Members of the Army Reserve’s 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, accompanied by a member of the South Dakota Army National Guard, provided an open-door, free-of-charge rabies and distemper vaccination clinic at the Harry V. Johnston Lakota Cultural Center located on the Cheyenne River Lakota Indian reservation, June 13.
The vaccination clinic took place as part of a larger effort by civil affairs teams to provide animal vaccinations to any who wanted to take advantage of the service, in several Native American communities. Despite being part of the South Dakota National Guard-hosted Golden Coyote training exercise, the vaccination effort by civil affairs soldiers has real-world mission implications and far-reaching effects.
“This is the first time that I have worked with a civil affairs team like this,” said Capt. Adam Weichmann, a veterinary public health officer with the 407th Civil Affairs Battalion, 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, and resident of Arden Hills, Minn. “The effort we are making here really comes from a push from the Indian Health Services to spread awareness and vaccinations regarding the spread of rabies in domestic animals on the reservations.”
The spread of rabies throughout the Native American Reservations across South Dakota has become a problem for farmers who own livestock, businesses, and public health.
“It has been getting so bad recently that parents can not let their children walk around or play without supervision for fear of getting bit or attacked by a dog that could have rabies,” said Randolph Runs-After, a Cheyenne River Lakota Native American who calls Eagle Butte home. “There have even been stories of feral dogs that went rabid forming packs and attacking small livestock and even horses.”
Prior to opening the all-day clinic at the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation the members of the 308th CA Bde. partnered with the local officials within the Cheyenne River Lakota tribe and used flyers, social media, and radio broadcasts to spread word of their vaccination campaign and welcome the public to be part of it.
“The main goal of this mission has nothing to do with us,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chris Shriber, non-commissioned officer in charge of the civil affairs vaccination campaign and resident of Saint Clair Shores, Mich. “The overarching mission for us, as always, is to partner with the local government and its officials to find out what they need and identify problems, in this case, rabies awareness and large-scale vaccinations.”
“It is a work in progress still, there is a lot of work ahead,” said Weichmann. “However, we have had great success so far, and I would like to see more efforts like this for civil affairs as routine missions, not just part of the Golden Coyote exercise.”
Resources for helping pets on the Cheyenne River Reservation:
For a list of upcoming veterinary services clinics on the rez, click here.
And for Pine Ridge: Oglala Pet Project