MHA Nation councilwoman in battle against pandemic

Submitted Photo Dr. Monica Mayer, right, North Segment councilwoman to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation business council, held an emergency response team meeting in mid-March with her North Segment employees. The meeting was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NEW TOWN – When Dr. Monica Mayer was a medic in the U.S. Army Reserve, she trained extensively for pandemics, epicenters and war casualties. Now some years later she’s among those in the front lines of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayer, North Segment councilwoman to the MHA Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes) business council, also is one of the members of the tribal COVID-19 Task Force, a group formed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Thursday, April 8, the North Dakota Department of Health reported Mountrail County, in which the North Segment of the Fort Berthold Reservation is located, has 20 positive test results for COVID-19.

When Mayer, an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation whose Indian name is “Good Medicine,” earlier learned what was happening in Wuhan, China, in regard to COVID-19 (coronavirus), she formulated her thoughts and knowledge of viruses. Anticipating the virus would travel to other areas overseas and then arrive in America, she told other council members what she anticipated would happen.

Mayer, who graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, Grand Forks, has extensive medical experience in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Mayer’s North Segment staff gathered bleach, tissues, disinfecting wipes, toilet paper and other items to stockpile in case it was needed.

Noting it was a lot of items to gather and prepare ahead for, she said, “That’s what doctors do.”

In mid-March, Mayer held an emergency response team meeting with her North Segment staff and together as a team they assembled care packages with the items that had been stockpiled.

Mayer’s staff handed out to tribal elders – those 60 years and older – in the North Segment the care packages of hand sanitizers, bleach, toilet paper, U.S. Centers for Disease Control brochures, information from Mayer and other items.

“I had staff distribute to every place,” Mayer said. She said 281 elders live in the North Segment. The segment includes the city of New Town and is the most populated segment on the reservation.

She also conducted a germ awareness demonstration for her staff and the public at Northern Lights Wellness Center, New Town.

For a time the North Segment meal site for elders in New Town operated to prepare school lunches for families to pick up for their children.

Mayer’s staff also handed out colored paper signs for the elders to put in their windows. She said red is for emergency, yellow for errands and green is OK. Drives are made through the community periodically each day to check for signs in elders’ windows.

“We had one today (who) had yellow,” she said on Thursday. She said a staff member would be doing an errand for the elder.

In late March, Mark Fox, tribal chairman and the business council, adopted COVID-19 mitigation measures in response to the virus, including a curfew requiring people to be indoors from dusk to dawn. The council also placed a limit on groups of five or more people congregating, acted to develop and enforce cooperative agreements with businesses on the reservation and created a mandate to improve testing for the virus.

To let people know about the curfew, Mayer said Jon “Poncho” Brady spread the word through the North Segment community. Brady traveled in the back of a pickup with a megaphone, announcing to families and others they needed to stay home and stay safe. Brady’s announcement carried out Hidatsa ways and traditions. His father, the late Bryon Brady Sr., had the traditional duties of camp crier to the Antelope Society of the Hidatsa people.

Mayer also has had signs posted in and around the New Town community, encouraging people to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tribe’s Elbowoods Memorial Health Center in New Town was in need of testing kits but kits were expected to arrive on Friday, according to Mayer.

“This is a very serious situation,” said Mayer of the overall situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t have medicine. We don’t have a vaccine (for COVID-19) but we do have an order to drive home, and let the virus die and let it move on its way. We have to take care of one another,” Mayer said.


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