Every morning, around 30 staff members with the Native American Community Clinic get together in an online virtual huddle.
Before the day’s duties are assigned, Elder in Residence Renee Beaulieu-Banks, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, starts out with a quick blessing – first in Ojibwemowin, and then again in English.
“We have conversations with spirits. We invite them to listen. We thank them, offer them tobacco for our requests and for our gratitude,” Beaulieu-Banks says. “That’s what I do in the morning. I do a request for healing. Not only for ourselves, but for the community and each other.”
Beaulieu-Banks also addresses the spirit of COVID-19, requesting that it have mercy on not only the native people, but everyone. She thanks the spirits for bringing the medical team together for this work, calling them “our warriors.” Staff members at the clinic, which provides health services to members of Minneapolis’ sizable Native American population, overwhelmingly say the introduction helps orient them and starts the day out in a “good way.”
Much of the coverage of Native Americans during the pandemic has focused on hard-hit rural reservations. But 78% of American Indians and Alaska Natives – who were either AI/AN alone or in combination with at least one other race – lived outside reservations or similar areas as of the 2010 Census, many of them in urban areas. Native residents of Minneapolis haven’t been immune to the challenges posed by COVID-19, including the mental health impacts of quarantine, isolation and financial instability.
As the pandemic progresses into winter, health experts warn that cases could spike as colder temperatures force more people inside. But a theme of resilience reverberates through NACC staff members and their patients. These are people who have gone through hard times before.
They adapt and survive.
“It may get worse as winter months approach, but I think our people are really resilient. We get through these things,” Beaulieu-Banks says. “There are other epidemics raging through our community. … Try and focus on the healing. Healing is happening. The more we talk about the healing, the more we’re going to see. I think we’re going to come out of this OK. “
Read more on USNews.com.