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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Says Vaccination Going Well; Offers Doses to Teachers in 3 Towns

Jennette Barnes
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Member Brian Weeden shows U.S. Sen. Ed Markey the seal on the floor of the rotunda at the tribe's government and community center in Mashpee on Tuesday.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe says its COVID-19 vaccination program is going well, and the tribe has offered vaccines to teachers in three neighboring communities.

Nelson Andrews Jr., emergency management director for the Mashpee Wampanoag, said any tribal member age 16 and up, their immediate families, and teachers in Mashpee, Barnstable, and Falmouth can receive the vaccine.

“We were able to meet this criteria first and foremost before even the county,” he said.

The idea behind offering the vaccine to teachers is to protect children who are members of the tribe, according to Rita Gonsalves, CEO of the federal Indian Health Service in Mashpee.

“We have one school on-reservation, but a large population of children go off reservation to schools,” she said.

The tribe is also sending 870 doses to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Martha’s Vineyard.

Only 30 percent of Mashpee tribal members have received their vaccine from the tribe, but many live outside the area and could be getting vaccinated elsewhere, Andrews said.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council members hosted a visit Tuesday by U.S. Senator Ed Markey, who said the federal stimulus bill provides $31 billion for indigenous programs.

Jennette Barnes
U.S. Sen Ed Markey takes a selfie with members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in front of the tribal health clinic on Tuesday. Members who welcomed Markey for a visit included Rita Gonsalves, CEO of Indian Health Services, second from left; and Nelson Andrews Jr., emergency management director, third from left.

Andrews said the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was the second tribe in the nation to establish a relationship with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a direct recipient of COVID-19 supplies.

By doing that, the tribe got early access to masks and test kits.

“Now we're ahead, and we've been able to keep a lot of our tribal community members free from COVID through isolation motels,” he said.

He said the tribe won grants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support that work.