Fighting the Navajo Nation pandemic – the Prospector
Many families in the United States have faced hardships and struggles over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the citizens of the United States worry about their health, they at least have a better chance of surviving the virus, unlike the native population that makes up the Navajo Nation.
This indigenous nation wasn’t as much discussed as New York, but it was the hardest-hit community in all of America, mostly due to lack of resources and other cultural factors. The Navajo Nation is located in the southwestern region of the United States; it is home to a population of approximately 175,000 indigenous people. Over 28,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported and the virus has claimed the lives of over 1,000 people. In comparison, New York’s infection rate is 1.9% of the total population, while the Navajo Nation’s infection rate is 3.4% of the total population.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez attributed several cultural factors such as people living in multigenerational homes and reunions between clan families as key factors in the spread of the virus.
“Clans gathered from all over the Navajo nation, were infected, then returned home where they then spread like wildfire among small, tight-knit rural communities,” Nez said.
Sriram Shamasunder, associate professor at the University of California at San Francisco, has assisted Navajo Nation through the HEAL (Health, Equity, Action, and Leadership) initiative, an organization whose mission is to help underserved communities with health services. Shamasunder recognized the lack of proper infrastructure and other public services as another major factor in the pandemic.
“I would say that a third of the population has no electricity or running water,” Shamasunder said. “This means that while ‘refuge in place’ may be an inconvenience for us, for many Native Americans it is an impossibility.”
Nez also agrees with this, stating: “It is evident that the US healthcare system was not equipped to deal with a pandemic like COVID-19, but this is even more the case in tribal communities. .
The United States federal government has also refused to lend the necessary funds to fight the virus. The Navajo Nation has barely seen 60% of the total economic funds pledged so far, and it took legal battles and public pressure for the nation to see that amount of money.
“Contact your congressman and your senator and tell them there has to be a better relationship between the federal government and the tribes,” Nez said.
Despite all these setbacks and the lack of help, Nez remains optimistic as the young tribesmen regard their elders as sacred and want to help bend the numbers. Navajo Nation has also had some of the strictest lockdown orders and has a strict mask mandate. So far, these strict orders and warrants have worked well as they have helped reduce the number of COVID-19 cases reported daily. Thanks to these issues, the tribe continues to persevere and fight the virus as best they can.
An organization at UTEP called ARISE has worked to educate indigenous communities and how underserved they are. It aims to help the Navajo Nation and other Indigenous communities by donating to them during these times.
“I would say something interesting is the increased awareness of the nature of reservations. More than ever, people have asked me about the Navajo Nation because, on national television, how the communities were affected, it was the first time that many people saw the reserve as it is. is, ”he added. RISE, Cheyanne, said.
Students attending university can contact ARISE to help its cause.
“People were shocked at the lack of plumbing, electricity, etc.,” Cheyanne said. “So this whole mess has hopefully put into perspective the situation many aboriginal people face, but the memories are short, so I don’t know how long that impact will last.”
Anthony Pina is a guest columnist studying digital media production at UTEP and can be reached at [email protected].