This month, we celebrate the resilience of all those who live with mental illness and those who have passed on after battling mental illness. Among other mental health concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to increase stress and depression. I am a Two-Spirit person living with bipolar and anxiety. I have acutely experienced the impact of the pandemic.
During this year's Native American Heritage Month, Tribal leaders and high-level White House Officials constructed discourse with respect to issues important in Indian Country. The 2021 Tribal Nations Summit (the Summit), hosted by the White House, was held on November 15th and 16th. This is the first time the Summit has taken place since 2016.
Indian Country has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, largely due to existing inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. Inadequate healthcare, a lack of housing, and underdeveloped infrastructure increased the severity of COVID-19 in Tribal communities. This resulted in an infection rate four times higher, and tragically, mortality rates twice that of other populations. The pandemic’s disproportionate impact emphasizes the importance of addressing underlying systemic inequality as the threat of COVID-19 slowly dissipates and we attempt a return to a ‘new normal’.
In the fight against COVID-19, tribal nations face many of the same health, education, and economic public policy challenges as non-Native state and local governments. However, they are further hindered by an obstacle course of red tape and administrative misapplications from the federal government that prevents tribes from fully utilizing their sovereign authority and hamper their pandemic defense and recovery strategies. This is an area that some U.S. representatives feel deserves the full attention of Congress and the Administration.
A new bill announced today by the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus would give tribes emergency authority of broadband spectrum over their lands, in an effort to greatly increase internet access for tribal nations grappling with COVID-19 pandemic response.
As the school year comes to a close and we all begin another month in some stage of quarantine, it is hard to believe how much our world has changed. And yet, some things haven’t changed; rather long-standing disparities are only just now coming to the forefront of public attention.
Image Credit: Pueblo of Pojoaque website
As the world grapples with the realities of living in a new normal, tribal governments are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with agile governance and innovative management practices in ways that often pay homage to centuries of wisdom and cultural teachings.
Indian Country’s resilience was on display again last week. Despite uniquely adverse times, state and tribal governments and partners alike continue to find ways to donate money and resources to those in need. Many of these stories are highlighted below, along with opportunities to contribute, if you are able.
Tribal governments throughout Indian Country continue to generously donate supplies and resources to aid their communities through the challenges presented by COVID-19. Today, we are happy to bring you many examples of this generosity in the face of adversity. If you would like to join donation efforts, more opportunities to contribute are included below.