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One Year After First Death, Cherokee Nation Remembers Citizens Killed By COVID-19

Cherokee Nation

The first confirmed COVID-19 death in Oklahoma -- that of 55-year-old Tulsa pastor Merle Dry -- was reported on March 18, 2020. 

A Cherokee citizen, Dry was remembered along with 106 other Cherokees known to have been killed by the virus at a Thursday ceremony in Tahlequah exactly one year after he became the first fatality.

"The calendar and, certainly, the temperature remind us that it is still winter, and in some ways it feels like it's been a long and cold and lonely winter for the last 365 days," Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. 

"But my fellow Cherokees, spring is just a few days off. A time of renewal. The cold is giving way to warmth, the loneliness is yielding to that Cherokee spirit of community," Hoskin said.

Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner offered a scriptural message, invoking John 13:14 -- "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet."

"We must wrap everything in love, that we do. Let us remember today those who passed from this earth, and let us honor them by extending the grace and mercy that our Creator extends to each and every one of us," Warner said.

Cherokee spiritual leader Crosslin Smith also offered prayer, and the Cherokee National Youth Choir performed the hymn "Amazing Grace" in the Cherokee language to close the ceremony.

Cherokee Nation streamed the event via Facebook Live and encouraged friends and family to share memories of lost loved ones in the comments.

"Becky McKey, wonderful mother, grandmother, great grandmother. She is missed every day," one commenter wrote.

"In loving memory of my dad, Phil "Ned" Blossom. Love and miss you," another wrote.

"May their memory burn bright in your heart," someone wrote.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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