Tribal leaders speak up about checkpoint concerns


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Affairs, David Flute, joined Gov. Kristi Noem in her May 12 press briefing. 

Flute, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe, spoke about the discrepancies between what Cheyenne River Sioux tribe Chairman Harold Fraiser was saying about the efficiencies of the checkpoints and what the state has been hearing. 

According to Flute, Fraiser had been informing Tribal affairs that the COVID checkpoints were running smoothly, however, Flute had been hearing complaints from multiple parties.  

“I would share with the chairman that we were hearing that there were some concerns and complaints from both his tribal members and non-tribal members,” Flute said.

April 18, Flute requested a meeting with both Fraiser and other tribes in the area to discuss the issues and hear their concerns. Fraiser denied the meeting request April 21. 

“I am disheartened, not just as an enrolled member or former tribal chairman that understands communication is key when you’re talking to other governments, but also as a South Dakota citizen,” Flute said. 

Communication with Oglala President Julian Bearrunner has also been minimal. 

Noem has confirmed that a lawsuit against the Ogala and Cheyenne River tribes is currently not underway, she believes that working with Chairman Fraiser and President Bearrunner will solve the issue. 

“Respecting tribal sovereignty is something I always have done, in my words and in my actions, but also making sure we have the ability to protect people,” Noem said.