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Red Lake Nation lifts medical martial law after more than a year

Medical martial law status has been lifted for the Red Lake Nation after more than a year.

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RED LAKE -- Medical martial law status has been lifted for the Red Lake Nation after more than a year.

Darrell Seki Sr., the chairman of Red Lake Nation, decided to end the medical martial law and ease other COVID-19 gathering regulations in consultation with the tribal council and seven hereditary chiefs.

This change came in the form of an amended executive order that went into effect on May 11 and was announced to the public on May 19.

In the announcement, Chairman Seki cited his reasoning for lifting the order as, “I have determined that it is no longer necessary to keep in place the strict safety precautions that have been in effect over the past year to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

“The number of Red Lake Reservation residents who have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus has reached the target levels set by the COVID-19 Emergency Response Team; the number of Red Lake residents who have tested positive for the virus has consistently been below the threshold that was previously established,” he said. “Therefore, I have determined that Medical Martial Law is no longer necessary to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.


“I express sincere appreciation for the sacrifices that tribal members have made over the past year to combat the COVID-19 virus. Without your sacrifices, the Red Lake Nation would not be in the favorable position that we are in.”

History of martial law status

The tribal nation has been under some form of medical martial law for more than a year after it was initially enacted by Seki on April 1, 2020. Prior to this, the Red Lake Tribal Council initially declared a Public Health Emergency on March 13, 2020.

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The order has been amended eight times over the past year prior to the ninth and final amendment, lifting the order. Over the past year, restrictions on travel, interaction with others, and employment conditions were made through amendments to the executive order to meet the changing nature of the threats presented by the virus.

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The most recent amendment occurred around a month ago and loosened outdoor gathering restrictions.

According to past amendments, the laws of Red Lake Nation permit the chairman to declare medical martial law when the lives of band members are endangered.

In a practical sense, medical martial law meant that the tribal council and chairman have expanded executive authority, and it allows swifter response to threats to the health, safety and security of tribal members. The need for the order was reevaluated every 15 days.

What this changes

The lifting of the order removed gathering restrictions for indoor and outdoor activities. It also removes face mask requirements for outdoor activities and leaves indoor facemask requirements up to individual organizations and companies.

There will no longer be restrictions on the number of persons attending indoor activities, including funerals, wakes, memorials, family gatherings and employment activities, the order said.


Whether face masks, social distancing, and other safety practices will be required during the indoor meeting will be left to the sponsors of the event.

However, vendors entering Red Lake who do not live there are still required to wear masks and social distance, the order said.

Effective May 11, all safety leave and hazard pay ended for employees of the Red Lake Nation and any enterprise on the Red Lake Reservation.

“In the event that the COVID-19 virus presents a threat to residents of the reservation, the Emergency Response Team will make recommendations to the tribal council for any safeguards that should be put into place, including the re-establishment of medical martial law,” the order concluded.

This announcement comes just ahead of a planned powwow and fireworks show for the Red Lake Nation College graduation ceremony on May 21 and the Red Lake State of the Band Address which will take place on May 28.

Hannah Olson is a multimedia reporter for the Pioneer covering education, Indigenous-centric stories and features.
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