Native American members of the Sioux Nation have erected checkpoints in South Dakota that have prevented bikers from traveling to Sturgis, an annual motorcycle rally held in western South Dakota that attracts hundreds of thousands of bikers.
A Native American spokesperson confirmed over the weekend that bikers wishing to reach Sturgis would not be permitted to cross through Cheyenne River Sioux checkpoints, the Guardian reported.
From the Guardian:
A duty officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux told the Guardian on Saturday that only commercial and emergency vehicles will be let through the checkpoints onto reservation land.
A number of bikers had tried to enter but had been turned back, they said. Other reservations in the region, including the Oglala Sioux, were also turning away bikers that had attempted routes to Sturgis that pass through sovereign land.
Tribe spokesman Remi Bald Eagle told the Rapid City Journal the checkpoints are part of the tribe's coronavirus prevention plan.
However, state and federal officials have declared the checkpoints illegal. But that hasn't stopped the Cheyenne River Sioux from operating the checkpoints on the perimeter of their reservation; they have even sued the federal government to prevent federal officials from shutting down their checkpoints.
Despite the concerns of the tribe, Gov. Kristi Noem has given her approval for the motorcycle rally to go on.
"I trusted my people, they trusted me, and South Dakota is in a good spot in our fight against COVID-19. The #Sturgis motorcycle rally starts this weekend, and we're excited for visitors to see what our great state has to offer!" she said last week.
The Sturgis motorcycle rally, which began in the 1930s, attracts on average 500,000 bikers each year, generating an estimated $800 million in annual revenue for the surrounding community.
CNN reported that about 60% of Sturgis residents wanted the rally to be canceled this year. But the town council ultimately decided against that because thousands of bikers had already committed to come to the town.
"There are people throughout America who have been locked up for months and months. So we kept hearing from people saying it doesn't matter, they are coming to Sturgis. So with that, ultimately the council decided that it was really vital for the community to be prepared for the additional people that we're going to end up having," Daniel Ainslie, the city manager, told CNN.