Singer and drummer James Hernandez, who is Cree and Shoshone, is a member of the Big Wind Singers. (Mike Vanata)

With so many people hunkered down, working from home, avoiding travel and abstaining from public places, it’s hard to gain a sense of what’s really going on in the suddenly distant world around us.  

These three short videos — from the Wind River Indian Reservation, Jackson and Laramie — offer windows into other Wyomingites’ experiences of social distancing and how they’re coping with a pandemic.  

Healing song 

James Hernandez, who is a drummer and singer with the group Big Wind Singers, offers a song of healing from his bedroom on the Wind River Indian Reservation, where efforts are underway to protect the population — many of whom have underlying health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to COVID-19 infection — from being badly hit.

Hernandez says he misses getting together with his drumming group, but understands the need for social distancing.

“I miss being able to go practice somewhere, getting together with them and singing with them at different events,” Hernandez said.

There were 10 confirmed cases on the reservation as of April 2, according to Fremont County’s Incident Management Team. The Wind River Inter-Tribal Council, which represents the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, issued a temporary stay-at-home order for tribal members on the reservation. “Our message is simple: Help us save lives,” Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Lee Spoonhunter said. “Please stay home.”

Modern-day ghost town 

Jackson and Teton County have had Wyoming’s other stay-at-home ordinances and orders. The latest, which replaces some earlier versions, limits in-home gatherings to residents of a household and lists six activities, from food shopping to securing medical supplies to exercise, as activities that residents may do. 

Photographer Angus Thuermer took this video in the middle of the intersection of Broadway and Cache Drive in downtown Jackson on the evening of March 28. 

The crossroads at Jackson’s famous Town Square would normally be jammed with traffic from skiers, commuting workers and a surge of late-season visitors on spring break.

Cabin Fever sessions 

Performing artists whose work halted immediately were among the first economic casualties of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

With no options for live shows or the income they would bring, a group of artists in Laramie mobilized to create a series of virtual concerts. Cabin Fever Sessions were born. 

The first session, filmed in Laramie’s empty Griffin Theater and streamed online, featured members of Country Skillet including Shawn Hess, who talks about how his livelihood has been affected and performs a ditty in this short clip. 

Along with offering musicians a chance to perform, Cabin Fever Sessions afford fans some sonic distraction and a way to tip their favorite musicians. 

“We wanted to create an area where artists can perform and be able to make some money during these hard economic times,” said photographer and filmmaker Mike Vanata, one of the creators. 

The concerts will be aired every Friday at 5 p.m. on the YouTube channels Western AF and GemsOnVHS. 

Mike Vanata contributed reporting to this piece. 

Support community journalism during trying times — donate today.

Katie Klingsporn

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

Leave a comment

Want to join the discussion? Fantastic, here are the ground rules: * Provide your full name — no pseudonyms. WyoFile stands behind everything we publish and expects commenters to do the same. * No personal attacks, profanity, discriminatory language or threats. Keep it clean, civil and on topic. *WyoFile does not fact check every comment but, when noticed, submissions containing clear misinformation, demonstrably false statements of fact or links to sites trafficking in such will not be posted. *Individual commenters are limited to three comments per story, including replies.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *