Prioritizing Cultural Practitioners To Receive Covid Vaccine

NPR story came across my social media feed yesterday about how the Cherokee Nation has prioritized giving the Covid vaccine to those who are fluent in the Cherokee language.  I sought out a little more information and learned that there are about 2500 fluent speakers and about 20 have died to Covid in the past year.  The first allotment of the vaccine was about 900 does and there are other categories of people on the priority list so they aren’t going to be able to inoculate everyone.

The fact that the Cherokee Nation moved to protect cultural practitioners and had the need to do so provides a lot of complicated issues consider.

Not the least of which are the indications in both the NPR and Tulsa World stories I linked to that suggest some of these people might be normally disinclined to get vaccinated if it weren’t for the value being placed upon them. Based on what they had heard, nearly everyone interviewed expressed concerns about the safety of the shots.

“Language is an essential link to preserving the culture of the Cherokee Nation people,” Montgomery said of the decision to prioritize Cherokee language speakers in vaccine scheduling.

“When I walked through (the center) earlier today and I saw a couple of native (Cherokee) speakers that were getting their vaccine, I can’t describe the emotion I felt knowing they’re here overcoming any fear they might have of receiving the vaccine and doing so to protect themselves and their families.”

John Ross, a Cherokee language translator, …Asked about the tribe’s decision to prioritize him and other language speakers for vaccines, he said he was initially shocked to learn that he would be vaccinated this week but felt “elated.”

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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