An original essay: COVID-19 has changed my life in many ways

Beth Roy 'Voices' image with template

My name is Renita “Beth” Roy. I am 49 years old and an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. I have lived here on the Red Lake Reservation all my life.

I have 5 adult children, 3 sons and 2 daughters. I have 19 grandchildren and one to be born within the next couple days. I love my family with all of my heart and will continue to do anything I can for all of them.

My mother passed away almost three years ago. My father, Larry, resides in the nursing home here in Red Lake. I have four sisters and three brothers. I lost my youngest sister, Brittany Roy, in November 2019. A victim of domestic violence, she was murdered by her boyfriend.

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A sign outside the Red Lake Indian Health Service Hospital urges visitors to be protect the Red Lake Reservation. Photo submitted by Beth Roy


I am a recovering heroin addict now in recovery and am very proud to say that I’m in the eighth month of sobriety. With a lot of hard work and determination, I will continue to walk the Red Road.

COVID-19 has changed my life in many ways. Being Native American and living here on the Reservation makes us no different. COVID-19 does not discriminate, and we are able to catch this sickness like any other. On Jan. 22, 2020, I made the most important decision of my life.

I was finally sick and tired of being “sick and tired.”

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A sign guides visitors to a COVID-19 testing site on the Red Lake Reservation. Photo submitted by Beth Roy

I needed and asked for help, left for treatment at the Transformation House in Anoka, Minn. I completed and graduated from my program after 60 days.

It was while I was there, I heard about the coronavirus on all the headlining news. I remember sitting there talking about it, and how I was sure it would never make its way to Minnesota.

But here we are, almost eight months later. How many people have we lost to this virus and pandemic?


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A sign points visitors to a COVID-19 testing location on the Red Lake Reservation. Photo submitted by Beth Roy

I made it back home on March 9, 2020. There were just a few cases in the Minneapolis area then, with one being in Anoka County. The county I was in while in treatment.

The tribal programs and schools were all running, my neighbors, family and friends were all living their lives under “normal” circumstances.

After about three weeks later, and the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Minnesota, everything started to change. Our area schools and tribal programs were shutting down. Our Red Lake Tribal Chairman declared “Medical Martial Law.” All four of our reservation communities now had a curfew and confined to our homes/yards from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.

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Vehicles lined up at a drive-in COVID-19 testing site on the Red Lake Reservation. Photo submitted by Beth Roy

We now have a border patrol; all areas were blocked off at these checkpoints. Tribal members living on the reservation are only allowed through these checkpoints. Also, non-members who are employed and considered essential workers are also allowed to come onto the Reservation daily; they must provide documentation upon request at checkpoints/border patrol.


I have been very pleased with our border patrol workers who are doing all they can do to keep our members and communities safe by checking every vehicle that enters the Reservation. They are doing a great job.

The Reservation had zero cases of COVID up until about a month ago, that is when we started hearing of positive COVID cases here on the Reservation in our four communities.

I continue to practice social distancing, wearing my mask, washing my hands, and to clean/sanitize my home and workplace every day. I have been tested twice for COVID and both tests came back negative.

Although I had no symptoms of being ill, I still wanted to be tested.

The Reservation health workers have had testing at our Redby site and was given a $15 gift card to be used at our Red Lake Trading Post or Ponemah Market as an incentive for getting our COVID test.

I continue to go to work at the Gitigaanike Garden in Redby. I always wear my mask and social distance myself. The one thing that hurts me the most is not being able to physically see my dad or be able to visit my second oldest son who is incarcerated. To not be able to see my family every day breaks my heart.

I’m sad and lonesome. I’m starting to feel depressed and have some anxiety issues also going on. I have reached out for help with my mental health.

I’m struggling right now, emotionally.


I was able to connect with the “Ombimindwaa” Program and have since talked with a lady/worker who I’m talking with via Zoom session since we are unable to meet in person. I also would like to find out of any advocate meetings so I can continue my sobriety.

I need some support for myself and ways I can better deal with the issues I have going on right now in my life. I need to set some boundaries that are healthy.

I smudge daily using “The four sacred Medicines” — Asemma (tobacco), Giizhik (cedar), Wiingashk (sweetgrass), and Bashkodejiibik (sage).

I offer my tobacco/Asemaa daily to thank the creator for another day here on Mother Earth.

I use the cedar/Giizhik for cleansing of the body.

I use sweetgrass/Wiingashk for purification of the spirit. It is the sacred hair of Mother Earth. The sweet aroma reminds people of the gentleness, love and kindness she has for the people. When people pick it and braid it in three strands representing love, kindness and honesty.

Sage/Baashkodejiibik has physical healing properties. It helps for releasing what is troubling the mind and to remove negative energy.

All of these sacred medicines we use as Native people in our traditional ways, I call it my “Healing Bundle.” I will continue to say my prayers and offer my tobacco/Asemaa every day that we stay safe from this virus that has affected so many around the world.


I pray every day that this COVID-19 goes away, and we can all go back to living normal again. So many changes, and so many adjustments we have all had to make and live by.

Let’s all continue to do our part every day to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Everyone mask up, practice social distancing, and keep our hands clean. Let’s do all we can to stop this COVID-19 from any more damage that it has done to us.

I will continue to pray for everyone that we all stay safe, everyone in the hospital, and for the families that have lost loved ones.

Indigenous Voices

This video is part of the "Voices" portion of the "Indiginous Impacts" project. "Voices" features Native American community members as they discuss and write about personal and social effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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