May 9, 2020 - Health

South Dakota governor threatens legal action against Sioux coronavirus checkpoints

This image is a parking lot
Eagle Butte, South Dakota, the center of the Cheyenne River Reservation, in August 2019. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) threatened legal action on Friday against the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe if their coronavirus checkpoints are not removed within 48 hours.

The big picture: Native Americans and other people of color are more likely to become seriously ill from the coronavirus due to chronic health conditions and the effects of economic inequality, several studies have found.

What's happening: The tribes, which have issued strict stay-at-home orders, are allowing reservation residents to travel through South Dakota for essential activities like medical appointments, CNN reports. Health questionnaires must be filled out when residents go through checkpoints.

  • "South Dakota residents who don't live on the reservation are only allowed there if they're not coming from a hotspot and it is for an essential activity. But they must also complete a health questionnaire," per CNN.
  • Stay-at-home orders have not been issued for the state.

Where it stands: No South Dakota counties where the tribes are located are reporting deaths associated with COVID-19, but they are reporting more cases than the surrounding areas, per the state's health department.

  • Most cases in South Dakota are located in Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, on the other side of the state.
  • South Dakota is reporting 34 coronavirus deaths and 1,234 cases as of Saturday.

What they're saying: Noem said Friday the tribes need to make a deal with the state to restrict highway travel. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe chairman Harold Frazier said on Friday that the tribe consulted with the South Dakota Transportation Department, federal agencies and public schools.

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

Go deeper: The coronavirus' double whammy on vulnerable populations

Go deeper