Tuesday, April 20, 2021

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Cheyenne River Tribal Health Checkpoints to close

Tribal secretary Ev Ann White announced last week that the Cheyenne River Tribal Health Checkpoints will close within the next two weeks.

In a memo dated March 8, 2021 and released to the public, White said “that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council accepts the recommendation of the Health Committee and directs that the checkpoints established in Emergency Executive Order No. 02.1-2020-CR be closed within fourteen days of the date of this Resolution.”

The checkpoints were established on April 20, 2020, early in the course of the pandemic, to control traffic at the borders of the CRST reservation. The original Executive Order stated the purpose of the checkpoints was, “preventing, tracking, and limiting the transmission of the COVID-19 virus within the exterior boundaries of the Reservation.”

The order also stated that a Travel Plan would be required from every traveler, a form would be “used to screen any potential COVID-19 infected individuals and to know of their contacts in case they later test positive for COVID-19,” and that “A non-resident may be restricted from entering onto the Reservation if he has traveled to COVID-19 areas, since he could pose an imminent and serious medical threat to the health and welfare of the members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.”

Their main purpose was contact tracing. Drivers and passengers in vehicles entering the reservation were asked where they were travelling from, some basic health questions, and where they were travelling on the reservation. Residents and essential services were allowed free travel; but vehicles traveling across the reservation were asked to go around.

Tensions have been high around the issue of checkpoints. Elders held a march in favor of the checkpoints last week. [See our article in this issue.] A march against the checkpoints and in honor of recently-deceased Justin Reede was also scheduled for last week and postponed due to illness.

According to the memo, tribal council recommended that “to the greatest extent possible, all checkpoint employees be transferred to positions responsible for carrying out community disease surveillance and mitigation activities or to other open Tribal positions for which they may be qualified.”

It’s unclear exactly where the checkpoint employees might be repositioned. Some ideas include support for Tribal Health in contact tracing and vaccinations, and neighborhood patrolling. There has been no official word as yet.

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