Brigham: An update from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

First would like to let everyone know that the BOT wants to congratulate all of our students who graduated in 2021 including Head Start, 8th graders, high school and college/university students. 2020/2021 was a very difficult school year but when we saw you graduating you sure made us all very proud.
On June 18th the BOT had lunch with about 85 elders at the Wildhorse Casino. This was our first lunch meeting in a very long time. The BOT has already agreed to have another but a date has not been set yet. We learned a lot from our lunch meeting and are preparing a response for the questions received.
COVID has been here for more than a year and we all wish it would go away. We are tired of the COVID news but CTUIR, Oregon, Umatilla County and the US are all seeing an increase in COVID. Mainly due to those who chose not to get vaccinated and not follow the three steps: wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance. Yes, there are breakthrough cases but the symptoms are milder and the vaccine has largely kept people out of the hospital.
Tribal history shows many Tribal members passed from diseases that were foreign to Tribes. Across the US, Tribal people are dying from COVID and Tribal governments and health facilities are working hard to save their people. On June 2, 2021 CDC estimated 6,585 Tribal members have passed because of COVID but they also say that the actual number may never be known. This week Yellowhawk reported that as of July 30th CTUIR has a total of 420 COVID cases and 382 of them were unvaccinated, four were hospitalized and 2 deaths. 20% of the cases were reported in July 2021. The BOT has learned about many people who have chosen not to get vaccinated. Some of the unvaccinated Tribal people will go visit a family member then find out they brought COVID to the family. In some cases, a family member passes, some survive and some were in the hospital for weeks all alone.
The Tribal Government, Yellowhawk and others are being asked by CTUIR members, “Why isn’t it mandatory for all employees to get vaccinated to keep the CTUIR safe?” We have also heard from other CTUIR members who chose not to get vaccinated that they feel that they are being treated as a disloyal employee
Many of us know what it is like to ask a family member to get vaccinated and that family member believes it is their choice and they choose not to. Therefore some of us have asked them to stay away and others have said “whatever.” A number of us are going to wear our masks because we do not know who is not vaccinated and we do not want to get COVID.
Staying away from family gatherings, tribal gatherings and even choosing to not give rides to Tribal members is very hard and lonely. But we do this to be safe because such a high percentage of people are unvaccinated.
NW Indian Portland Area Indian Health Board recently distributed a flyer saying “Together we can beat the pandemic: As Indigenous people, we learn from those who came before us and nurture those who come after. We dance, we pray, we share, we adapt, we protect. Protect yourself and other by being vaccinated!” Another flyer about children and the vaccines ends with this quote: “Protect your children and the future of you community by being vaccinated yourself and having your children vaccinated when the vaccine is available:”
Please help us to protect the CTUIR community members: get vaccinated and follow the three steps, wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance.

Kat Brigham is the Chair of the Board of Trustees. She can be reached at

N. Kathryn Brigham
Chair of the CTUIR Board of Trustees