Tribes Look To States, Federal Government For Coronavirus Assistance

Mar 23, 2020

When it comes to detecting and controlling coronavirus, Native American communities are often at a disadvantage. Now state funds are being sent to Oregon’s nine-federally recognized tribes. But as KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, it may not be enough.

Pow-wow dancers at Chemawa Indian School.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Over the weekend, the Oregon Health Authority announced it was allocating roughly $36,000 apiece to tribes and the Native American Rehabilitation Association in Portland. It’s part of a larger $4 million package.

Cheryle Kennedy is Chairwoman for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.  She says that money will go fast.

“Y’know of course, protective gear, hand sanitizers as well," she tells KLCC.  "But the other thing that we looked at doing is setting up a temporary hospital at Grande Ronde, and we would need more supplies and a space. Whether that’d be those large tents which are very costly to rent and disinfect.”

Kennedy says most reservations are rural and isolated, and not directly connected to major supply chains. She’s hoping to get more funds from the federal government soon.

“Y’know, I have participated on calls to the White House. They are our trustee," says Kennedy.  "There have been appropriations identified for tribes, yet we have not received a dollar yet.  And I’m not saying that we won’t.  Every tribe has a federal ID number. There’s the mechanism.  Cut the red tape, get the funds out now.”

Kennedy says the tribe also has a laboratory, that could be put into action to help screen and test potential cases among its members. 

"If there's something Native people know all too well, it's what epidemics have done to us in the past."

A tribal spokesperson says there have been COVID-19 cases in counties adjacent to the Grand Ronde native community (Polk, Yamhill, and Marion), but there’s no reason to believe any were associated or had contact with the tribe.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.