The facts here present a different story. Unlike the threat of some careless drivers on a public highway, the potential spread of COVID-19 to a rural tribal community unquestionably involves a direct effect on the health or welfare of the tribe. Indeed, it’s no secret that COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in South Dakota. Moreover, these tribes are located in rural areas with limited access to testing, treatment, and healthcare.
This situation reminds me of a quote from United States v. Kagama where Justice Samuel Miller pronounced states as “the deadliest enemies of tribes.” Gov. Noem can fight COVID-19 however she prefers, but her threats against these tribal nations exercising their sovereign rights and legal authority are, at best, misguided and, at worst, a reinforcement of Justice Miller’s words that states remain “the deadliest enemies of tribes.” May it not be so.