This is somewhat of an update on what’s going on in Cheyenne and Crow country regarding the dreaded CoVid virus. I say somewhat because it difficult to get precise information about the reservation situation.
On one hand, the Montana Governor’s Office issued a daily report on the number of new cases listed by County, age and gender, not specifically by race. For quite some time, Big Horn County was a “hot spot”, speculation being that is was worst in Lodge Grass, a Crow community, loosely confirmed by the moccasin telegraph, it nearby the Cheyenne reservation boundary, us all friends, neighbors and relatives. Big Horn County contains most of the Crow Reservation and about half of Northern Cheyenne.
The other half of the Cheyenne reservation is located in Rosebud County, a vast sprawling area, the reservation only a part of it. Until recently no cases were reported for Rosebud County, but now there have been two deaths and one confirmed case on the Reservation (currently on quarantine).
The Northern Cheyenne Tribe has been very proactive on dealing with the virus. An initial community lockdown, curfew, etc. have been lifted, though according to a memo posted on Northern there is a mandatory 6:00 pm curfew for those under age 18. The warrior society members, now largely accepted as the new reservation security guards still maintain their camp working proactively to enforce the tribal directives, even when it personally affects the Tribal President’s grandchildren. Sadly, one of their main services has been providing firewood for the traditional wake fires, as there continue to be many untimely deaths on the reservation, though not CoVid related.
In mid-June with the assistance of the State and National Guard testing was held in Lame Deer and some outlying districts, those participating receiving a $20 gift card from one of several reservation businesses (a shot in the arm they must have needed) and a sumptuous catered lunch from Famous Dave’s, Billings. Although a small percentage of the tests were not readable by labs, the vast majority were negative.
Chief Dull Knife College which received CARES Act Funding has re-opened, expecting 40 students, but 146 showed up, including non-Indians from nearby communities who take advantage of the free summer tuition. The college will spend the money in three primary ways: 150 laptops which will be loaned to students in need of one, due to the long-distance learning; installing additional sites where the internet can be accessed and a free daily lunch to students, faculty and staff, at least through the fall, a cost projected at $35,000.
It is not as clear what the Tribe will do with its CARES Act funding. Earlier reports confirmed by tribal front-office staff that a per capita will be issued were apparently premature, as that option has seemingly been shelved. Though the Tribe has a website, it is seldom utilized, especially by the Executive Branch and the Tribal Council has generally been mum. On the other hand, one Tribal Council member, Lane Spotted Elk, Lame Deer district has been forthcoming with printed information, both his personal email and the Tribal website. A recent letter from him incorporated there informs the Tribal members that the total CARES funding provided to the Tribe exceeds 19 million. In his letter, Spotted Elk assures that the Tribal government has the best interests of its members at heart, but then goes on to discuss the perils of improper use of the money. Much of the letter sounds crafted by a tribal attorney, somewhat confusing. But, long story short, it seems that they have not yet decided what to do with the funding. But, all the survey forms completed by Tribal members about use of the funds will be “taken into consideration.
Bright note on the scene are the Northern Cheyenne Boy’s and Girl’s club and Tribal Elderly Program, with the assistance of many volunteers has done a heroic job of distributing food, supplies and other donations. Donations are pouring into the Reservation from across the region, especially food. And “Granny” Emma Harris long term anchor at the Club has somehow managed to get Tribal Council members to deliver lunch boxes to children in the outlying districts. That’s one positive thing and good politics on their part.
Otherwise, we’re not generally sure of what the Council and Executive Branch are doing. Who knows? They could be busy as bees, too busy to give any reports or updates, answer or return phone calls, etc. There haven’t been any Council meetings. Last week and this week were a little frustrating: two tribal holidays last week and four this week. Traditionally that’s normal, in order to observe the “Girl who saved her brother” events and the annual 4th of July Pow Wow. Except, those events have been canceled this year and there is nowhere to go. Maybe they are exhausted by the stress of it all and need to regroup.
Sure seems like a long time until September (tribal primary elections). In the meantime, in the absence of any direct communication from most of our leaders, the tribal grist mill – the old moccasin telegraph will just keep rolling. And is it not human nature to assume the worst?
(Clara Caufield can be reached at email@example.com)
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