By Ted A Wright, PhD
These have been challenging times for us all, through the devastation of the Umatilla River flood right into a worldwide viral pandemic. So, as a government, we’ve been working in crisis-management mode for 13 weeks, and most management and staff have not taken a day off since the end of January.
Despite all these struggles, the disastrous damage to homes and lands and now the fear and loneliness of isolation as we fight an invisible killer – we can also celebrate the good:
Numerous employees are working hard so that tribal members and reservation residents continue to receive services.
Almost all employees are working from home, onsite, or in the field, and the CTUIR is maintaining its productivity.
The time spent at home has led many to reflect more on the importance of family, community and taking care of one another.
Most everyone in our area has taken the stay-at-home directives seriously and have therefore helped our area keep the infection rate relatively low.
When we come out of this difficult time, we will be better trained in disaster preparedness and even more efficient in emergency operations.
Make no mistake, we have a way to go before we’re out of the woods with this pandemic. Though we may gradually re-open the government as summer arrives, we will likely have a return of the virus in the fall or winter. To some extent that may depend on how disciplined we are now, but even as good as we are doing, we can count on some continuing impacts on how we do business through the end of this year and well into next.
So, while we are aware of what may happen later this year and are planning so we are prepared, most of our energy and focus immediately is on helping tribal members who have lost their jobs or are otherwise struggling during this crisis.
To this end, the Board of Trustees has taken action to support tribal members with rent, utilities, food and other basic needs.
And just so we fully understand what problems are out there, we have established a call center so that every tribal member will receive a call asking how we can help. That information will be passed on to departments already fully engaged in meeting needs as they arise.
In closing, thank-you for your patience during this dark time, and keep the light of hope and kindness going in your corner of the community, state and nation.
Ted Wright is the Executive Director for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.