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“This Coronavirus is not going away, and we can’t afford to be letting our guard down,” says Blackfeet Incident Command Director Robert DesRosier.

J.D. Simkins  – June 29, 2020 | Updated July 1, 2020

A sharp increase this month in COVID-19 cases throughout Montana prompted Blackfeet tribal leaders to scuttle plans to reopen Glacier National Park’s eastern entrance.

The reservation, which borders the park’s eastern region, bumped its scheduled reopening date of June 30 through the end of the 2020 tourist season “for the protection of the residents of the Blackfeet Reservation,” the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council announced this week.

The closure will include Two Medicine, Chief Mountain, St. Mary’s, Cut Bank Creek, and Many Glacier roads, the announcement said.  

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 “Some people thought we’d flattened the curve, and then the cases shot up,” Blackfeet Incident Command Director Robert DesRosier told the Missoulian.

“This coronavirus is not going away, and we can’t afford to be letting our guard down. We have a vulnerable population here. So we’ll regroup and come back in 2021.”

Eileen Henderson, a tribal spokeswoman, told the Missoulian that reservation living conditions necessitate extra caution when it comes to phased openings amid an evolving coronavirus landscape.

“We have multiple families living in one home, and these are the ones we need to look out for,” she said.

“We don’t have a live-in shelter (for COVID patients), and that’s stretched our community thin.”

Stopping for gas, food, or a single-night stay in a motel, meanwhile, will still be permitted, the report said. All other non-essential activity is suspended until further notice in the interest of the health of the reservation’s residents.

“Our elders have a lot of knowledge that has not been passed on yet,” Mark Pollock, a Blackfeet council member, said.

“Once that knowledge is gone from them, if it hasn’t been shared, that knowledge is gone forever. If we let the coronavirus in somehow, then that knowledge could be gone.”

One of the country’s more iconic national parks, Glacier began rolling back some of its COVID-related restrictions in early June.

Much of the west side of the park, including trails, select campgrounds, and lodges, will remain open or continue a phased reopening, the National Park Service confirmed.

Those interested in traveling to Glacier National Park can check here for updates on hiking, driving, camping, horseback riding, and boating accessibility.

The full statement by the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council can be read below.

WHEREAS, The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council passed the “Blackfeet Tribe COVID-19 Ordinance” No. 121 and Resolution No. 2020-181 “ Reaffirming the Declaration Addressing the COVID-19 Outbreak for the Blackfeet Reservation” and further orders for the purpose of limiting the risk of infection from the global pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 to members and residents of the Blackfeet Reservation, and

WHEREAS, Based on the spike in COVID-19 cases in Montana and the health and safety risk to the residents of the Blackfeet Reservation have high numbers of health disparities, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council hereby desires to close the eastern border of Glacier National Park for the protection of the residents of the Blackfeet Reservation for the rest of the 2020 tourism season, now

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS: 
1. Closure of the Eastern Border of Glacier National Park. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council hereby closes the Eastern Border of Glacier National Park into the Blackfeet Reservation including all the following roads: Two Medicine, Chief Mountain, St. Mary’s, Cut Bank Creek, and Many Glacier until end of the 2020 tourism season. 
2. Penalty. Violation of this resolution shall be subject to the penalties prescribed pursuant to Ordinance #121. 
3. Public Advertisement. The Public Relations Specialist is hereby directed to make notice effective immediately of this Resolution to the Public.