GREAT FALLS — The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to open the eastern entrance to Glacier National Park. The entrance was closed in June 2020 as the COVID pandemic began to spread on the reservation.
The vote comes as the Blackfeet tribe also moved to Phase 3 of its COVID response plan, permitting further opening of the reservation.
Blackfeet public information officer James McNeely said in a news release, "With the move to Phase 3, as well as consultation with medical authorities and the high rate of vaccination on the Blackfeet Reservation, the Council felt it was time to allow the east entrance to open."
McNeeley told MTN News: "It was a real awesome experience today. The Council, they were chomping at the bit to get it done and they were excited. The vote was unanimous. A lot of it was done for the mental well-being of our own people here as well as those coming around."
McNeely added that tribal officials will continue working with Glacier National Park, area business owners, and health officials, noting that masks will be required for an indefinite period of time on the reservation, and social distancing and hand-washing are still highly encouraged.
The reservation has been hit hard by the pandemic, with 1,385 recorded cases since March 15, 2020. Of those, a total of 1,351 are now listed as recovered. There have been 47 deaths due to COVID (40 counted on reservation, two counted in county, two counted outside of county, three counted out of state, all were tribal/community members).
McNeely also urged people to get vaccinated by contacting the Southern Piegan Clinic or the Blackfeet Community Hospital.
Blackfeet Covid-19 Incident Command said on Wednesday morning: "The Blackfeet Reservation, as of today, March 17, 2021, are now at 95% (6,693 of 7,000 eligible) vaccinated according to Southern Piegan Clinic and Blackfeet Community Hospital. Thank you to everyone who has worked tirelessly to get this done, especially the nurses!!!!"