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Suquamish Tribe opens vaccine clinic to North Kitsap School District teachers and staff

The Suquamish Tribe vaccinated tribal elders and critical workers and is now partnering with the school district to get educators the COVID-19 vaccine.

SUQUAMISH, Wash. — The Suquamish Tribe is opening its COVID-19 vaccine clinic to teachers in the North Kitsap School District. 

Washington's focus on equity brought the vaccine to the tribe. After the Suquamish Tribe vaccinated tribal elders and critical workers, they offered the vaccine to another critical group: teachers. 

"Suquamish Tribe has been here, of course, for thousands of years,” said Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman.

The tribe has been through it all: loss of land, treaties, diseases like smallpox and typhoid — and COVID-19 is no exception.

“There’s a lot of impacts that have occurred to the tribe, as a result of this, that are still being measured. Of course, the economic impacts have been grave,” Forsman said. "It also has had a critical impact on us culturally and spiritually. The fact that we've had to cancel or postpone ceremonies, public meetings, funerals that are so important to our cultural and spiritual health. We really need to try to restore some of that,”

After vaccinating tribal elders and critical workers, it was time to expand. 

“We share our reservation with a lot of Washingtonians, so we wanted to reach out to those other groups, because it’s good for our health and it’s also good for the health of our area and our region,” he explained.

The tribe partnered with the North Kitsap School District.

"Education is such an important part of our health and welfare,” Forsman said.

"This is the best day I've had at work in over a year,” said North Kitsap School District Superintendent Laurynn Evans.

Evans watched 200 of her teachers and staff get the shot Wednesday after months of stress and worry.

"It's hard not to get emotional knowing that we've had this opportunity for our whole staff. Watching teachers come through his morning to get the vaccine, I've seen everything from shouts of joy, to tears, to expressions of gratitude for the tribe,” she told KING 5.

All those emotions were felt by kindergarten teacher Allison Bruschetto.

"I'm just really thankful and grateful, grateful to my district, grateful to my school and grateful to the tribe… so grateful,” she said. "This was just like, the weight got lifted off of our shoulders as teachers and educators."

Forsman said the clinic is a step toward healing his community, "This is super critical to us, being able to create a healthy platform for us going forward."

In three weeks, 600 North Kitsap School District teachers and staff will be vaccinated through the clinic.

The school district plans to have all grades back to a hybrid learning model on March 22, 2021.