Indian Country is settling down into the winter months of the year. In addition to the cold, snow, and icy conditions across some parts of this country, we are amid another surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways, its feels like a storm that has been waiting to regather its strength, as shown by the increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. This pandemic has no empathy and does not care where you live, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, or your religious preferences.
Without taking the necessary recommended protocols, it will find you and it will cause pain and suffering. Remember that fancy dancer, that political leader, that elder or that grandchild who is no longer around to celebrate another pow-wow? Or the next campaign? Or that birthday or graduation? In Indian Country, we have already endured too many unnecessary deaths.
That is why we at the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), ask with great urgency, please take all the necessary precautions: wash your hands, wear a mask, and avoid large crowds. To you Title VI directors and staff, thank you for all the work and sacrifices you have made to protect our history, language, customs, and traditions, because that is what our elders represent. They are our roots, our link to our history and the light to the future.
In the coming days, there will be talk and opinions about a vaccine developed to eradicate this virus. There will be some who will say that “we do not want to be guinea pigs” and that the vaccine is dangerous. There will also be many who will say the opposite, that the vaccine “is safe and should be seen as a way to end this pandemic.”
Based on studies and research by many experts in the medical field regarding this vaccine, I agree with the latter group: IT IS SAFE AND IMPORTANT THAT OUR ELDERS TAKE THE VACCINE. PLEASE GET THE SHOT. We would also urge our elders to listen to the advice of their tribal leaders, Title VI directors and tribal staff. We need our elders to continue to be our counselors, our teachers, and our hope – we want our elders to see many more winters.
Our work at NICOA continues, our hopes remain, and we look forward to the future with optimism. In this new year, we have a new administration that will assume the reins of government. We wish the new administration success and that they remember they have a legal and moral obligation to meet the needs of the original landlords of this country. We need to remind them that the government serves the people and that the people are the government. We, the people, employ those who are on Capitol Hill and in the labyrinths of those grey federal buildings lining the streets of Washington, D.C.
NICOA will continue to voice and advocate for the needs of our elders utilizing the basis of that government-to-government relationship: tribal sovereignty. NICOA has been in the trenches doing this for over 44 years and hopefully with your support, donations, and prayers, we can continue the fight for equity and justice for another 44 more! Peace, strength, and serenity to you all in this new and hopeful new year.