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Sioux Tribe prioritizing vaccine for speakers of native language

Sioux Tribe prioritizing vaccine for speakers of native language
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The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is prioritizing speakers of its native languages for its COVID-19 vaccine distribution, The Associated Press reported.

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said the logic behind the decision is to make sure traditions and customs don't die out.

"It’s something we have to pass on to our loved ones, our history, our culture our language," Faith told KXMB-TV. "We don’t have it in black and white, we tell stories. That’s why it’s so important."

Only 300 people who live on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, located in both North and South Dakota, are fluent in the native Dakota and Lakota languages, according to the AP.

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Tribal Health Director Margaret Gates told the AP that Standing Rock's native speakers are the "most important asset to our tribe and people because of the language." 

According to the Star Tribune, cases of the coronavirus have increased 400 percent in recent months at the reservation.

The number of cases increased from 106 in August to 550 in November, and it's unclear how many cases the reservation currently has.

The Standing Rock tribe did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

North Dakota saw a massive surge in coronavirus cases in November, according to data released by the state's health department. The state saw a reprieve in December, and North Dakota has close to a 3 percent positivity rate, according to the department's coronavirus dash board. 

South Dakota similarly saw a surge in cases in November, but infections have since gone down, according to the state's coronavirus dash board.