“Within your own communities, ya know who knows the people better than the people within the community,” Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Tribal Chairman Jamie Azure said.
Over the last several months, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribe has taken most matters dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, into their own hands.
“We’ve been able to provide free COVID-19 testing every Monday and every Friday since I think we are going on four months,” Azure said.
Along with testing through Indian Health Services in Belcourt, the tribe has taken on a new task much like other communities in the state, the distribution of over 900 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and 400 Moderna vaccines.
“Months ago we decided that we would utilize our IHS system and bypass the state to get directly from the federal government,” Azure said.
Azure says the tribe has no problem with the state’s distribution, just that removing a filter could possibly allow the tribe to receive more vaccines at a quicker rate, and allow for the tribe to choose who gets the vaccines first.
“What we did was we followed the CDC guidelines with a little Turtle Mountain twist to it,” Azure said.
Health care workers, first responders, and those in assisted living came first. Then to begin phase 1B — tribal elders.
“They don’t write it down into books they pass it down by story by word of mouth ya know to the next generation so it’s important that they were added into the if not the very top tier very close to that top tier,” Azure explained.
Overall Chairman Azure says he is confident that all tribal members who want the vaccine, will get it.
“With the knowledge that we are not going to send a single vaccine back and the 15,000 members that we have right here will at some point if you want the vaccine you are going to get the vaccine and we’re gonna do everything we possibly can to make sure that that happens,” Azure said.
The tribe is currently waiting on its second batch of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.