Michigan’s Indigenous tribes are tackling mass COVID-19 vaccination in new ways to help one of the hardest-hit communities across the country.

MICHIGAN—Last month, medical professionals and some of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) health department officials descended upon Lansing from northern Michigan’s Petoskey, to host a clinic that aimed to vaccinate Indigenous Michiganders who live downstate from the reservation. 

LTBB officials made the three hour trek that passes through Gaylord, Grayling, Houghton Lake, and Alama, among other Michigan towns. 

“We are about 2 1/2 to 3 hours away, our reservation,” LTBB Medical Director Terry Samuels told Michigan Advance. “We have tribal members here that may have difficulty traveling up to our vaccine clinics up north, so we wanted to do an outreach clinic to service the people in the Lansing area.”

Traveling to host the clinic was needed as the tribe has no access to community clinics. 

“This is one of those areas that doesn’t have a tribal health center nearby,” he said 

The clinic that took place at New Covenant Christian Church & School had the availability to administer 100 vaccinations of Moderna, according to Samuels. Recipients of the vaccinations were “a mix” of both tribal citizens and non-tribal residents. 

In a week, LTBB’s clinic will make the journey again to perform second doses of the vaccine. 

In Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet counties, the general public has now officially been included for eligibility by the LTBB Health Department. So far, over 4,000 vaccines have been provided in Petoskey and surrounding areas for both tribal citizens and non-Native residents, according to Jody Werner, LTBB’s Health Director. 

“As soon as the vaccines came out, we wanted to be part of the solution,” Werner said. “… I love my job because I feel like we can provide services to our people better than anyone else, because we can honor the culture and honor the traditions and incorporate that into what we’re doing,” Werner said.

LTBB’s staff is proud to be a host of vaccination clinics. However, they also just simply want their citizens to get vaccinated, no matter where.

“So for this, to bring [the clinic] down here and service our citizens down here — and they can get the vaccines elsewhere,” Werner continued.

“We encourage them, no matter where, just to get vaccinated — but to be able to come and operate down here is a pleasure for us and we want to meet their needs down here also.” 

Indigenous tribes across the nation have been rapidly rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, including in the Mitten, as Native Americans have perished due to the coronavirus at a higher rate than other groups, as APM Research Lab reported. 

Native tribes reinforcing mass vaccination clinic setups are happening widely across the US, as Stateline reports. For example, the Navajo Nation has now vaccinated over half of its tribal members. The tribal territory was previously one of the hardest-hit locations in the country left devastated by the coronavirus. 

Below is a full Indian Health Service COVID-19 vaccine Michigan distribution location list.

Michigan Indian Health Service COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution List

1. AIHFS (Detroit MI)

2.Bay Mills Ellen Marshall Memorial Center 

3.Grand Traverse Band Of Ottawa And Chippewa Indians Health Department 

4. Gun Lake Tribal Health Center 

5. Hessel Community Health Center 

6. Keweenaw Bay Health Center 

7. Lac Vieux Desert Health Center 

8. Little River Band Health Service Center MI 

9.Little Traverse Health Center 

10. Manistique Health Center 

11.Munising Health Station 

 12.Newberry Chn Health Location 

13. Nhbp Grand Rapids 

 14. Nhbp Pine Creek 

15. Pokagon Potawatomi Health Service (Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi) 

16. Sault Saint Marie Tribal Health Center  

17.St Ignace Tribal Health Center  

View the full list here