MISSOULA — Can a catchy video and social media be the secret to getting more youth to wear masks during the pandemic?
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes hope so, and the tribal council is sponsoring a competition to get the point across to keep elders safe.
Outbreaks of disease have caused more than a community's share of heartbreak on the Flathead Reservation over the decades. But now with talent -- and the tools of social media and video -- there's hope this pandemic will be different. Enter Kiidtruth.
"My main goal is trying to reach the youth to raise awareness of this disease and how it could affect our elders," Kidtruth's Artie Mendoza III said. "And our elders are our top priority as Native Americans."
"He talks about his Qene, he talks about his poppa. That's grandparents on the Salish side and grandparents on the Kootenai side. And even though it's catchy and it's fun, the message is there," explained CSKT Education Department head Michelle Mitchell.
"Don't get close, keep your distance if you're coughin' and sneezin'. I pull my mask up on my face so that I know that I'm straight. I left my Qene at the crib so that I know that she's safe. I wash my hands in the sink, I ain't takin' the risk. Said COVID-19, put your masks and your gloves on…" the video says.
"It's very understandable that the message isn't reaching the 12-to-18-year-olds because that isn't the target that's reached when you use print material, and you use, you know, so those conversations need to be intentional," Mitchell said.
For Mendoza, who's had challenges in his own life, the video fits with his goal of providing responsibility and hope.
"I was kind of like, I'm going to have some fun with this, like, I was thinking TikTok, I was thinking kids. I have kids of my own. I have 7-kids, so it's like, if I could get these guys to do it, I know I could get everyone else to do it."
With coronavirus outbreaks hitting some reservations hard, it's a message of growing importance. Kiidtruth isn't the only producer in the campaign. Two more videos are due in the next couple of weeks.
"It's just been so amazing to work with these young men, and so, just talking about where we're coming from with our messaging and who the target is," Mitchell said. "And then just kind of giving them, you know, artistic freedom to come up with whatever it is they're going to come up with."
The campaign includes a TikTok dance challenge for each video, with $100 gift cards to help pass the message. Youth are being asked to follow the artists, and share the videos using hashtags like #ProtectOurElders, #fixyourmask and #WalkTogetherWell.
Click here to view the YouTube video.