BY JILL-MARIE GAVIN
MISSION – The Board of Trustees (Board) for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) discussed lifting the indoor
mask mandate briefly during their Feb. 28 meeting.
The consensus of the Board, during the Executive Director’s information part of the agenda, was to wait to make any decisions until they could hear
from the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center (Yellowhawk) CEO, Aaron Hines, during his monthly report. Entity reports, formally given during Board
session now take place after the Monday meeting has adjourned, the Board reconvened for a report from Hines at 1:30 p.m.
Ultimately a resolution was polled and passed by the Board on March 1 as they did not discuss lifting the mandate
during Hines’ report. Board members expressed interest in getting input from the CTUIR Health Commission. The Commission is the governing body
appointed by the Board to supervise the Yellowhawk CEO. The Commission voted it down in a 1-3-1 vote. Health Commission Vice Chair Martina Gordon voted in favor of
rescinding the mandate, Commission members Robin Turk, Denise Wickert and Sandra Sampson voted against it. Commission member Althea Wolf
abstained, Chair Shawna Gavin did not vote and member Dara Williams-Worden was absent during the meeting.
The Commission motion and vote was not referenced in the resolution rescinding the mask mandate polled by the Board. Board Vice Chair Aaron
Ashley, Secretary Sally Kosey, General Council Chair, members-at-large Toby Patrick, Boots Pond and Lisa Ganuelas voted in favor of rescinding
the mandate. Board Treasurer Sandra Sampson and member-at-large Corinne Sams voted against the polled resolution. The mask mandate has been in effect since
August 13, 2021. The removal of the mandate will be effective March 11 at 4 p.m., or on such earlier date as recommended by Yellowhawk. Sampson said she voted no based on the unavailability of vaccines for children age six months to four years.
She said, “I wanted to see it extended to at least May 15 when kids have opportunity to get vaccinated. They are our most vulnerable population when it comes to the Omicron and Delta variants of Covid. All of Eastern Oregon is still less than 49 percent vaccinated.” The resolution states the Board will continue to fund the COVID 19 screeners to monitor for signs and symptoms of illness in the Nixyaawii Governance Center until April 29, but that date could also be subject to change. When the mandate is lifted it will be at the discretion of each entity’s CEO or Executive Director on whether they will choose to continue to require masks for indoor public use. In a draft memo from the Office of the Executive
Director, provided to the CUJ by Interim-Deputy Executive Director Teara Farrow-Ferman, it states, “The State will end their mask mandate on March 11, 2022 for indoor and outdoor public settings and schools, however, State and Federal requirements, such as those for health care settings, public transit and other specialized settings, will remain
in place for a period of time.”
Masks will remain required for indoor settings on Kayak Public Transportation and within the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center. Hines did not have a firm date for when the indoor use mandate would be lifted at the clinic. Board Chair Kat Brigham, who did not vote on the polled resolution, said in a statement, “I trust the removal of the mask mandate because it is based on good data and Yellowhawk’s consistency with the state. Masks will be removed but please continue to follow the guidelines that continue to remain in place. If you would like to continue to wear your masks, we support you and your safety measures.”