Coronavirus and Funerals
Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Tribal Council has had to make many difficult decisions. One of these decisions was to uphold Governor lnslee's proclamation of gathering sizes of 10 or less at our funerals, wakes, and funeral home recommendations for dressings. Another very difficult decision was to close tribal facilities for funerals and wakes. We made many other decisions to protect our people and slow the process of this pandemic spreading onto our reservation. Closing the reservation to non-residents, closing tribal operations, teleworking, travel bans and quarantine requirements. Today, the Worldometer identified 54,916 Coronavirus cases in the United States with 784 deaths. Yesterday we also received news that Okanogan County reported the first positive case. While at the time of reporting Okanogan County Health could not identify what community, they could confirm it was NOT in any of our reservation communities and it is not a Native American.
If we allow our tribal facilities to be used for funerals, it heightens risk of spreading this disease to those in attendance and to the staff that maintains these facilities. We don't have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment of facial masks and gloves and we don't have enough cleansing supplies to disinfect all surfaces at these facilities. Without providing for these preventative measures, we felt that we need to plan for the greatest protection of our people.
Each of our families and tribes have their own traditional funeral practices and teachings that have been handed down for many generations. Some of our people will dress and take care of their loved ones for their journey and respect age old practices of wrapping the body in a blanket. Food has a cultural significance and a feast is held to feed our people which often includes traditional foods of deer, elk, salmon and other roots and berries. Our Elders have taught us that these foods are sacred, they are medicine to our bodies and as a final meal with our loved one, a form of respect. Many families will give away the deceased belongings and other items as a keepsake to the closest family and relatives.
The difficult decisions are contrary to the traditional ways of our ancestors. We ask for your understanding at this very difficult time of our history. The decisions we made is responsive to the massive scale of the outbreak. We are facing problems that are unfamiliar and poorly understood. To combat this disease and for the safety of our people, it is critically important to set clear priorities and direction.
With the loss of loved ones in all our communities, we are deeply saddened and our prayers are with the families and loved ones who are grieving.
We all need to pray for an ending to this pandemic and we all need to look out and care for our families our Elders and those most vulnerable to keep them safe.