Due to the worldwide outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and multiple confirmed cases in Iowa, the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation) declared an emergency declaration on March 17th, 2020 enacting a Shelter-in-Place Order for Tribal members on the Meskwaki Settlement.
On that date, the Meskwaki Tribe suspended its workforce with pay and closed its facilities. Keeping only its most essential working staff to provide community supports, operational objectives have continued throughout. Tribal Council would like to commend and applaud the dedicated people who stepped up and took charge during this historic emergency event, ensuring that community supports remained in place.
Services that continued with staff assisting either at home or on-site included the Meskwaki Health Clinic’s nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, home health workers, counselors, maintenance, and support staff who selflessly held the “front line” working directly with the virus; Senior Services staff and volunteers who gallantly provided meals to elders; Meskwaki Settlement School teachers, foodservice workers, and support staff who ensured youth learning and engagement continued; Family Services, Behavioral Health Services, Child Support Services, Probation and Youth Department workers who kept community and family members supported in their homes; Public Works and Facilities staff who provided garbage, utilities, road service, and building maintenance support; Meskwaki Natural Resources/MFSI, Hemp, and Red Earth Gardens/Economic Diversification staff who ensured resources were intact and growing season initiated; Meskwaki Police Department and EMS (volunteers) who guarded and protected members to ensure safety on the Settlement; Fiscal, Enrollment, and Gaming Commission staff who ensured payments were made and finances balanced; Informational Technologies, Internet Broadband, and Media Services staff who kept the community and staff informed and supported; Language and Historic Preservation Department staff who kept history and culture intact; MAPA and volunteers who kept the powwow grounds mowed; Housing and Apprenticeship services who kept houses maintained; Tribal Operations Executive staff, Human Resources, Court Services, Program Directors, Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel staff, Pinnacle Bank, Meskwaki Travel Plaza, and Meskwaki, Inc. personnel who ensured basic operational services continued throughout; and every community member who supported through prayer, support, and self-distancing. Each person held the line and did their part. Ketebi.
The Meskwaki Nation’s mission is “To rely on the knowledge and experiences of the past, along with the will to survive to advance the people, culture and well-being of the Meskwaki Nation.” With this mission as the foundation, the Tribe now seeks to move forward toward normal operations in a phased and thoughtful approach.
As the Tribe slowly and methodically begins bringing back its day-to-day operations, we will be guided by the following principles:
• Serve and support the needs of the Meskwaki community with compassion and flexibility.
• Prioritize and reopen programming and services with regard to their impact to the community based on the health and safety of the Meskwaki people, community members, staff, and visitors – with extra care and consideration of the most vulnerable populations on the Settlement, our elders and youth.
• Follow medical advice and direction from Meskwaki Health Services and CDC guidelines.
As programs and departments begin to reopen, the Tribe understands that no single approach will fit every situation so we will continue to watch and adjust as needed throughout the process. As we do, we endeavor to take significant measures to protect the safety of the community, staff, and visitors by providing protective equipment, ensuring social distancing, and enhancing cleaning throughout each building, facility, and public space. Throughout, we will maintain restrictions on business travel, reduce visitor access, and limit workplace gatherings and in-person meetings.
Beginning Monday, June 15th, 2020, Tribal Council will lift the Shelter-in-Place Order for Tribal members and enter the first phase of reopening our operations and facilities on the Settlement.
In order to serve the Meskwaki community, and maintain a safe and healthy environment for all employees, certain procedures will be enacted. They include:
• Administrative buildings will reopen with limited access to non-employees. Community members seeking access to the Tribal Center, and to all Tribal buildings, will be required to enter through the front door only. Some buildings and services will remain closed for now including: the Senior Services Building, Museum and Cultural Center, Youth Department, Wellness Center, and Tribal Gym. These facilities will reopen during subsequent phases of the reopening.
• Some facilities will be closed but utilized on an “as needed” and/or limited bases: Tribal Justice Center, Child Support Services, and Family Services. Any meetings with the staff will be by appointment only.
