With encouraging numbers of COVID-19 cases continuing, Blackfeet Country is slowly experiencing a loosening of restrictions that have been in place for a year or more. As of Monday, March 22, there was only one active case and no hospitalizations. And in heartwarming news, the Blackfeet Care Center expects to begin allowing visitation to its residents very soon, although no time has yet been announced.
“Our vaccines are going full force,” Public Information Officer James McNeely said, noting that approximately 90% of the eligible population has received either two doses of Moderna or a single shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. And the Blackfeet Nation has not been stingy with its vaccines. McNeely said folks from Great Falls, Whitefish and surrounding towns and cities have come to Blackfeet Community Hospital or the Southern Piegan Health Center and gotten dosed.
“One person said he’d been waiting for seven weeks, and he sent us a nice thank you note saying he knows his ancestors brought smallpox blankets to the Indians and wiped out two-thirds of their population and that he is forever grateful for the opportunity to get the vaccine,” McNeely said. He went on to note that the Southern Piegan Health Center set up a vaccination site at the Discovery Lodge east of Cut Bank to serve the folks living on the east side of the county as well as the Blackfeet Reservation. “We’ll help every-one who comes,” he said. “Nobody is turned away, and we’ll keep it up until the vaccines are gone.”
While the Reservation is at 50% indoor occupancy for restaurants, bars and casinos in Phase 3, McNeely said the goal is to reach 100% occupancy in a few weeks if all continues to go well. Summer reservations are also being allowed for local hotels and rentals.
Blackfeet Chairman Tim Davis got together with Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow last week to unlock the gates and remove the barricades at the St. Mary entrance to the park. “This shows our solidarity with Glacier National Park,” McNeely said. “We’ve been working together for the past year, but we couldn’t make a decision about opening until now,” he said. “I want to remind visitors that wearing masks is the key to opening. Everyone’s goal is to keep the numbers down.”
As for North American Indian Days, the Charging Home Stampede Park and similar summer events, the Tribal Business Council is discussing their options about NAID. One difficulty is the Dance Arbor which was badly storm damaged last year, but in the potential absence of Indian Days, he said perhaps some other smaller events might be scheduled in its place. As for rodeo and other events at the Stampede Park, that concern has not yet been decided.
Finally, specifics as to requirements businesses must meet to be in compliance with Phase 3 rules can be easily found on the Blackfeet Incident Command Facebook page, as well as at www.blackfeetnation.com.