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Several Montana tribes worry reopen decisions hurried

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“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (1) – 4/23/20

Native American tribes across Montana have expressed concerns following Gov. Steve Bullock’s April 22 announcement of a phased plan to “reopen” Montana. The state’s native population, particularly at risk due to underlying health conditions such as high rates of diabetes of hypertension, has in past weeks compared the virus to the smallpox scourge that decimated tribes in the 1800 and 1900s, and many tribal leaders are opting for their own roads to reopening. According to Montana Public Radio, Gerald Gray, chairman of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Cree Indians, says he’s advising tribal members to maintain social distancing and other protective measures: “And until we have a vaccine, I think we’re just putting the population at risk, because I don’t think putting it in the hands of the population or businesses to continue with social distancing and the guidelines wearing masks and etcetera, I don’t think the people will follow that.” Others, such as Chief Administrative Officer for the Fort Belknap Indian Community Delina Cuts The Rope, said the national PPE and medical equipment stockpile was not accommodating to the community’s requests, and will take unique measures to continue to protect their elderly and at-risk populations. The Crow Tribe will keep restrictions, like a 10 p.m.  curfew and the closure of non-essential business, in place until Apr. 30, and other tribal leaders will meet in coming days to make decisions for their people. All are keeping an eye on how things unfurl for greater Montana.

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