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'You are a hazard': Citizen Potawatomi Nation workers are ordered to be vaccinated

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services administer vaccine booster shots at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla. in October 2021.
Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services administer vaccine booster shots at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Okla. in October 2021.

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation will require those working for the tribal government to be vaccinated.

The decision comes a couple of weeks after Citizen Potawatomi tribal chairman John "Rocky" Barrett said he would allow those to opt out if they agreed to frequent testing and mask wearing.

In a strongly worded letter to employees last week, he changed course.

Barrett said he was tired of negative emails from employees about how the vaccine was not safe and spreading false information about how the pandemic is a "hoax." Barrett called those claims "nonsense."

"The Citizen Potawatomi Nation no longer chooses to allow unvaccinated employees to touch and breathe on our children in the daycare, prepare food and serve it to our elders or cough and sneeze infected mucus and snot at work," Barrett wrote.

Barrett said those working in the healthcare field will have until Dec. 4 to be vaccinated or face termination. All other employees have until Dec. 31.

Barrett stressed the importance of the vaccine for those working with children and elders.

"Having unvaccinated employees is a hazard to the Tribe and the public," Barrett wrote.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation joins the Cherokee Nation and the Cheyenne and

Arapaho Tribes in mandating vaccinations for their employees.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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