Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > New CARES Act lawsuit
Posted: April 22, 2020

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe have filed a second CARES Act lawsuit.

“COVID-19 is causing devastating harm in Indian Country,” the three tribes write in a complaint filed in federal court on April 22, 2020.

The tribes are suing Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin. They say the $8 billion coronavirus relief fund should not go to Alaska Native corporations (ANCs).

According to the tribes,  Congress, through Title V of the CARES Act, stated that  “tribal governments” are to benefit from the $8 billion. 

“Nevertheless, Defendant has determined to treat ANCs as ‘tribal governments’ for purposes of making Title V relief payments,” the complaint reads. “The Defendant’s action violates the CARES Act.”

The first CARES Act lawsuit was filed late on April 16. Six tribes — including three in Alaska — are the original plaintiffs. Five more joined Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation v. Mnuchin  on April 21.

Nearly every major Indian Country organization is supporting the legal effort. A friend of the court brief will be filed in the case by 7pm Eastern on April 22.

A hearing in the first CARES Act case is scheduled for 3pm Eastern on April 23. It is not clear yet if Cheyenne River, Oglala Sioux and Rosebud will be able to participate but they filed a notice of the original case along with their complaint.

Indianz.Com reported on April 21 that the Department of Treasury had not yet determined how to distribute the funds. The Trump administration’s brief is due by 5pm Eastern on April 22.

The new case is Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe v. Mnuchin. Soon after filing the complaint, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe asked for a hearing on their motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

“The effect of the Defendant’s illegal appropriation of money away from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe threatens imminent bodily and existential harm to the tens of thousands of tribal members now living on both reservations,” the motion reads. “There are simply not enough beds, not enough ventilators, not enough medical staff, and not enough food for the Tribes to handle even a small outbreak without dire consequences.”

The  motion was accompanied by a sworn declaration from Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. He said his people need to be sure they have enough resources to address the coronavirus.

“We are taking every step we can to protect our Tribe, but the strain on our human and financial resources is taking its toll,” Frazier states in the declaration. “We have very few trained personnel who can remain on duty for our healthcare, human welfare, and legal facilities because of the number of personnel who are high risk. Those that remain are working around the clock.”

“Without additional funding, we will not be able to continue to offer the protections and support currently in place for our People,” Frazier says. “Termination of those efforts will, in all likelihood, result in greater casualties from the pandemic.”

Additional declarations were filed by David Nelson of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s COVID-19 Emergency Command Center and by Jessica Four Bear, the tribe’s administrative officer.

Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Oglala are seeking argument on their request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.


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