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Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, met with five pueblo leaders in New Mexico on Wednesday as part of President Joe Biden’s “Help is Here” tour.

Emhoff also toured the Kewa Pueblo Health Center, where the majority of tribal citizens have been vaccinated. He was joined by Kewa Pueblo Gov. Sedelio Tenorio Sr. and state Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Emhoff watched a patient at the center be vaccinated, according to a press pool report.

“I bet you didn’t expect your second shot to be in front of the entire world,” Emhoff said to the patient. “Get the shot when it’s your turn because it will save your life and the lives of others.”

The Kewa health center can vaccinate about 200 people per day and Emhoff called it a vaccination model. He acknowledged how hard the coronavirus has hit Native communities, and said he was inspired by the work Kewa and other pueblos have done to bring their communities together.

The pueblo is north of Albuquerque.

After the health center visit, Emhoff met with Pueblo of Isleta Gov. Vernon Abeita, Pueblo of Sandia Gov. Stuart Paisano, Pueblo of San Felipe Gov. Anthony Ortiz and Pueblo of Acoma Gov. Brian Vallo.

The latest federal coronavirus relief package included $31 billion for tribes, the largest, single investment in Indian Country.

(Related: $31 billion represents ‘a massive opportunity’)

Vallo said the pueblo’s focus has been vaccinating cultural leaders and those who are fluent in the tribe's language to ensure the survival of the pueblo's culture and way of life, The Associated Press reported.

Tribal leaders also told Emhoff that the federally-run Indian Health Service has been chronically underfunded but they're hopeful the new funding will help the agency catch up.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, was also a topic of discussion, and tribal leaders thanked the Biden administration for appointing her, according to press pool coverage.

“The Vice President is very much looking forward to swearing in Secretary Haaland,” Emhoff said.

(Related: Secretary Deb Haaland’s first day)

Emhoff’s last stop in New Mexico was to the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque for a listening session with a group of working women to talk about how they have been managing their personal and professional lives during the pandemic. Emhoff was there to talk about how the plan will provide relief for them, their families and communities.

Emhoff has also made stops in Nevada and Colorado to talk about the American Rescue Plan.

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The Associated Press contributed report

Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at kbenallie@indiancountrytoday.com. Benallie was once the opening act for a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas.

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