants outweigh local public health concerns?

  6. jerry 2020-05-11 12:20

    Thanks bcb, that pesky 4th Amendment…curses says Queen NOem, sigh of relief from Ravensorg. Queen NOem is just showing her racist mug to her fellow racist supporters. Clearly, the Queen is way the hell over her head and needs to deflect her incompetence so she is trying to use the tribes as her punching bag. We can all see the innocent blood on Queen NOem’s grubby little hands, with no end in sight. Where the hell are the test kits? Call the old tom cat trump and pay for the same kind they use and that you yourself have used, the ones that give results in 15 minutes.

  7. KOREY JACKSON 2020-05-11 12:36

    bearcreekbat – Thanks for your additional analysis and provided links to applicable articles.

    Of special interest is the reference mention of “cordon sanitaires.”

    Isolate the infected, quarantine their contacts: Certainly.

    Social Distancing to minimize infection rates: Makes sense.

    Establish a cordon sanitaire: Debated; inherent conflict and tension exists with individual liberties.

    Cory – the reference you highlighted “Rosebud Sioux Tribe vs State of South Dakota (1990)” appears to address limitations of South Dakota law enforcement authority on tribal members on tribal lands, without express prior tribal agreement.
    In initial review, it does not appear to specifically address the question of tribal police jurisdiction to enforce tribal laws on nontribal members on US and state highways entering tribal lands.

    As a 2016 Harvard Law Review article concludes:
    “Criminal jurisdiction in and around the borders of Indian country is a maze of uncertainty that law enforcement officers of numerous jurisdictions must navigate every day across the United States.”

    Hope you all stay safe and healthy.

  8. leslie 2020-05-11 13:24

    Is this the 1st time Tamara has had the sense to stand up to her Queen?

    No kidding John! If i had coffee i’d mopping up(:

  9. Debbo 2020-05-11 18:29

    Kruel Kristi is working on her Deflection and Distraction skills, as taught by Drooling Duma$$.

    I’d like to give credit to the legislators, but I didn’t see their names. Did I miss them?

  10. Paladn 2020-05-12 09:54

    Just a quick question: how many other Legislators were invited to sign the correspondence provided and declined.

  11. Debbo 2020-05-13 18:33

    Wonkette does get right to the point. It’s a well researched article. Thanks Mike.

  12. grudznick 2020-05-13 21:50

    Damn Chinese Virus creeping into the rez, eh? Lockdown seems like a good idea. Complete lockdown. Probably shut down their breakfasting joints, though.

    In the meantime, some people are relegated to the Colonial house for breakfast, so I guess everybody has their own sorts of burdens.

  13. Donna Clark 2020-05-15 00:01

    May 13, 2020

    Governor Noem,
    You have no right or jurisdiction to oppose people on S. Dakota reservations from keeping oncoming vehicles off their land. The people on the reservations have the right to LIVE!

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