This week on the Minnesota Native News health report, we check in on the latest developments for how Indian Country is responding to the COVID-19 health crisis. Here’s reporter Dalton Walker with this week’s stories
For 36-year-old Wesley Jourdain, a champion powwow singer from the Red Lake Nation, the snow melting usually meant powwow season was almost here. That changed last year when the country shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and events known for large crowds were canceled.
Now, as more people get vaccinated across the state, and as tribes continue to report high vaccination rates, the path back to the powwow trail is clearing by the day.
“Just to be at a powwow, was one of the best feelings I’ve had growing up,” said Jourdain, “We’ve heard the drums over social media, videos, stuff like that. Just having that feeling of the drum, you know, that vibration, and everything it gives off in the moment, right there, that is one of the things I miss.”
Some tribes in Minnesota have been promoting upcoming powwow celebrations. The Lower Sioux Indian Community, Shakopee Mdewakanton, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Red Lake Nation have already announced summer powwow dates and others could be close behind.
Jourdain is part of the Battle River drum group, a popular group on the powwow circuit. In past years, for Jourdain, the powwow season started in April and slowed down in October. In between those two months, he might have attended nearly three dozen powwows across the Midwest and beyond, even into Canada.
“You always come across people that you know, that you see, kind of adopted into your own family, to seeing these people, and vica versa they adopt you. I suppose that comradery, that respect and that mutual friendship with one another is one thing I really, really miss.” said Jourdain.
Jourdain made it a priority to get vaccinated as soon as he was eligible. He wanted to be an example for his two young children and for his students. He’s a Ojibwe language and culture teacher for lower elementary students on the reservation.
“I made it a priority because putting myself out there in front of all these kids, all the people in the school right now, I felt I had to get the vaccine, in my mind, to protect what I bring home from my work place and for my family,” said Jourdain.
In other news….
Indian Health Service and some tribes in Minnesota have paused all Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration. The vaccine, known for its one-and-done shot, is under federal review after at least six reported U.S. cases of a rare type of blood clot in individuals. More than 7 million people across the country have received the J&J vaccine.
IHS reported that less than 2 percent of recorded shots were Johnson & Johnson.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is offering financial assistance for coronavirus-related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. There is no deadline to apply for the federal program. More information can be found at disasterassistance.gov.
For Minnesota Native News health report, I’m Dalton Walker.