PRAIRIE ISLAND, Minn. (Mar. 18, 2020)—The Tribal Council for the Prairie Island Indian Community declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and announced a series of actions intended to protect the health and safety of Tribal members, including closing the Tribe’s casino. Treasure Island Resort & Casino closed Tuesday evening and will remain closed for at least two weeks, after which time the situation will be reevaluated.

In a resolution, passed unanimously by the five-member Council, Prairie Island leaders said, “the Tribal Council recognizes the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as its obligations to the community and as an employer, and has been working diligently on implementing emergency action plans in response to this rapidly developing and changing threat.”

Before the emergency declaration, Tribal leaders had enacted a series of community mitigation steps, including:

• Activated our emergency operations center and formed a response team with representatives from the Prairie Island Indian Community and Treasure Island Resort & Casino
• Maintained daily contact with state and local health and government officials • Intensified cleaning and sanitizing protocols at Treasure Island and across Tribal owned buildings
• Announced the temporary closing of the Tribe’s administration building, as well as the Community Center and Fitness Center
• Canceled all community events
• Postponed events and initiated new rules at Tinta Wita Tipi assisted living center, minimizing the threat of exposure to residents
• Postponed concerts and events at Treasure Island
• Enacted a travel ban on non-essential work-related travel for employees
• Adopted other workplace rules, including limiting visitors, banning outside food from being brought to share with staff, and limiting in-person meetings
• Initiated regular communication with Tribal and team members to provide updates on our response efforts ”

The resolution adds, “conditions pose a threat to the safety, health and welfare of the Community.”

The proceeds from Treasure Island fund Prairie Island’s government, including self-paid medical insurance for members and employees, education, and an elder assisted living facility.

“Gaming has allowed us to pull ourselves out of generations of poverty and a lack of resources,” said Tribal Council President Shelley Buck. “The decision to temporarily close the casino operations has huge potential consequences for the Tribe. However, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic requires us to do our part to slow its initial spread over the next critical 14 days.”

In passing the emergency declaration resolution, Tribal Council said it “intends to coordinate and maximize its efforts to appropriately address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including calling on all tribal, federal, state, and local resources for assistance with protecting our community.” Specifically, the resolution provides for the following actions:

1. Authorizes the Prairie Island Police Department, the Emergency Management Coordinator, and any COVID-19 response teams developed, in consultation with Tribal Council, to implement and execute all emergency plans, policies, and operations applicable to this State of Emergency, including but not limited to, compliance with the Community’s standard emergency operations plans and additional plans specific to the COVID-19 pandemic; and.
2. Directs all departments and businesses of the Community to assist, as appropriate, in executing the necessary mitigation efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and this State of Emergency; and
3. Directs the Community, through Tribal Council or appointed staff, to seek assistance from the State of Minnesota, the Federal Government, and local governments, acting through all relevant agencies; and
4. Appoints and authorizes the Prairie Island Police Department and the Emergency Management Coordinator to act on behalf of the Prairie Island Indian Community in seeking aid and other resources from relevant agencies of the Federal, State, and local governments in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency declaration stays in effect “until the emergency status no longer requires emergency response efforts.”

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About the Prairie Island Indian Community

The Prairie Island Indian Community, a federally recognized Indian Nation, is located in southeastern Minnesota along the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 30 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.