Chairman’s Statement on Tribe’s Emergency Response to Covid-19
The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board has been working with all departments who will be responding to the COVID 19 virus pandemic to continue efforts of providing essential service to the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian Reservation residents, Tribal membership, and community. The Tribe has been monitoring and preparing for COVID-19 for the last 3 weeks and has established strong incident command and emergency operations teams per our emergency operations plan. The Tribe declared a State of Public Health Emergency on March, 16th to activate our Emergency Operations Plan and enable our Public Health Officials the added authority to protect our Tribe. We are doing our best to provide essential services, including meal services, to our membership. The staff from our Lac Courte Oreilles Health Center have worked with tremendous determination and professionalism to prepare for and respond to the threat of COVID-19.
The State of Wisconsin, particularly Wisconsin Emergency Management, Department of Health Services, and the Governor himself have been working directly with the Tribe to support our efforts while recognizing the Tribe as an equal sovereign. Sawyer County agencies and departments have been working side by side with us to provide consistent messaging and work in a cooperative effort. Joint cooperation has allowed us to multiply the effectiveness of our efforts and stay informed about overall operations and planning on both levels. We cannot thank our County and State partners enough for their offered support and cooperation, which truly speaks to their respect to our sovereign status and strong relationships.
It has been and continues to be a social adjustment for our Reservation residents and overall memberships. During all of the hardships our members and our government continue to practice as much of our traditional values and practices as possible. We are looking out to protect our elders, our youth, employees, and the membership as a whole. Like many communities, we face tough economic decisions and an uncertain future. The closure of the Seven Winds Casino and Grindstone Creek Casino, our main sources of revenue, certainly is of major concern financially but is for the best to protect the health and well-being of the community. The Tribal Governing Board elected to close for that purpose as ashow of solidarity with the State but did so by its own choice.
Another major concern, not unique to our Tribe but to all of northern Wisconsin, is the individuals who have second homes, cabins, and rental properties in our area who may consider coming here during this public health crisis. This is a very rural area that has a major fluctuation in both population and resources outside of the regular tourist season. Our stores are struggling to meet the current demand of permanent residents in some cases and added travelers would put additional strain on resources. The greatest fear however is that (at the time of this article) we do not have any positive cases of COVID-19 and an individual traveling here to their cabin or second home could unintentionally bring the virus into our community. We appreciate their patronage throughout the year, but these are exceptional times and we can only hope they adhere to the Stay At Home order.
Although the federal government has reached out on a number of occasions, there were definitely struggles in communication during the last few weeks. We can say that their efforts and effectiveness in communicating availability of resources and overall support has improved and hopefully will continue to improve. Much of the uncertainty going forward is in regards to direct federal funding assistance. While there are those in Congress who strongly advocate to support tribal nations, we can only hope that all levels of the federal government will recognize our dire needs and the federal trust responsibility that is inherent to the government-to-government relationship.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin has endured much hardship throughout its people’s history. Our people have stood resilient through the years and will continue to do so into the future. This may be a time of great uncertainty and dire threat, however, our Tribe will continue to stand together, resilient against COVID-19.
Miiwech, Chairman Louis Taylor