Huy Gives $10,500 in COVID Relief to Indigenous Prisoners

Mar 22nd, 2021

Today, Huy announced in a letter to Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) leadership that it is giving $500 to each of the DOC’s 21 Indigenous Circles for “group medicines, beading materials, or whatever else our relatives need to endure the pandemic until they can return to sweat lodge and other group ceremony.”

The letter follows a letter from the ACLU of Washington, Huy, and Indigenous rights law firm Galanda Broadman, demanding that the DOC lessen COVID-related restrictions on Indigenous group worship as quickly as possible.

Huy also urges “the DOC to enhance Indigenous religious programming beyond what was made available pre-COVID, for example, by increasing contract funding and causing sacred medicine gardens to be planted statewide.” In a related email, Huy asks “for a greater agency commitment to Indigenous religious freedoms than ever before.”

Huy’s letter today reads in pertinent part:

As you know, our incarcerated Indigenous relatives have endured this pandemic with little to no opportunity for group worship. They have not been allowed to cope, or grieve, or mourn the trauma caused by COVID-19, including death and illness in their Indigenous families and communities.  On March 12, 2021, we joined with the ACLU of Washington and Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in “request that Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) modify current restrictions on Native American religious ceremony” and  “provide for immediate access to Native American religious expression, including sweat lodge, smudging, talking circles, drum ceremony, and pipe ceremony, with the least restrictive COVID-19 precautions necessary.”  Huy has otherwise asked the DOC to enhance Indigenous religious programming beyond what was made available pre-COVID, for example, by increasing contract funding and causing sacred medicine gardens to be planted statewide. As the DOC considers those requests, this week Huy will be disbursing $10,500 to our 21 Indigenous Circles.  The $500 each Circle will receive can be used for group medicines, beading materials, or whatever else our relatives need to endure the pandemic until they can return to sweat lodge and other group ceremony.  We are prepared to also fund summer pow wow celebrations if they are allowed this year.