Choctaw Nation Chief talks about impact of virus on tribal members

Choctaw nation chief talks about impact of virus on tribal members.
Choctaw nation chief talks about impact of virus on tribal members.(KXII)
Published: Jan. 16, 2021 at 5:49 PM CST
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DURANT, Oklahoma (KXII) -

The Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma says the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the nation in a variety of ways.

Chief Gary Batton said in talks with families that have lost loved ones to pandemic “it’s been heavy.”

“I went to a funeral Friday of one of our 97-year-old elders that had passed away due to COVID-19,” Batton said. “Every week we have somebody that we’re losing and it’s really taken a toll on our elders.”

Batton said the loss of elder members has had a tremendous impact on the Choctaw Nation because “we lose a part of our culture and our history when they pass.”

“We lose our language,we lose all the stories that go along with that,” Batton said. “We lose the stories of stick ball, we lose the ability of story telling to our youth and if we’re a Nation that loses our language we will fail to exist.”

Batton said “it’s mission critical that we’re able to keep that language alive” and though the “second generation of speakers” haven’t been impacted as severely by the pandemic he said losing elders is “devastating.”

Batton said the Choctaw Nation has lost $166 since the pandemic began but have received $200 million in CARES ACT funding.

“It’s been hard on our elders to go to church, it’s been hard for our families to come together,” Batton said. “Losing the matriarchs of our family has taken a toll on us.”

Batton said the Choctaw Nation has been “strongly advocating” with the federal government to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. To this point, Batton said, they have received about 6,000 vaccinations and have administered 3,000 to tribal members including members in the 1A phase.

“We will encourage everyone to get the vaccine but the most important part we will encourage everyone to do is to do social distancing, wash their hands and wear their face masks,” Batton said.

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