WHITERIVER — The show must go on and it did on Christmas Day. White Mountain Apache Tribal (WMAT) Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood and co-host Jerry Gloshay, Jr., chief of staff, provided tribal updates on Lee-Gatewood’s weekly Facebook show.

Starting off with a bit of Christmas trivia, Gloshay said that in 2009 the WMAT provided the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. He attended the ceremony and the Crown Dancers performed.

Lee-Gatewood said that was not the only tree WMAT provided. A tree from Christmas Lake also went to the nation’s capitol as a gift from the Tribe in 1965.

Recognizing veterans and current military, Lee-Gatewood’s office will be hosting a free appreciation luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 29, at Hon-Dah Resort – Casino Conference Center. The luncheon allows for attendees to bring one guest with them any time between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The Tribe is providing transportation for any veteran or active military who needs a ride to and from the event. They can meet at the American Legion building in Whiteriver and Victor Velasquez, executive director of WMAT Housing Authority, will take them to Hon-Dah beginning at 10:30 a.m. Anyone from Cibecue who needs a ride should contact the executive office for arrangements. COVID-19 guidelines are in place for the event.

Lee-Gatewood said she drove by Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center this week and there was a sign stating the hospital is over capacity. She said that currently the Tribe is at 112 active positive cases and has now reached 59 deaths from COVID-19.

“We had a call with our Indian Health Service (IHS) that encouraged Tribal leadership to please continue advocating for vaccines. We need to get people vaccinated. When they fly our Tribal members out from Whiteriver they are looking for beds, for an open space, and our Tribal members are being flown as far away as Nevada, California and New Mexico. I understand one was Texas now. My goodness, it is really a challenge. It takes all of us now to stand in solidarity with our people to fight against COVID-19.”

Lee-Gatewood said that she took some personal time off this last week and that she is proud and humbled that wherever she went she saw Tribal members being careful and were masked and following protocols.

The Tribal holiday work schedule is in effect and workers are scheduled to work a half day on Thursday, Dec. 30 and will be off on Friday, Dec. 31.

Lee-Gatewood said that employees of Freeport-McMoRan, a mining company based out of Phoenix, adopted WMAT kids and elders for Christmas.

The show played a video of the Head Start group who came and sang Christmas carols to the executive office. The Christmas show concluded with a 15 minute video of various individuals from around the country who wished the WMAT seasonal greetings.

The videos can be seen, along with the entire broadcast, at https://www.facebook.com/cotwmat/videos.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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