It’s simple, yet powerful. It’s a social media campaign explaining why Red Lake tribal citizens and others should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. A series of YouTube videos by tribal health officials offer safety tips, testing information and the impact of the vaccine has on citizens.
Hereditary Chief and elder Greeting Spears and others were part of a recent “Will you do it for me?” video.
The campaign has been successful. The tribe has held multiple vaccine drives since February. Health officials have posted more than a dozen photos of people holding a sheet of paper with the words, “I did it for” with participants writing in why they got the shot. Some said it was for their family, the community and many merely put, “you.”
For 27-year-old Serena Graves, once she was eligible for the vaccine in Red Lake, she made it a priority to get the shot. She recently received the recommended second dose and posted on her social media thanking the tribe and health officials for making it a seamless process.
Graves is an Ojibwe culturalist at Red Lake schools and a lead in an Ojibwe language immersion program.
“Within those roles, typically we have a lot of contact with students, first language speakers and a lot of second language speakers, and so I felt like getting the COVID19 vaccine was the best way we could begin building up some immunity to the virus within our Red Lake Nation community, specifically in the Ojibwe language community on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where I’m doing a lot of work right now for the adult immersion program and with our students with the Red Lake School District,” said Graves.
Graves has encouraged others in Red Lake to get the vaccine, but she also knows the historical trauma many have when it comes to trusting federal health care.
“I think as Native people we understand kind of both sides of the fence where we’ve been historically treated very, very badly by a lot of the Westernized medicines that have been used against us for so many years, and like a vaccine, right, the flip side is that this is kind of needed to end this horrific pandemic era, but also I understand their perception of why they’re nervous or might question it, or kind of be a little reluctant to the whole concept,” said Graves.
Still, Graves advocates for the vaccine because no more need to die.
Dalton Walker reporting for Minnesota Native News