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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Tribes Declare Emergencies, Recommend Self Quarantine After Off-Reservation Travel

Crow Tribe Executive Branch

Tribes Declare Emergencies, Recommend Self Quarantine After Off-Reservation TravelMultiple tribes in Montana declared states of emergency over the weekend following the confirmation of six presumptive COVID-19 cases in the state.

Tribal leaders on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Rocky Boy’s, Fort Belknap and Blackfeet reservations had all declared states of emergency as of Sunday evening.

The majority of these declarations urge various forms of “social distancing” or self-quarantine. Some of the declarations emphasize that tribal governments are working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service to address local needs.

Multiple tribes have advised members who’ve travelled out-of-state or into potentially contagious areas, like sports tournaments, to self-isolate and avoid leaving the reservation again.

On Saturday Crow Tribal Chairman Alvin Not Afraid Jr. issued a declaration that implements a 10 P.M. curfew to be enforced by tribal officials and says people who have traveled to off-reservation areas affected by the coronavirus should self-quarantine for 14 days. It also outlines travel restrictions for tribal employees and requires remote work days for non-essential employees.

Northern Cheyenne Nation President Rynalea Whiteman Pena issued a state of emergency on Sunday that orders decreased visitation to local elder homes, travel restrictions for tribal employees, a limitation on travel in and out of the reservation and a call for elder homes, schools and tribal programs to put safety protocols in place.

Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Timothy Davis issued an emergency declaration Sunday (March 15) that activated the tribe’s emergency operations plan. It outlines goals of providing emergency services and communication to the public and giving priority to medical emergencies and elders. The council is scheduled to meet Monday, Mar 16 to reaffirm the declaration with council action.

On Saturday, the Chippewa Cree Tribal Business Committee declared a state of emergency that calls for a two-week quarantine for those who’ve traveled out-of-state or to any hot spots, including recent basketball tournaments. The committee is standing up an Incident Command center and team at tribal office chambers. The committee is limiting attendance at its scheduled monthly meeting Monday to directors, supervisors and those with immediate needs. They encourage people to stay at home.

The Fort Belknap Indian Community Council also declared an emergency this weekend and posted an alert on its Facebook page. The council is banning employee travel, discouraging elders from leaving home and asking people who have traveled to hot spots, including basketball tournaments, to self-quarantine for 14 days. It postponed community events and initiated a 10 P.M. curfew to be enforced by tribal police.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes held a meeting Sunday and took multiple protective measures, including encouraging tribal employees to work from home and supporting the Nkwusm Salish Language Immersion School’s decision to close for two weeks. Tribal departments are directed to present plans that encourage employees to work from home, increase cleaning at public spaces and provide services and protection to elder and vulnerable populations. Tribal council also directed the S&K Gaming Board to plan for a two week closure at Gray Wolf and KwaTaqNuk casinos.

On Thursday, the Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation suspended tribal travel out-of-state until further notice, according to Council Member Jestin Dupree’s Facebook page. Dupree wrote that the Fort Peck Tribal Council will meet about coronavirus measures Monday. Dupree writes this will affect out of state medical treatment options, Veterans Administration appointments out-of-state and even grocery runs to Williston, North Dakota.

Montana lawmakers at the federal and state level have asked the Indian Health Service to provide confirmation that the newly federally-recognized Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians may receive care under IHS and asked the agency to provide test kits on reservations.

Several tribes moved to follow public health officials’ calls for social distancing measures before Montana government took action, including canceling school and suspending work-related out-of-state travel.


Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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