It was reported (KELO, KOTA, etc.) that SD Governor Noem issued an ultimatum to two South Dakota tribes (both OST and CRST: see below) about 2200 on Friday the 8th of May, 2020. The two tribes have 24 hours to remove their checkpoints blocking US and State highways across their lands. Some have suggested that SD request federal troops (Regulars, not National Guard) to quell what is apparently a rebellion, and restore constitutional rights to the members of the tribes and other residents on the reservations.
We shall see. The situation here is the reverse of what much of the world is going through.
I’ve reported on the situation in South Dakota over the past several weeks. Matters are now heating up. It would come as no surprise to see violence erupt.
There are more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases in South Dakota; and just over 30 deaths (as of Friday, 08 May 2020): more than 2/3 of the people have recovered. 90% of those still sick and 3/4th of the deaths have been in Sioux Falls, SD’s largest city and located in the SE corner of the State. South Dakota government has NOT locked down the State: it is one of the Axis of Evil (7 States which did not join in the Lockdown and preserved their residents’ rights for the most part.)
Nevertheless, the Tribal Councils of two of the nine AmerInd tribes in the State continue to panic. Both the Oglala Lakota Nation (OST) and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) have virtually imprisoned their own members and others living on the reservations. They have established checkpoints blocking travel on US and State highways through their lands, and instituted travel permit (“papers, please”) to travel – when there are not curfews confining people 24 hours a day to their homes. At least some of the personnel manning the checkpoints are armed and temporarily deputized, as well as regular tribal law enforcement.
Unlike most States, South Dakota’s governor and the rest of the government has made it clear that while safety and health of the people of the State IS very important, so are the freedoms of her people, and the welfare of her people include their economy. The governor has often stated that South Dakota people trust each other to make the right decisions and decide for themselves what risks to take and how to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors.
Clearly, the oligarchies who dominate the supposedly democratically-elected tribal councils and presidents of these two Lakota nations do NOT trust the State of South Dakota or their neighbors. Worse, they do NOT trust their own people, and are behaving towards their own people in the very same way they have repeatedly condemned the FedGov for treating them.
Background and current situation (before SD ultimatum)
The following info is background which I’ve commented on in the past. Several people have asked for details on just what is going on in South Dakota. My family and I have been trying to help several people and families trapped by this mess.
The current OST and CRST situation is in large part due to fear because of the 1918 Flu epidemic. Years ago when doing environmental assessments for selecting a new airport location for the Rosebud (Sicangu Oyate), we found that one high mesa that was being considered had dozens if not a hundred or more graves on the points between the ravines. We were told all of these were burials from the epidemic, people who had gotten sick and were riding (horseback or wagons) to the hospital about five miles further, and died and were buried right there. Although the graves were minimally marked, they were obvious. One of the people we worked with pointed out the graves of both of his mother’s parents and one of his aunts, even though the graves were not marked except for some flowers and prayer flags. All the SD tribes were hard hit. (That flu was tragic in most rural areas of the Forty-Eight States, but most people no longer live where their grandparents and great-grandparents lived them.)
Still, there is a lot of indications that the panic in Indian Country is even greater than in states like Michigan, Hawaii, or Colorado – or even New Mexico, where the Navajo are.
Cheyenne River is one of the two northern Lakota reservations, and actually has (and claims) four Lakota tribes. They have about 15,000 members, about 10,000 actually live on rez, if that. (There are also maybe 5,000 non-Lakota in the reservation, as there is much private land: Anglos, other tribes and such.) They have their own hospital at Eagle Butte (Paha Wanblee – their capital) but it only has about 15 beds: they have created 40 more beds, working with Indian Health Service.
They have set up checkpoints – armed police and all, apparently, at at least seven locations: both ends of SD-34 and US-212, one on SD-20 (I think) and 2 on their border with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Possibly more on a few other BIA and County Roads.
You can leave the rez but can’t come back unless you got a permit before leaving. Supposedly it takes 72 hours to get a permit, but it took our friend a full six days to get his. Even with a permit, you are NOT allowed to return if you go to Rapid City, Pierre, or Sioux Falls, or any part of North Dakota (which is only 40 miles away) or into the neighboring Standing Rock Reservation – which is both in SD and ND. If yo do go to one of these “hot spots” (as defined by the tribal council) you must enter a 14-day quarantine BY YOURSELF – not even family members. And then be tested, apparently.
Although they have closed state and US highways, they originally did not allow SD-licensed vehicles to even drive straight through without stopping, but out-of-state vehicles at least can, though they may be escorted to ensure that they do not stop. (Not that SD_34 has anyplace anyone would stop except to take pictures.)
They are making it very difficult for truckers to deliver supplies to stores and institutions. Which is creating shortages and raising prices. Closing the roads also means more difficulty in traveling. For example, from Cherry Creek (a community in the southwest corner of CRST), it is 50+ by
Unlike the Navajo, these tribes do not have hundreds or thousands of people with COVID-19. In fact, none of them have more than 1 or 2 people sick with coronavirus. (There are many Lakota in Sioux Falls who have tested positive, but they do not live on the reservations.) The nations have nursing homes and a few apartment buildings (fourplexes), most people live in scattered single-family houses. Stores are usually very small (I once helped design and build a 10,000 SF store – huge by rez standards). And because of the Lockdown, prices are climbing quickly due to demand and supply both.
The Oglala of Pine Ridge are a much larger (and poorer) tribe. (Perhaps unrelated, the president was just arrested by their own police for something – possibly DUI.) The OST council has locked down just as much, with nine armed checkpoints (firearms and as seen in one picture, lances!) on all the highways.
Anyone coming from outside their borders has to obtain a permit, and the one person who has caught COVID-19 on the Rez (who was a teacher at a Catholic school and not a member of the tribe) was deported together with her family. They also have their OST Police frequently stop vehicles without tribal plates on the highways on various pretexts to inspect permits, quiz you on where you are going and where you have been. And the news reports that they want to make the checkpoints permanent features.
They have one thing that CRST does not (but that the Navajo in NM and AZ do). They have a weekend curfew 57 hours long from 2000 hours on Friday to 0500 hours on Monday: it is forbidden to leave your house, except when you are taken by ambulance or police to the hospital. No stores or businesses or other government offices are allowed to be open.
I cannot see that ANY Americans – enrolled tribal members or NOT – should be locked down in their homes and lands, and denied freedom to travel and care for themselves and their families. And I cannot see that ANY government – federal, tribal, state, or local- should have ANY power to close off highways. Especially that tribes do not have that power. Those tribes did not build and do not maintain the US and State highways crossing their land, and who have granted that land expressly for public highways.
Wow, this is truly a disturbing situation, thanks for your coverage on this. I haven’t heard much about it in the news for some reason.