Dispute between South Dakota Tribes and Governor Kristi Noem continues

Dispute between South Dakota Tribes and Governor Kristi Noem continues

A dispute between South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and two state Sioux tribes over tribal checkpoints continues as the two sides have thus far failed to find a concrete solution to the issue.

In the month of April, the Oglala Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux announced and implemented the controversial roadblocks to prevent visitors or tourists from entering their territories. Earlier this month, the state governor intervened and threatened to drag the two tribes to court if the controversial roadblocks weren’t removed. However, a few days back Noem suggested a plan to negotiate where tribes could continue with checkpoints on tribal roads but allow people to commute on public highways. Representatives of both tribes rejected the plan.

Tribal gaming lawyer Rory Dilweg, of Colorado-based Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti, said that law appeared to be on the side of the two tribes. Commenting on the situation, he added that there was no general rule to cover the controversial situation and South Dakota’s factually distinct history in coping with Indian tribes could not be extended elsewhere.

Speaking on the topic, Dilweg explained, “Essentially, the state has no authority to enforce its laws on the reservations, including on the highways, so I think the state of South Dakota loses this battle. One of the key powers that tribes have is the power to exclude non-members from their reservations.”

The two Sioux tribes’ checkpoints on local roads and highways aim to trim down the risk of deadly corona virus transmission on reservations. The corona virus pandemic has already claimed more than hundred thousand lives across the nation, with millions still struggling with the infection. The pandemic not only devastated the economies worldwide but also affected social setups across the globe.

Like in any other tribal area in the US, the Oglala Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes do not need to stick to state governor’s orders because they are implementing their decisions on their sovereign territories. These tribal sovereign lands are held in trust by the US federal government.

Attorney Gary Pitchlynn, who is also serving as a professor at the University Of Oklahoma’s law college, also stressed that the state of South Dakota lacks authority to force the two tribes to remove their checkpoints. However, he suggested that the recourse would more likely come from the side of the federal government.

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