BROWN COUNTY, KS (KCTV) — Native Americans are stepping forward saying they have been largely ignored during the coronavirus. What little they have received amounts to federal scraps.
It’s led to federal lawsuits and a new plan by the Trump Administration to offer more federal aid.
There are four Native American tribes in Kansas, all in the northeastern region of the state.
The Kickapoo tribe is located in Brown County. The tribe relies on farming and a casino for income and now, the casino sits empty. Locked up for the safety of the tribe—it was shut down even before Governor Kelly’s Stay-at-Home order.
“We had to weigh the economics versus the health of our people,” Tribe Chairman Lester Randall said. “It’s a no-brainer. The people will always come first.”
Schools and the Senior Center were closed months ago. The plan worked. So far, no one living on the reservation has tested positive. The chairman said history has shown the need to be cautious. Past pandemics have been brutal to Native Americans. During the Spanish Flu pandemic, the death rate was four times higher than the rest of the country.
In preparation, Lester Randall appealed to the federal government for medical supplies—gloves, masks and gowns. The first delivery was a bit stunning. It was 15 body bags. Other supplies have slowly followed.
The tribes are dealing with the same pressures as all communities. They’re forced to lay off employees and have more expenses but have received little support from the federal government.
Some tribes are suing the Trump administration to get some of the money promised to them in the relief law signed last month. Tribe leaders feel they are completely on their own and are looking for creative ways to survive the turbulent times.
The Kickapoo tribe purchased buffalo to raise on the reservation and two calves have already been born. The move is not only a nod to their past—it’s a sign of hope for their future.