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Blackfeet Nation Mourns COVID-19 Deaths, Urges Prayer And Precautions

Two wreaths of pine boughs, cones and flowers stand next to a podium painted with the Blackfeet Nation's flag, which is a a circle of feathers surrounding the shape of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation over a blue field.
Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command
A photo posted by the Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command to their Facebook page shows two wreaths placed in memorial of Blackfeet tribal members who've died from COVID-19.

The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council on Friday hosted a memorial for tribal members who’ve died from COVID-19.

Blackfeet Nation leaders led the memorial service for the 27 tribal members who’ve died from the virus since March. Well over a hundred people attended the service on Facebook Live.

From the council conference room, Vice Chairman Scott Kipp gave a speech in place of Chairman Tim Davis, whose mother recently passed away.

"So we need to come together and stay strong. Prayers work. We need to say our prayers. We need to stay six feet apart, wash our hands, we need to wear our masks. The only way we're going to do this and beat this is if we do it together," Kipp said.

Father Ed Kohler, a pastor from the Blackfeet reservation, gave a short sermon and prayed for healing from the coronavirus and grief.

Councilman Virgil Last Star spoke about his experience after contracting COVID-19 himself.

"My wife is still suffering right now in Kalispell, from complications from this COVID in the lungs. It is something else," Last Star said.

Wreaths were placed in the center of the conference room in memory of those who died. Multiple council members said the coronavirus is impacting every family in the community. The names of those who died were read aloud at the end of the service.

Blackfeet Nation is currently under an extended Stay Home order until Nov. 22.

COVID-19 has hit Native Americans in Montana particularly hard. Although only about seven percent of Montana’s population is Indigenous, Native Americans account for 36 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths.

Kaitlyn Nicholas is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America tribal affairs reporter.

Kaitlyn Nicholas covers tribal news in Montana.