If you want to read about how Kristi wrote a note to Daddy Trump and waah waah waahed about the CRST and Oglala Sioux Tribe (Pine Ridge) running checkpoints and infringing on precious freedums, Wonkette has that covered. Instead, I want to write about the excellent marshaling of resources by the tiny Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST). There will be pictures and visual aids, but no test, so the rest is going below the fold.
Let’s start with a mini geography lesson.
The Cheyenne River Reservation, my friends, is fucking huge. See it in red there? At 4,300 square miles, if it were a state, it would rank be between Delaware and Connecticut in physical size. (If you add in the Standing Rock Reservation, which borders it to the north, noted in green above, those two reservations together would be about the size of Massachusetts.) For scale, it is ~220 miles from Pierre (on the south part of this map) to Bismarck (on the north part).
The second thing about the rez it that it’s empty. Here’s a pic I took along the Moreau River on Highway 65 in late April, 2019 – and, yes, that is snow. This is near the west-central border of the rez.
And here’s one taken around the same time near the south-central border of the rez. You get the idea. There are roughly 12,000 tribe members living in this massive empty area.
At the onset of the pandemic, the tribe had 8 hospital beds, 6 respirators, no ICU, a few doctors and nurses, and one respiratory tech. The nearest big hospitals are in Rapid City or Bismarck (2-3 hours away). Tribe members have a high rate of obesity, diabetes and alcoholism. A year ago the CRST health team fought off an outbreak of HIV. Given this dire state of affairs, CRST leadership didn’t have the luxury of being like Kristi Noem, who seems mainly interested in opening her stupid piehole on Fox News as often as possible. So the chairman of the CRST did this:
[…] the tribe installed checkpoint teams at nine locations on improved roads heading into the reservation, including on U.S. 212 and on state roads 20, 34, 63 and 65.
At each site, vehicles heading onto or off of the reservation are stopped and drivers and passengers are asked a series of medical questions, including about their recent human contacts and their destinations. All the information is then tracked, and if questions arise, [Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator] Bald Eagle or another top tribal or medical official is contacted to confer about what to do next.
Tribal members or those who are simply passing through the reservation without stopping are typically allowed to drive on, Bald Eagle said. Those without a clear destination, or who may draw the suspicion of checkpoint officers, can be turned away. In a recent week, Bald Eagle said that thousands of vehicles had approached the checkpoints and that only 13 had been turned away.
“The rationale is to have an early warning system, and to track the movement of transportation on and around the reservation,” he said.
He also locked down the nursing home, set up health hotlines, put more meat in the freezers and coolers, kept the school lunch program going to feed kids, hired 30 more law enforcement officers to enforce a curfew, and set up a program to call all the old people sheltering in place every single day to see what they need.
To date, Cheyenne River has had one case, and because of their checkpoints, the way they handled that case saved God knows how many lives:
When a woman returned to the reservation after spending time in Pierre in March, she was asked questions about potential exposure to the virus. The woman told checkpoint officers she had been at a motel in Pierre where an employee was rumored to have been infected, so the woman was immediately placed in self-isolation and monitored for symptoms.
When she displayed symptoms, she was placed in a medical quarantine and eventually transferred to Monument Health in Rapid City, where she received treatment and has recovered. While she was hospitalized, the tribe did two things, Bald Eagle said: The tribe steam-cleaned and disinfected the woman’s home, and officials alerted the state to the potential hot-spot at the motel in Pierre.
This is what Kristi Noem is complaining to Trump about–a textbook pandemic response run on a shoestring. South Dakota would be lucky to have a government with 1/10 of the competence of the CRST leadership, but instead they have Dollar Store Sarah Palin.
(This is mostly a summary of this excellent Argus Leader story if you want more details.)