Chairman’s Update to Employees and Citizens
We hope everyone is safe and you have what you need to stay home per the protective guidelines being requested by various health agencies and government authorities. We encourage you to follow these guidelines as we believe they will help protect everyone’s health and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
New information is coming out daily and there is a lot to keep up with. Our Task Force continues to meet daily to evaluate these updates and make recommendations to Tribal Council. There are numerous unknowns related to the Federal Stimulus package which the Senate voted to approve, and the House of Representatives will vote on, possibly by Friday. We will be doing our best to provide periodic updates on how this stimulus and other legislation could benefit Pokagon Citizens.
Unlike state and local governments which predominately use tax dollars to operate, Native Sovereign Nations rely on revenue from business ventures to fund critical services and programs for their citizens including healthcare, housing, education, family services, financial support, elder care, police, courts and more. We have a 10-county service area and also provide medical care to other Native Americans that seek our services. Including our Four Winds Casino locations and Tribal Government, we one of the largest employers in Michiana employing over 3,000 people and we support hundreds of area and local businesses. Without revenue, we lose our ability to serve the individuals that rely on us for these important services as well as employment. Unfortunately, with our casinos closed indefinitely, we are forced to make some difficult decisions.
In terms of government operations, we have transitioned to have only essential and mission-critical government employees continue to work. Some of these individuals will be onsite while others are working remotely. Unfortunately, Tribal Council had to make the difficult decision to temporarily layoff nonmission critical government employees effective, Monday March 30. Our goal is to maintain critical services to our citizens without interruption if possible. We hope to hire these employees back as soon as we are able to resume our normal operations.
Given the ongoing challenges with planning and securing resources for future events, Tribal Council has also decided to cancel the Veteran’s Pow Wow, the Veteran’s Golf Outing and Vendors Dinner, and the Fasting Camp. The Michigan Indian Elders Association (MIEA) cancelled their conference and the Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum also cancelled their event, both of which were scheduled to take place at Four Winds New Buffalo. All of us were looking forward to these great events, but uncertainty with the calendar made it impossible to proceed. In an effort not to conflict with other future events on the calendar and because the timetable to resume normal activity is unknown, these events will not be rescheduled in 2020.
To help with the flow of information and to help answer questions, please be sure to login to our new Office of the Tribal Council section of the Pokagon website. Periodic updates will be posted here. We are also planning to include some video updates as time and resources allow. There might not be some good news to report for a while, but we will get through this. We look forward to providing another update next week.
Matthew Wesaw - Tribal Council Chairman
As the first week of operating in a modified capacity draws to a close, we wanted to provide you with an update as well as cover some important reminders.
On Tuesday, non-essential government operations were shut down until Monday, March 30, pending reevaluation at the end of the closure period. This step was taken to help prevent the spread and minimize the potential impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Although there are no known Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases within the Tribal Government, our Task Force and Tribal Council feel the extra precautions we have taken are the right thing to do for everyone’s health and safety.
Also, there has been some questions as to why we are still operating when our Four Winds Casinos are closed. It is important to note that although our Four Winds Casino locations are closed to the public, there are still many employees and members of the management team working on many important activities to maintain the operation including managing resources, rescheduling events, promotions and entertainment, providing security to protect our assets, and planning for re-opening.
On a positive note, we donated nine pallets of perishable food from our Four Winds locations totaling 7,450 pounds. This perishable food is being distributed by our partners, Feeding America and Cultivate, to those in need throughout Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana. The food items included dairy products, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, baked goods, and fresh fish. We hope it will bring comfort to recipients during this challenging time.
For those of you who are at home or are concerned about your health, there’s no time like the present to practice self-care. We are excited to announce that Pokagon Wellness has created two workout videos which can be viewed on the Pokagon YouTube Channel! These workouts were created to hit various muscle groups while using only your body weight and items you already have in your home. These short, intense segments will help you relieve stress and anxiety while boosting your immune system. You can access the channel and videos by searching “Pokagon Wellness” on YouTube. A big thank you to Dean and Tia at Pokagon Wellness for getting these posted!
There is also more good news on the health front. If you have a healthcare plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield, they are waiving co-pays for medical visits completed through Blue Cross Online Visits. They are also expanding access to their 24-hour telehealth and nurse hotline. This will enable you to receive care from anywhere, including home, while also providing some relief for the health care system.
We hope this update has been beneficial to you. We’ve got great people, teams, resources and plans in place. We’ve also got a great network of support as we continue to keep in touch with other Tribal leaders. It’s up to us to support and encourage each other during this difficult time. We don’t know what the future holds, but we will get through this together.
If you can make time, also check in on family, friends and neighbors. Even if you don’t see them in-person, let them know you are thinking off the them. It might help them to feel good and have great a weekend.
We look forward to providing more updates next week.
Matthew Wesaw - Tribal Council Chairman
During the period of time that access to Pokagon Band government buildings remains restricted, Michigan Indian Legal Services will not be working on-site. However, Michigan Indian Legal Services is able to provide legal services remotely to Pokagon Band citizens by calling 800-968-6877.
In consideration of new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and requests from both federal and state governments to help prevent the spread and minimize the potential impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), our Government Taskforce with approval from Tribal Council, will implement Pandemic Response Mode from our Exposure Plan. Implementation of Pandemic Response Mode will require that we shut down non-essential government operations until Monday, March 30, pending reevaluation at the end of the closure period. Although there are no known Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases within the Tribal Government, we feel current circumstances require that we take this proactive measure to protect the health and safety of our citizens and employees.
The following steps are being implemented immediately:
- Tribal Police, some medical staff (as determined by PHS), cleaning, and other essential team members as determined by the Government Manager will be required to report to work if they are not showing any signs of illness.
- Those who are well and can work from home are expected to do so as much as possible.
- Essential Government services will be addressed in an appointment-based manner. If you need to enter any Pokagon Government buildings for any reason, please call ahead of time so we can best meet your needs. Everyone must adhere to the prescreening process before entering any Pokagon Government buildings. If you have a request, please call the Essential Government Services number at 269-782-8998.
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and truly appreciate your patience. The Task Force will continue to monitor the situation and provide periodic updates as new information becomes available. Also please continue to monitor the Pokagon Band website.
Jason Wesaw - Pokagon Band Government Manager
Closure of the Pokagon Tribal Court to the Public
As a precautionary measure resulting from the Coronavirus, and in keeping with the recent decision to cancel or postpone Pokagon Government events and activities, the Pokagon Tribal Court will be closed until March 31.
Any hearings, trials, conferences, or meetings scheduled to occur during this timeframe, will take place via telephone, video conference, or by other electronic means. Alternatively some activities will be adjourned and rescheduled.
While the Tribal Court building is closed to the public, court staff will continue to work and will be available by telephone and email. If you wish to file documents with the Tribal Court, please contact the court staff in advance to make the necessary arrangements.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your patience. For court questions or concerns, please call: (269)783-0505
Following a briefing this morning from our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force, the Tribal Council has decided to postpone the Saturday Monthly Meeting, the Annual Meeting, and All Community Events and Activities until the end of the month. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide periodic updates as new information becomes available. We appreciate your cooperation and patience as we work to protect everyone’s health, prevent the spread of the virus, and continue to provide important Pokagon Government services.
The Task Force will continue to monitor the situation and provide a recommendation to Tribal Council on March 31
Please continue to frequent this page for updates.