Oyate News - News For The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Community

Chairman Hopkins Press Conference April 20, 2021


Last updated 4/20/2021 at 1:40pm

L-R: Ricky Stephenson- FEMA Representative, Chairman Hopkins, Dayle Knudsen, IHS Representative

Hau mitakuyapi, Hello my relatives.

As Chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, it is my honor to welcome you to our homelands.

Federal, state, county and city officials, Health professionals, Tribal leaders, members of the community, wopida, thank you for coming.

Today's historic event.

COVID-19 hit Indian country with tremendous force. Native communities faced corona virus infection and mortality rates as much as four times higher than whites, or worse. Our Reservation was no different. We've all seen loved ones, elders, medicine people, and Tribal members who held our community together become ill from the virus, be hospitalized, and pass on after suffering greatly.

But thanks to scientific breakthroughs, hard work, and the diligent efforts of many, highly effective Covid vaccines were developed, manufactured, and distributed to us, and the Indian Health Service has done an amazing job of getting our people vaccinated in a short time period.

Our hearts have been broken, but now we have a fighting chance.

Besides saving lives, the successful implementation of these vaccination clinics is a win for Tribal sovereignty. It shows that the federal government is ready, willing, and able to work with the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in a government-to ­government relationship and work cooperatively to fulfill some of its treaty and trust obligations, like healthcare.

There are still some members of our community who are apprehensive about getting the shot. Know that getting the vaccine is voluntary. It is your choice whether or not to get the jab. But also know that it is safe. Don't fall for all the misinformation about it that's been spread on social media.

I'm fully vaccinated and so is my family and we are happy we did it, to protect ourselves and each other. Do it for your own health, but also do it for the people you love, and so we can reach herd immunity and return to normal. Unless enough of us get vaccinated, we won't get there. If you want things to get back to pre-pandemic status, get the shot.

Centuries ago, our people faced another pandemic that killed many of us. The SWO Community Memorial Park is named after a Native woman who barely survived it. Her name was Kateri Tekakwitha. One of our Dakota chiefs who fought at Greasy Grass, lnkpaduta, was covered with scars from it. That disease was smallpox.

Over the years, we battled other illnesses. Dozens of Dakota died of cholera at Fort Snelling, after the Dakota War of 1862. They buried children every day. Tuberculosis, the flu, addiction. Our ancestors did not fight to survive all of these terrible diseases just for us to turn down medicine now. We owe it to them and future generations to be strong and conquer COVID-19.

We must live.

Once again, I thank everyone for coming and I also thank you for the life saving work you're all doing to move us forward. When we work together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.


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