• All visitors to any and all Tribal facilities will be required to wear a face mask and follow the one-way accesses into and out of the building(s). If you do not have a mask, one will be provided to you. Please follow signage and social distancing rules. Community members are encouraged to schedule appointments with the appropriate department before arriving to conduct business. Please call ahead. A staff directory is available by calling (641) 484-4678.
• Most employees will return to carry out the basic day-to-day operations of the government. Department directors, working with Executive Director Lawrence SpottedBird and Tribal Council, will determine which staff positions will be called back during the initial phase of reopening, and all subsequent phases, and be notified with detailed information regarding the safeguards that will be implemented upon their return. The Meskwaki Tribal Operations Reopening Plan will also be emailed/available to each one.
• Staff members impacted by facility and service closer will be placed on temporary furlough as of June 15, 2020. Department directors will notify affected staff members directly and given information regarding the timeframe of the furlough. HR staff will be available to assist each furloughed employee with his/her application for unemployment benefits.
• An employee affected by the furlough will be able to return to his/her same position at the same pay rate, and be able to earn benefits at the same level, as successive phases of the reopening occur. Those placed on furlough will continue to receive health and dental benefits, at no cost to them, and will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits until their return. Some furloughs could last until September 30, 2020 or longer.
• Policies have been put in place to protect employees returning to work including paid time-off in the amount of a minimum of two weeks if a staff member has a confirmed case of the virus and additional pay replacement if the employee is hospitalized or needs further/longer treatment.
• Additionally, if a Tribal facility discovers that a worker has tested positive for COVID-19, staff and community members who have been in close contact with the worker will be identified and asked to quarantine at home for a two-week period. Staff members will continue to receive pay during these documented occurrences.
• Because all social, community, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people are still prohibited at all locations and venues on the Meskwaki Settlement, programming of live community events will not be scheduled by any Tribal Operations department unless approved by Tribal Council.
• The playground and basketball court located on the Settlement will open for use. We want to emphasis to our Tribal citizens, especially our youth, the need to limit close contact with continued social distancing and other safeguards such as handwashing and disinfecting areas often to minimize the risk of spreading the virus while enjoying these and other outside activities.
For more information and/or questions on the Meskwaki Tribal Operations Reopening Plan, contact Executive Director Lawrence SpottedBird at (641) 484-9229.
*The above information relates to administrative buildings and departments associated and connected to the operations of the Meskwaki Tribal Government. Guidelines for the Meskwaki Bingo Hotel and Casino, Meskwaki Settlement School, the subsidiaries included within Meskwaki, Inc., and other Tribally owned entities may and will differ.
Research shows that COVID-19 can be/is spread undetected by asymptomatic transmission and these cases can cause serious illness to others. While the Tribe is working to safely re-open our facilities, the community and each staff member is urged to continue taking precautions to keep others safe. Even if you do not feel ill, it is imperative for the safety of the community, staff, visitors, and each family member that you practice social distancing, promote adequate handwashing, sanitize areas frequently, and continue wearing a mask in any public places where you cannot maintain a six-foot distance between others.
Because COVID-19 affects different people in different ways, infected people have reported a wide range of symptoms including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and more. If you feel ill, please contact the Meskwaki Health Clinic or your local health medical provider. If you or a loved one are having trouble breathing, have persistent pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face, or possess the inability to wake or stay awake, seek emergency medical care by dialing 911.
By adapting, surviving, and thriving, the Meskwaki Tribe continues working to determine the needs within our community and is committed to protecting our inherent sovereignty, preserving and promoting our culture, and improving the quality of life for future generations.
Tribal Council is grateful to every community member who has demonstrated incredible resolve and support for one another. Until a vaccine is available, we know we must all do our part. Until then, the Tribe vows to continue taking the necessary actions to promote safety on the Meskwaki Settlement and seeks to re-enlist the community’s ongoing support to keep the coronavirus at bay. Please, continue self- distancing whether you feel sick or not, perform adequate handwashing, and continue wearing protective equipment in public.