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Acting early, swiftly against COVID-19

Chairwoman Shelly Fyant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana is talking about the state of her tribe in 2020. And national correspondent Kolby KickingWoman is on the show to share more details on some stories he's been digging into.

Joining Indian Country Today is Chairwoman Shelly Fyant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana.

Through federal elections, the pandemic, and the census count, she's telling us how she is finding ways to continue to serve her citizens.

Plus Kolby KickingWoman tells what's inside The Center for Native American Youth's annual report this year and how that information can be used for 2021.

Some quotes from today's show

Shelly Fyant:

"We're fairing pretty well. I just found out this morning however that we did have another death last night and it was a tribal member. In the county that we live in there's been 15 deaths to date and five of those are affiliated with our tribe. So prayers out to the family. We've done everything humanly possible to reduce the transmission and the spread. We're actually in the community spread phase right now. Early on, we acted swiftly and got all of our people together. I remember sitting in a conference room at Mission Valley Power, our electrical utility. that was before we knew masks and social distancing." 

"I remember telling the group we're in the final four here with Montana and North and South Dakota and Wyoming. At that time, we didn't have any cases and we wanted to keep it that way. But obviously I think it was like next week we had our first case. And then we reached out to Lake County officials and asked them if we could shut down highway 93. And they said no only the governor can do that. So we took steps. We realized that what we could control was in our tribal workforce, in our tribal lands. So we took actions to establish a shelter in place. And then later we closed down our tribal recreational lands to non-members."

"When we received our CARES Act money, we set 10 priorities and one of them was communications. And so we reached out, we had a subcommittee and they came up with this Tik Tok challenge idea because we knew that we weren't reaching the youth. You know, we're a lot of times as adults, we're just the talking heads. And so we have a lot of amazing talent on our reservation in our youth. And so we reached out to one individual and he did a video and then others just swarmed in. So I think total, we have about a dozen videos right now."

Kolby KickingWoman:

"So it's a great report. I think this is the sixth iteration of it. Like you said, it's released annually during Native American Heritage month. Former Senator Byron Dorgan who founded the organization said it was the best one that's come out yet. What's different about this year I believe is that Nikki Petri, the executive director said all six chapters were authored by Native youth 24 "years and younger, which is pretty cool." 

"And of course the cover art and art inside is also from Native youth, it's great artwork. The cover art is called Sweet Medicine Child and the report is titled Native Youth Are Medicine. The art depicts a young two-spirit boy walking through Sundance campgrounds. And it's just a really great piece. The chapters in it cover citizenship and sovereignty, health and wellness, sacred sites and all sorts of good stuff."

"One of the things is just kind of how Native youth have stepped up to the pandemic, especially during the election and organizing get out the vote efforts. Native youth turned out in pretty large numbers. They also talked about some education issues and the importance of including native youth at the table when policy decisions are made. Not only as it comes to COVID-19, but any issues really."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A'aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports for the Washington Bureau. For hot sports takes and too many Lakers tweets, follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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