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Cherokee imposes curfew

Principal Chief Richard Sneed has issued a March 25 curfew order on the Qualla Boundary in hopes of preventing spread of COVID-19 on Cherokee lands.

Executive Order 8 imposes a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. People who are present on Cherokee trust lands during that time should stay home if possible, and everyone is prohibited from being out in public except to conduct essential activities like going to and from work or ensuring one’s health and safety. The order does not apply to tribal employees performing job-related duties. The order also authorizes officers in the Cherokee Indian Police Department to disperse any crowd of more than 10 people from any public place.

Anyone violating the order can be prosecuted under Sec. 166-15 of tribal code, which deals with states of emergency. The law states that violating any prohibition or restriction imposed by a proclamation authorized under the article is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

“It is my intent that this curfew be tailored to the needs of our community,” Sneed wrote in the order. “Therefore, it may be amended in the future as circumstances require.”

The order follows multiple others Sneed has issued over the past couple weeks to prevent the virus from entering Cherokee lands. The Cherokee Indian Hospital does not have any ICU beds or ventilators to care for coronavirus patients, so it would have to rely on assistance from other hospitals should local cases occur.

Previous executive orders have closed the Boundary’s borders to non-citizens and non-residents, with some narrow exceptions offered; shut down all non-critical tribal operations and offices for two weeks; ordered all restaurant dining rooms and non-essential businesses closed; issued a stay-at-home order to all residents and prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people. A previous order closing many public spaces such as trails, playgrounds and picnic areas remains in effect, but as of March 25 Fire Mountain Trails, Oconaluftee Islands Park, Soco Falls and Mingo Falls are no longer included in the closure. People using these areas are asked to observe social distancing and safety protocols.

Sneed has also ordered Food Lion to limit purchases of meat, sanitizing products and paper products to two per customer and to dedicate the 7 to 8 a.m. shopping hour to people ages 59 and older. The store may only open between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Schools have been closed since March 16. On March 18, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos began a two-week closure, the first ever in its 23-year history. The casinos in Cherokee and Murphy supply the lion’s share of revenue for the tribal budget and also provide twice-yearly per capita payments to tribal members. 

A list of COVID-19-related news items is available here.

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