I hope this message finds you all well, staying safe and managing your day to day activities within the temporary limitations of this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. I know this has been a challenging time for all of us. I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to ensure your safety, as we consider a thoughtful and realistic process for us to re-open our business and get our governmental services operating to full capacity, once again.
True, this time we are living through right now, with this Coronavirus, can be very scary, especially since it is so insidious. Even though life as we were comfortable living it, has changed, we cannot and should not be living in fear. Our people have lived through such difficult times in our history and we’ve come a long way from where we once were. I hear some people say we may have advanced “too far”, and it’s time to return to our old ways, customs and traditions. Regardless, we are where we are; and we are where we are because we are strong and resilient people. We have persevered and prospered because our ancestors paved the way for us to be able to do so. Once again, I am reminded – not only am I not alone, but, we are not alone. I encourage everyone to share your traditional knowledge with one another and to reach out to your neighbors, to see if they need help or some food or a ride. If you have knowledge about putting in a garden, I encourage you to share that knowledge, as planting season is around the corner. We are being given an opportunity to create our own new normal. These are the times when we can lean on one another and stand together to protect our communities as best as we can, so when we return to our new normal, we can be even better and even stronger, for the generations who come after us.
I have found when I’ve been faced with difficult and trying times in my life, I have had a tendency to think I’m probably the only person who has ever been in whatever situation it is, that I am facing at that moment. It’s human nature to focus on myself and my surroundings. As I have been around for a while and raised a family, achieved some of my goals and checked some things off my “bucket list”, I’ve come to realize that even in what I thought were some of the darkest moments or the saddest times, I’ve never truly been alone. There has always been someone there, extending their hand for support, or I have found comfort in being with my grandchildren or lifelong friends. I’ve also learned that bringing joy to someone else’s life doesn’t require a large gesture or an over-the-top gift. Sometimes, the smallest gesture of sitting quietly with someone when they are silently suffering, might be just what is needed at the time and is good medicine for both of us.
If you feel like you are suffering alone, remember you are not alone and there is support available. In addition to family and friends, we have established a non-medical related COVID-19 hotline, (716) 945-8153; and the Behavioral Health Center has made adjustments for counseling services to be available by telephone. To speak with a Counselor, please call BHU at: (716) 945-9001 for Allegany; and (716) 532-5583 for Cattaraugus. I would also like to give a shout out to all of our Seneca Nation Health Department nurses in honor of Nurses Day, May 12th, 2020. Many nya:wehs for everything you do and the risks you take every day – to keep our community members safe and healthy!
I have heard reports about how some of our neighbors are doing in the surrounding communities. Some citizens are being left to fend for themselves and find masks or make masks, without any municipal support, whatsoever. Just know that the Seneca Nation will continue to distribute resources and supplies to our community members; and disseminate information door to door to the best of our ability. Again, you are not alone. We will continue to make progress on our plans to bring our workforce back, restore our services, and become fully operational. Unfortunately, I do not have a date to report, because the timing is closely connected to the number of positive cases in our physical locations; and we don’t want to make the situation worse, by opening too soon. We will get there, though.
I admit, some of you may be tired of hearing my message to “continue to take care of one another” or “we’ll get through this together”, but it is meant in all sincerity and all seriousness. And, of course, please continue to wear face masks if you have to go out in public, wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing. If you have the time and the resources, please reach out to your family members, friends or neighbors – if even to just say hello.
Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.