Social media helps Native Americans preserve cultural traditions during pandemic

Native Americans are adapting to the pandemic with online events and educational videos to share their culture.

WOLF POINT, Mont. (KHN)Lawrence Wetsit misses the days when his people would gather by the hundreds and sing the songs that all Assiniboine children are expected to learn by age 15.

"We can't have ceremony without memorizing all of the songs, songs galore," he said. "We're not supposed to record them: We have to be there. And when that doesn't happen in my grandchildren's life, they may never catch up."
Such ceremonial gatherings have been scarce over the past year as Native American communities like Wetsit's isolate to protect their elders during the Covid-19 pandemic. Reservations have been hit especially hard, with Native Americans nearly twice as likely to die as white people. Wetsit, a tribal elder and former chair of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, said that his tribe lost one person a day on average to the disease during October and November.
    These deaths are doubly devastating to Native communities because elders are seen as the keepers of tribal history and culture. Wetsit worries that the combination of deaths and lockdowns will permanently harm the trib