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Minnesota Native News

180 EpisodesProduced by Minnesota Native NewsWebsite

Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


Tribal Responses to the Covid-19 Outbreak

This week on Minnesota Native News - tribes make decisions about how to handle the Covid-19 virus outbreak and a reminder that humor helps heal. Here’s Reporter Melissa Townsend with those stories and more.


[Governor Walz]

In his press conference on March 13th, Governor Tim Walz said that the state is working with tribal governments to handle the Covid-19 outbreak.

WALZ: The tribal leadership has sovereignty over making sure… (:05)

Patina Park is the state’s tribal liaison in this matter. Leaders of each of the tribes in Minnesota are taking a number of steps to protect their citizens from the virus.

CHAVERS: We are meeting every morning with our senior management staff at 8:30 at the tribal government building.

Cathy Chavers is Chair of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe. She is regularly updating tribal members through the Band’s Youtube channel.

CHAVERS: Events that are occurring on a minute by minute, hourly basis, we need to be aware of what’s to do and procedures and processes to put in place to ensure community safety. (:23)

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is also issuing updates on its Youtube channel.

According to online statements, many tribes have activated their emergency preparedness groups. They are following news from the Minnesota Department of Health and the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Across the 11 tribes, meetings, events and gatherings have been cancelled and travel bans for tribal employees are in effect in many places.

As of March 18th, the Fond du Lac and Mille Lacs Bands of Ojibwe are the only tribes that have closed their casinos. They have committed to paying hourly and salary workers throughout their furlough.

These precautionary measures and more are in effect until further notice.

Many tribes have created a link on their webpages to find out more abouut the precautions they are taking.

STORY #2 (1:42)
In other news…The State’s new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force is moving forward.The group will create a list of recommendations on how the state can better handle the crisis.Those recommendations are due in December.

The task force had planned a set of state-wide listening sessions where people could come and share their stories. The first listening session was at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center in Minneapolis last month.State Representative Mary Kunesh-Podein, a Dakota descendent, is on the task force steering committee.

KUNESH-PODEIN:There are plenty more stories to be heard if folks want to share them and it does help us when we go forward with recommendations with real life experiences.

But the task force has cancelled the remaining listening session because of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, people can still share their stories on-line, over email or on the phone.You can search for M-M-I-W on the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website.Or you can call this number: 651-280-2661 and leave a message with your story.
That’s 651-280-2661.

Kunesh-Poein says you can opt to keep your story anonymous if you’d like.

KUNESH-PODEIN: We won’t publicize names, we won’t take these stories public, unless the person wanted to. But these are precious stories and we will treat them with the utmost respect.

There is no word yet if deadlines for the task force recommendations will be extended due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

And finally… On April first the House of Comedy comedy club at the Mall of America was supposed to feature its first all Indigenous line-up of comediansRed Lake comic Jon Roberts had set it up.

ROBERTS: The booker had a post on facebook. He was asking for ideas for a new show and I just messaged him my idea - have a Native comedy, indigenous comedians night. It went from there, I think he ran it by the club owners and so they asked me if I could book some comics and…

And he lined up Rez Reporter Rob Fairbanks, Sheldon Starr and Will Spotted Bear. He did call a few female Native comics - just so you know - but they were booked.

Roberts says as a Red laker, comedy serves a special purpose.

ROBERTS: It’s our way of healing - we’re just sharing our stories. And we’re just here to help each other. (:05)

Since the Mall of America is now closed through at least March 31st, you will need to check back with the House of Comedy to find out when this fun show will happen! Eventually, Roberts hopes it will be rescheduled as a monthly event.

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