Wednesday, July 1: CRST Chairman Harold Frazier's daily COVID-19 address

Wednesday, July 1: CRST Chairman Harold Frazier's daily COVID-19 address

Posted by Chairman Harold Frazier, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier: Daily COVID-19 Address - July 1, 2020

Native Sun News Today: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe sues Trump

Suit demand government to stop meddling in tribe’s sovereign rights

EAGLE BUTTE – The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, headquartered here, filed suit June 23 against U.S. President Donald Trump and a raft of federal officials to stop them from allegedly colluding in interference with the exercise of sovereign rights to operate Indian reservation highway checkpoints for Covid-19 pandemic safety.

The filing took place the day after Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chair Harold Frazier received a letter from Washington vowing a federal takeover of the tribe’s law enforcement office “in 24 hours,” if the tribe didn’t restructure its police department according to specifications.

The letter was from Charles Addington, whose title is U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs Director of the Office of Justice Services.

Nicole Ducheneaux, attorney for the tribe in the case, responded, “The tribe’s law enforcement funding was pulled in middle of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving an already vulnerable population to deal with yet another health and safety crisis.”

Leading up to this, a conflict had been brewing for months over the checkpoints, which are fiercely defended by tribal members and adamantly opposed by state as well as federal officials.

“Astonishingly, the tribe’s efforts to protects its people with health safety checkpoints became a political flashpoint in the state of South Dakota, inspiring Gov. Kristi Noem to issue a series of ultimata to the tribe,” the lawsuit states.

“When the tribe did not capitulate to Governor Noem’s demands, she escalated her offensive to the White House, seeking federal government assistance in her quest to shut down the tribe’s health safety checkpoints,” it documents.

Noem sent a letter to Trump on May 20 requesting that he unleash federal authority to remove the roadside health inspection stations.

“Since Governor Noem’s White House plea, all named defendants have worked in concert, abusing the power of the federal government, to coerce the tribe to dismantle its comprehensive Covid-19 response plan, including shutting down the tribe’s health safety checkpoints,” the suit says.

When that did not work, highly-placed Trump Administration officials finally threatened to punish the tribe by taking over its Public Law 93-638 contract with the federal government, – “imperiling tribal public safety as well as public health,” according to the lawsuit.

P.L. 93-638 contacts guarantee tribes can operate their own services, such as law enforcement, rather than relying on the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs for policing or other provisions.

The tribe put into effect a comprehensive Covid-19 response plan on April 2, setting up reservation roadside checkpoints to monitor and track individuals entering tribal territory from hotspots elsewhere.

Tribal Chair Harold Frazier highlighted his Administration’s choice to be “an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death,” when the tribe’s rate of infection remained significantly below the rate for South Dakota at large, with no Covid-19 deaths to date.

“The tribe’s Covid-19 response planning is essential to protect the tribal population, which suffers heightened vulnerability to the disease because of endemic poverty and health disparities,” the lawsuit states. The poorest county in the nation lies within reservation boundaries.

The tribal government sees its response as “especially critical in light of the state’s failure to meaningfully protect its residents, including the tribal population,” it says.

It adds that the screening system has “been so successful that the tribe has had only six reported cases of Covid-19 on its reservation, and each of those cases can be traced to entries identified through the tribe’s health safety checkpoint informational system,” the filing notes. No community spread has occurred.

Meanwhile, at the time of filing, South Dakota -- one of five states that didn’t issue a shelter-in-place mandate -- had 6,353 confirmed cases and 83 deaths outside the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

“The tribe’s health safety checkpoints are a lawful exercise of our sovereign authority and intended to protect our people from sickness and death. And it’s working,” said Ducheneaux, a Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member and partner at Big Fire Law & Policy Group.

Federal officials “have colluded to both coerce and punish the tribe for their checkpoints,” Ducheneaux said. “When the tribe informed White House and agency officials that they were not going to end their health checkpoints, the tribe’s law enforcement funding was pulled,” she said.


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