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Only about 2,000 people speak the Cherokee language fluently. The tribe is saving some vaccine doses for them

January 12, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 16.5%. 1 min read.

Tim King, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a fluent Cherokee language speaker, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center in Tahlequah on Thursday. On his left arm is a tattoo of a dream catcher with the word for his tribe in Cherokee.

Only about 2,000 people living can speak the Cherokee language fluently. And as Covid-19 began to spread, that number started to dwindle.

So when the Cherokee Nation began receiving shipments of the Covid-19 vaccine, the tribal government identified Cherokee speakers as among the first groups to be eligible for the shot.

Vaccinating Cherokee language speakers alongside frontline health care workers is just the latest effort the tribe has made during the pandemic to keep this treasured population safe.

The first 975 doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine arrived in the Cherokee Nation on December 14.

The Cherokee Nation already had a record of its living first language speakers, thanks to an effort Hoskin initiated in 2018 when he was the tribe's Secretary of State.

Prioritizing the vaccination of Cherokee speakers and elders has also had an unintended consequence: It has built trust in the vaccine among other citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

Hoskin said he's seen some hesitation among Cherokee Nation citizens about taking the vaccine.

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