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South Dakota Biker Festival Blocked From Entering Native American Checkpoints

South Dakota will play host to the yearly Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, with hundreds of thousands of bikers riding to the Mount Rushmore state amid rising concerns over a spike in coronavirus cases.

Thousands of bikers taking part in South Dakota’s annual 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will not be granted permission to pass through Cheyenne River Sioux checkpoints, a Native American group spokesperson said on Saturday.

​The move is meant to prevent access to native tribal sites during the rally but has put seven tribes that make up the Great Sioux Nation in conflict with federal and state authorities, which claim the checkpoints are illegitimate.

Cheyenne River tribal guidelines say that non-residents driving non-commercial out-of-state vehicles will not be allowed access to the reservation.

Up to 250,000 bikers from all over the country could show up to the event, amid fears of a new coronavirus outbreak.

A duty officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux said on Saturday while speaking to The Guardian, that only commercial and emergency vehicles will be given entry to the checkpoints on reservation land.

The restrictions have seen bikers who have attempted to gain access to the reservations in the region, including the Oglala Sioux, turned away, the officer said. 

Local law enforcement have said that the bikers are coming from all directions and have openly defied the restrictions introduced amid the pandemic.

The rally is expected to see people packed into bars and clubs in open opposition to social distancing.

​The Republican governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, supports the Sturgis rally going ahead, saying that there were zero recorded cases of coronavirus from the thousands-strong crowd that saw President Donald Trump watch a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore in July.

However, 60% of Sturgis 6,900 residents said they wanted the rally to be canceled, a city council survey revealed in May

Last week, Oglala Sioux confirmed 163 cases and in Cheyenne River Sioux, the number of infections has risen to 79, the tribe’s website claims.

South Dakota currently ranks 38th in coronavirus deaths per capita, a Reuters tally says and cases have been rising in recent weeks.

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