Taught By Chuck Sams and Stan Thayne


COVID-19 is not the first foreign disease to impact the lives of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, and the local Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) are no exception. The last one ended in around 1860, and resulted in a nearly 90% loss of tribal membership. While often depicted as a colonial force against which Indigenous people were powerless, recent research at CTUIR suggests that many who survived in the past did so by using “social distancing” practices similar to ones used today. In this lecture we discuss CTUIR's current response to the COVID-19 pandemic in light of the memory of past pandemics experienced by CTUIR and other Indigenous peoples of the Americas.


Chuck Sams
Communications Director, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Chuck Sams serves as the communications director for the Umatilla Tribal government. He has over 20 years experience as an executive in Indian Country and beyond. He holds a bachelor's in business administration from Concordia University and is a candidate for a master's in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma.

Stan Thayne
Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics

Stan Thayne’s research and teaching focuses on contemporary Indigenous politics in North America and globally, with a particular focus on environment, religion and ethnography. He is currently working on designing collaborative courses between Whitman College and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

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COVID-19: A Liberal Arts Approach to the Study of a Global Pandemic was created in the spring of 2020 as a special one-credit course for Whitman College’s most newly admitted students, offering them an opportunity to get to know our distinguished faculty and to study a significant event in human history.