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Inside Navajo Nation's Fight Against Coronavirus

Johnnie Henry, president of the Navajo Nation's Church Rock chapter house community center, hauls drinking water to neighbors in Gallup, N.M., Thursday, May 7, 2020. Henry says that a lockdown at Gallup in response to the spread of the coronavirus came as a suprise to many Navajo Nation residents who depend on Gallup for supplies they can't access. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Johnnie Henry, president of the Navajo Nation's Church Rock chapter house community center, hauls drinking water to neighbors in Gallup, N.M., Thursday, May 7, 2020. Henry says that a lockdown at Gallup in response to the spread of the coronavirus came as a suprise to many Navajo Nation residents who depend on Gallup for supplies they can't access. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

Native American communities have been hit hard by the pandemic. We hear how they’re responding.

Guests

Dr. Michelle Tom, family practice physician currently working in two small ERs in Winslow, Arizona. She serves the entire southern region of Navajo Nation (roughly 17,000 people). ( @drmichelletom)

Krista Allen, Western Agency reporter at the Navajo Times. ( @navajotimes)

Tyrone Whitehorse, co-founder of Protect Native Elders, a Native community-focused charitable organization. ( @EldersNative)

From The Reading List

Navajo Times: “ Pipeline goes to waste as Dzil Libei residents need water” — “The defunct Black Mesa coal slurry pipeline runs through Andy Manychildren’s front yard in Dził Łibéí, where residents say it could easily be converted into a water pipeline.”

Insider: “ I’m a member of the Navajo Nation, and my people are dying from the coronavirus. We’re facing the virus head-on with limited access to healthcare and supplies.” — “My name is Tyrone Whitehorse, and I am a member of the Diné Nation, or Navajo Nation from Lechee, Arizona.”

The Guardian: “ Native Americans being left out of US coronavirus data and labelled as ‘other’” — “Native Americans are being left out of demographic data on the impact of the coronavirus across the US, raising fears of hidden health emergencies in one of the country’s most vulnerable populations.”

The Economist: “ How the pandemic threatens Native Americans—and their languages” — “The Spokane people have an unusual way of saying “he got sick”: in their form of the Salish language it translates literally as “he was greeted by an illness”, using the ordinary verb for one person greeting another. In Spokane culture, illnesses are considered entities, like animals or humans. Though they may be enemies, they are to be treated with respect, not fear.”

Navajo Times: “ Virus strikes at rally: Chilchinbeto church gathering may be source of outbreak” — “A church gathering here earlier this month may be linked to a dozen confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least two deaths.”

Columbia Journalism Review: “ The crisis in covering Indian Country” — “When Senator Elizabeth Warren remarked during a recent campaign event that Native Americans should be “part of the conversation” about proposed reparations, her quote quickly ascended a benighted editorial chain, generating national headlines. In doing so, it also cast light on how poorly politicians and journalists in the US understand matters significant to Indian Country.”

Science Friday: “ The Many Ways COVID-19 Exacerbates Pre-existing Inequality” — “Coronavirus is still hitting the U.S. hard. And breaking down infections by race shows a striking pattern: Black, Latino, and Native American people are hit much harder than other communities.”

Columbia Journalism Review: “ Indian Country: Behind the monolith” — “As COVID-19 death rates in some native communities soar, and federal care package payments to Indigenous tribes lag behind those to state and municipal governments, why does the US trail so far behind other colonizing countries in its news coverage of its first peoples?”

WUWM: “ How History Affects Indigenous Nations’ Response To The Coronavirus” — “We recently covered how the Oneida Nation Wisconsin is turning to indigenous agricultural practices to put food on the table during the coronavirus pandemic. But how did that resilient, self-reliant attitude become such a hallmark of American Indian life?”

The Conversation: “ Tribal leaders face great need and don’t have enough resources to respond to the coronavirus pandemic” — “The coronavirus is hitting American Indians and Alaska Natives hard. Tribal citizens are dying, Indian nations have closed casinos to protect the public, and powwows and traditional gatherings have been canceled.”

High Country News: “ COVID-19 impacts every corner of the Navajo Nation” — “Lucinda Charleston’s children reminded her that she wasn’t young anymore. But despite their worry, she assembled an emergency public health team to tackle the Navajo Nation’s first coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic hit Chilchinbeto, a small town in the northeastern corner of Arizona, in mid-March.”

New York Times: “ A Life on and Off the Navajo Nation” — “I was born in the Navajo Nation and raised half on and half off the reservation. Shuttling between my grandmother’s ranch in Black Mesa, Ariz., and the small border town of Winslow, I took note from an early age of the vast inequities between those two places.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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