This time last year, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chairman Faron Jackson gave his annual state of the band address at the tribe’s casino. This year, Jackson opened his address wearing a facemask and delivered it virtually on March 26.
Like all of us, Leech Lake battled a turbulent year full of unknowns with more questions than answers.
“Little did we know that would be our last normal event gathering for the foreseeable future. We were informed during the state of the band event last year that the first case of the virus had been confirmed in Minnesota.Things progressed very rapidly from that point with the tribal council declaring a public health emergency just six days later,” said Jackson during the address.
In his address, Jackson reflected on the coronavirus impact, including catching the virus himself and recovering. He also shared a message of hope for the future. The tribe has vaccinated nearly 5,500 people, almost half being Native American. He asked those not yet vaccinated to seriously consider it.
“The actions we have taken as a tribe, and as a community, saved us from suffering the worst effects of this pandemic. I personally want to say miigwech to each and every member of the Leech Lake band of Ojibwe for doing your part in keeping our families and communities safe. We have to continue to be extremely cautious, we cannot let our guard down just yet.” said Jackson
The event included a short message by Minnesota Lt. Gov. and White Earth Nation citizen Peggy Flanagan. Flanagan praised Leech Lake for its strong vaccine rollout and mentioned the importance of government to government relations.
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa went eight weeks without a positive COVID-19 case. That changed in late March after multiple positive cases were reported by the tribe.
Chairman Kevin DuPuis reminded citizens in his latest public service announcement of the seriousness of the virus. He said 81 percent of elders 65 and older have been vaccinated.
“If we are going to look out for our elders, what our duty and obligation is, is that we need to step up in the generations and ages below that to move in, get vaccinated, try to do the best that you can. We can’t make anybody get vaccinated, I know its a personal choice, but to get back to some sort of normality so we can start doing some things that we enjoyed, like our ceremonies, our powwows, our gatherings, our get-togethers, we really need to move in that direction and look at one another as the security of our future,” said DuPuis.
“Want to go to prom? Tired of not getting to hang out with your friends?” These are simple questions targeting eligible high school students on the Red Lake Nation. The tribe is starting an April push to vaccinate citizens 16 and older.
Chairman Darrell Seki said the tribe is also offering a $30 incentive in form of a gift card to the local grocery store and convenience store. In a recent update posted on social media, Seki again emphasized the importance of the vaccine.
“Please, I want to remind everyone that the vaccine is not mandatory. However, I’m encouraging everyone to take this vaccine for the protection of yourself, your brother, your sister, your families, your grandparents. It’s better for all of us to be safe and live a better health life,” said Seki.
Dalton Walker reporting for Minnesota Native News Health Report