Nya:wëh sgë:nö’. I hope this letter finds our Nation and all Seneca families doing well.
January 20th marked the two-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States. Within weeks, the virus had spread across the country, reaching every corner of every community. The virus has been, and remains, a dominant force in our lives as we navigate through this pandemic.
We know that Native Nations have been hit especially hard by the virus. In fact, Native Americans have the highest COVID-related death rate of any population group in the United States. From east to west, north to south, Native people have died at approximately twice the rate of other populations. We have suffered far too many of those losses within the Seneca Nation, leaving voids in our community that can never be filled.
Yet, time and again, our Nation has rallied and pulled together to help protect our community and one another. Throughout the past two years, I have been incredibly proud of the commitment I have seen from so many who have made the health and safety of our community their highest priority.
The work of our Seneca Nation Health System to help test, care for and vaccinate our people during each successive wave of the pandemic has been exemplary. Our Seneca Nation COVID-19 Task Force, Emergency Management team, first responders, and workers from multiple Nation departments have worked tirelessly to not only manage our collective response to the pandemic, but to coordinate many important distributions of supplies to our people. We have also worked together with our neighbors to coordinate vaccination clinics at our gaming facilities and to help get supplies to people who need them.
Our work is far from over. As of the printing of this newsletter, we still had hundreds of active COVID cases in our community. We need to continue, as individuals and as a strong, united community, to focus our energy on doing everything we can to protect our people, protect one another and stop the spread of the virus within our Nation.
The Nation continues to fight every day to protect our community and our people in every way we can. The resources available to you include our recent PPE distributions, as well as daily testing in both Allegany and Cattaraugus to help detect new cases. Of course, the strongest weapon we have is the COVID vaccine, which is available for everyone age five and older through the Seneca Nation Health System. To date, more than 4,500 Seneca Nation community members have been fully vaccinated at the Health System. Let’s keep going.
COVID has held us in its grip for two years. As we head toward Spring, as the cold begins to thaw and as COVID’s grip hopefully begins to loosen, we want everyone within the Seneca Nation to be as informed, protected and prepared as possible, so that, together, we can emerge from this years-long shadow once and for all. This newsletter is part of that effort, and we hope you find this information useful.
We have come this far together, and it will take all of us to push through to the end of the pandemic. After all, together, we are unstoppable.
President Matthew B. Pagels