Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, and DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake visits and tours a Ho-Chunk Nation COVID-19 vaccination clinic

By Ardith Van Riper

     Evers, Barnes, and Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Timberlake visited the District 1 Community Center (D1CC) on Thursday, March 25.   The group toured the Ho-Chunk Nation point of dispensing COVID-19 vaccine site near Black River Falls. 

     The Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health (DOH) offered COVID-19 vaccine community events each Wednesday and Thursday in March.  Clinics on Wednesdays were at the House of Wellness (HOW) in Baraboo and clinics on Thursdays were at D1CC. 

     The DOH administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and dispensed 658 vaccines that day.

     “I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of sites like this across the state,” shared Gov. Evers.  “I’d say the joyfulness is a little higher.  Everybody I’ve talked to whether it’s getting a shot in the arm, doing technology work behind the scenes, or people actually putting shots in arms.  Everybody is happy.  They are smiling, you can tell even with the mask on. 

     “I have to congratulate President (White Eagle), you and your staff.  Everything is so well organized.  It is a friendly organization.  People feel welcome here.  It’s done in a way that people are getting shots and they are being treated well.  They are walking out of here with a smile on their face.” 

     HCN President Marlon White Eagle and HCN Department of Health Executive Director Kiana Beaudin joined the visitors for a press conference in the Youth Services Gym.  Wisconsin State Senator Jeff Smith was also in attendance.  He represents District 31 which includes areas between Eau Claire, Prescott, Trempealeau, and Black River Falls.

     The Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health opened the clinics beyond Ho-Chunk Nation tribal members, descendants, employees, and their household members to anyone 18+ with underlying medical conditions in the counties of Columbia, Monroe, Jackson, Juneau, Sauk, and Wood on March 23.

     “As soon as you are eligible, make sure you take advantage of that opportunity and get vaccinated, for yourself, for your community, for our entire state,” expressed Lt. Gov. Barnes during the press conference, “Thanks again for doing the hard work to not just vaccinate members of the Ho-Chunk but also the broader community because that’s what leadership is all about.  Making sure that the entire community is taken care of and you’ve done that.” 

     Per the HCN COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard, HCN DOH dispensed a total of 5,379 COVID-19 vaccines as of March 29.  From that number, 47% were tribal members and 53% were non-tribal.

     “Ho-Chunk Nation has been great partners to our state and the communities.  Not only vaccinating members of the tribal nation but others.  Today is a good example of that.  We know that when people get vaccinated, we are all safer, not just the people that are getting that vaccination.  Thank you Ho-Chunk Nation, Executive Director Beaudin, and other officials that have done such a great job,” said Gov. Tony Evers

     The day following the visit, HCN DOH opened their COVID-19 vaccine community events to anyone 18+ with no county or underlying medical condition restrictions.  By approximately 4:30 PM, registration was closed for the Baraboo event because of the overwhelming response.

     On March 30, Gov. Tony Evers announced everyone 16 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5.

     The HCN DOH continues to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to tribal members and employees during the month of April.  The goal is to vaccinate between 70% – 80% of tribal community members.  Watch the HCN DOH and Hocak Worak Facebook pages for community event updates.