A little more than a week into the shutdown of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, a tribal official says residents are mostly complying with it.
James McNeely, public information officer for the Blackfeet Tribe, says there haven't been any major incidents of noncompliance, but law enforcement officers have issued some fines, in a range of amounts, for people violating curfew and attempting to congregate. More details on those incidents will become available when the tribal court is back in regular session once the shutdown ends.
Cases on the reservation have spiked in recent days. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 325 active cases on the reservation — more than doubling from the week prior — and 536 cases since March 15. There have been 208 recoveries since March 15, and three coronavirus-related deaths. There are about 7,000 people living on or near the reservation, according to the state.
The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council ordered the reservation to shut down on Monday, September 28. Since then, a stay-at-home order has been in place and all nonessential gatherings have been prohibited. Residents are allowed to shop for essential items, but are encouraged to do so alone if possible. Nonessential travel through the reservation — which include Browning, Babb, East Glacier Park Village, Heart Butte and St. Mary — has been restricted for several months.
- Blackfeet tribal members stock up for 14-day shutdown
- Blackfeet Reservation orders 14-day shutdown due to COVID-19
"So I think for the majority, people are listening right now. We just want to remind people [to]... follow the social distancing rules," McNeely said. "Masks are mandatory."
The National Guard is now on site to assist the tribe's efforts in slowing the outbreak. As other reservations take similar steps to prevent the spread of the virus, McNeely said it takes a group effort to keep everyone responsible.
"We're all in this together," he said. "And to try to curb this, we just need everybody to follow the rules."
Tribal leaders are urging residents to follow CDC guidelines and Blackfeet Tribe Ordinance 121. For more information, call 406-338-3513. For daily updates, visit the Blackfeet Incident Command Center's Facebook page here.