Montana Public Radio

Montana's Tribal Nations Say They're Short On Medical Supplies

Mar 25, 2020
Originally published on March 25, 2020 5:04 pm

Montana’s tribal nations say their first responders and medical professionals are short on equipment needed to protect health care workers from the coronavirus.

Tribal governments in Montana join others nationwide in saying they face a shortage of supplies.

Crow Tribe of Indians Incident Command Spokesperson Jack Old Horn says the Crow Tribe in southeast Montana lacks a number of items, including gloves and masks.

“Everything, any supplies that you can think of," Old Horn said. 

He says a local nonprofit is ordering some of those supplies on behalf of Crow incident command.

“Every supplier that they’ve contacted, they have none," Old Horn said. 

Other tribes in Montana say their tribes’ law enforcement and medical professionals are short on masks, including the Fort Belknap Indian Community in north central Montana and the Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes in northeast Montana.

Many other tribes have put protective measures in place, including The Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, which posted on its Facebook page that it implemented checkpoints Tuesday at reservation entrances. The tribe is asking non-tribal members not to enter.

Tribes say they’re also waiting on federal dollars. Montana’s congressmen have encouraged the federal government to direct additional funds to tribes for COVID-19 response and preparation.

Mar. 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would distribute $80 million to tribal organizations for resource support. According to the HHS website, that’s on top of $64 million in funds for testing earmarked for the Indian Health Service through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

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