Native American agencies partnering for Indianapolis COVID-19 vaccine clinic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Native American organizations are finalizing plans to bring a COVID-19 vaccine clinic to Indianapolis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Native Americans are being impacted by the virus at disproportionate rates compared to the white population.

Native American representatives said the impact of this pandemic is similar to other times in history. About a decade ago, H1N1 had terrible impacts on Native American communities, and even longer ago, so did the smallpox outbreak. The CDC recently released data from 14 states showing just how much Native American’s are being impacted.

The Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi tribe is partnering with the American Indian Center of Indiana to try and counter COVID-19’s impact.

“When it comes to Native American communities this has definitely devastated our families and communities on the reservations, but also in urban communities,” said American Indian Center of Indiana executive director Carolina Castoreno-Santana.

CDC data from 14 states collected last year shows Native Americans between 20 and 60 years old had substantially higher death rates compared to white non-Hispanic citizens.

To help curb that, the government has made the vaccine more accessible on reservations. But Native Americans in urban settings still lack access.

“We all know right now that the vaccine is the best tool that we have against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Pokagon Health Services interim director Priscilla Gatties.

The Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi is the only federally recognized tribe in Indiana. But the Pokagon tribal health center is in Michigan, just beyond Indiana’s border.

For months the health center has vaccinated hundreds, but Saturday the center is bringing services to Indianapolis, making vaccines available for a broad range of indigenous people and their families.

“Every single person who gets the vaccine helps us build that wall of protection around our communities,” Gatties said.

Castoreno-Santana is also a member of the Lipan Apache tribe of Texas.

“It’s terrifying. As Native Americans we have faced so many phases of the threat to our way of life, the threat to our existence,” Castoreno-Santana said.

She said she hopes this is one more step to help turn the page on this crisis.

The American Indian Center of Indiana is also providing forms of transportation assistance.