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Silver Reef Hotel and Casino exterior (March 20, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

Procession scheduled to celebrate vaccines made available by the Lummi Nation

FERNDALE, Wash. — Officials with the Lummi Nation made available COVID-19 vaccine doses to staff of the Ferndale School District (FSD) and Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) recently at the Silver Reef Casino, something appreciated by many recipients in the face of state mandates restricting who could receive vaccinations at the time as well as a limited vaccine supply creating challenges for those who were eligible.

The Lummi Nation has been acquiring vaccines through the Indian Health Service (IHS), a federal health program for American Indians and Alaska natives, to be able to vaccinate tribal members and staff. In February, after vaccinating a reported 2800-plus tribal members and others, the tribe extended the opportunity to be vaccinated to 450 FSD staff and 150 WTA staff. Some received single-dose vaccines and others 2-dose vaccines. Those in the latter group are scheduled to return to the Silver Reef Casino next week for the required second doses.

According to some recipients that qualified to be vaccinated according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan (link to PDF file), they had been unsuccessfully scouring online information sources daily for days if not weeks in search of reachable locations with available vaccines. Others who were not eligible under the state-imposed limitations faced waiting until March 17th or later just to be eligible. As a result, the offer from the Lummi Nation was met with great relief by many.

Today, March 12th, at 4pm a slow-moving “gratitude parade” has been scheduled by Connect Ferndale and the Lhaq’temish Foundation that will proceed south from the Lummi Nation Ballfields at Slater Road and Haxton Way to Lummi Shore Drive to Kwina Road and end at the Lummi Tribal Health Center where there will be presentations.

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Parade route shown in red

As a sovereign government, Lummi Nation can distribute our vaccine doses as we determine is best for our community. 

Now that we have made the vaccine available to every tribal member who wants one, all frontline healthcare workers at our clinic, emergency responders, Moles Funeral Home staff, Lummi Health Clinic patients, and nursing home residents, we recognize that we must extend our reach to fully protect our greater community.

Lummi Indian Business Council has recognized earlier on in the pandemic that our community is only as safe as the surrounding community. The more people who are vaccinated, the closer we come to being able to join together again.

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Parts of an op-ed published in the Bellingham Herald by Lummi Nation Chairman Lawrence Solomon (March 12, 2021).

National news sources report similar community vaccination clinics have been hosted by tribes across the country making vaccines available to those in situations where they otherwise are not. Tribes are eligible to be reimbursed by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for costs incurred distributing vaccines.

The Lummi Nation is reported to be made up of over 5,000 members and has reported 133 persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. The Nation has not reported any COVID-19-related deaths.

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