Racist policies have led to COVID-19 being more dangerous and deadly for Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous Americans than for white Americans.
When Kevin Kickingwoman, a teacher who lives in Browning, Montana, checked in to the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Great Falls, Montana, Tuesday evening, an employee at the desk allegedly told him the hotel does not serve people from Browning due to the Blackfeet Nation’s stay-at-home directive due to coronavirus.
Kevin planned to get back surgery in Great Falls, which is two hours from Browning, early Wednesday, and his daughter and her mother, who live in Missoula, Montana, which is close to three hours from Great Falls, met him at the hotel.
Kevin’s daughter, Sharen, 26, took to Twitter after the incident.
“How come they will still serve people from Missoula? We have high covid numbers, (expletive) every where across the state has high numbers at this point. Sounds like some racist picking and choosing.. is this your policy, Wingate Hotels?” she tweeted Tuesday evening.
Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Great Falls (Photo: NORA MABIE/TRIBUNE PHOTO)
Larry Gooldy, general manager of the hotel, said the hotel does not accept guests from any state that has a COVID-19 lockdown. The Blackfeet Nation’s stay-at-home order, which was recently extended through Nov. 8, exempts certain activities, including leaving the reservation to obtain medical services and groceries, and nowhere in the order does the tribe ask businesses located off the reservation to enforce its directive.
Gooldy told the Great Falls Tribune, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, if guests are from Browning, which is the headquarters for the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, they must present either a verified doctor’s note, with their name and date of visit, or a document from the Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command, saying the person is allowed to leave the reservation.
Gooldy said guests have shown him such travel permits, but the tribe’s public information officer Jim McNeely said that is untrue and those forms do not exist.
The Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command (Photo: BLACKFEET COVID-19 INCIDENT COMMAND)
“The Blackfeet Tribe is currently looking into this matter and will keep the public updated,” McNeely said in a statement Wednesday.
Gooldy said his policy applies to all states with COVID-19 quarantine orders.
“Anytime that there’s a lockdown in the United States from any location, we post it up here, and they don’t get a stay,” Gooldy said. “Like we had California guests in here when their state was in lockdown initially. And they didn’t get to stay here at the Wingate in Great Falls. But I wasn’t called a racist either.”
When the Kickingwoman family explained Kevin was getting surgery the next day, Sharen said the employee asked for proof, so Kevin emailed the manager a doctor’s note. Gooldy said the doctor’s note did not have the patient’s name or time of visit, but that his employee alerted him of the situation and checked them in.
The family checked in to the hotel for about