AIPI COVID-19 Update April 3, 2020
The Trump administration revoked the reservation status of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts last Friday. The Interior Department's order removes the 321 acres of land out of trust status, abolishing the Tribe’s ability to govern on its land. This process has been done only one other time since the Termination Era of the 1950s and 60s. Of course, Indian Country took note of the timing of this decision, as reservations shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some worry it could signal what’s to come for other tribes. Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey said they will fight against the administration’s decision. “These are our lands, these are the lands of our ancestors, and these will be the lands of our grandchildren,” said Cedric Cromwell, chair of the Mashpee Wampanoag.
eSupply Canada Ltd., an Indigenous online supplies company, will offer office supplies at cost to staff who are working at home during the pandemic. The company, founded in February, provides office, janitorial and industrial supplies specifically to Indigenous communities and businesses operating in tribal territories as well as First Nation governments. By offering supplies at cost, eSupply Canada will save Indigenous peoples across Canada valuable money while offering an important service through these challenging times.
Two weeks after the Navajo Nation reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 17, there have been at least 213 others who tested positive and seven deaths in Navajo communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Overwhelmed by the spread of the disease and in the best interest of their peoples, tribal leadership secured the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Arizona National Guard, which set up a 50-bed medical facility in Chinle, where staffing remains inadequate. In addition to Chinle, the National Guard flew in two Blackhawk helicopters to Kayenta to distribute 300 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, gowns and masks. The guard also deployed a medical go-team to Tuba City where medical aid and PPE are essential at an understaffed IHS facility. "This is a war on this virus," Arizona National Guard spokesman Maj. Aaron Thacker added. "We plan on doing more and more for the Navajo Nation. We just need to make sure we have provided them the essential resources." While Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez welcomes any assistance, he notes "we shouldn't be the last to get equipment. We are the first citizens of this country, our nation. And we just got to remind our federal partners out there that we are still here and we're resilient and we'll overcome this."
Despite the growing number of positive tests, the Navajo Nation is standing strong together in the face of adversity. A group of Navajo women, spearheaded by Ethel Branch, former attorney general for the Nation, created the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, and started a GoFundMe page. The Fund has already raised more than $300,000 as Branch and her friends have recruited “a small army of volunteers” to coordinate a full-scale emergency response to distribute crucial supplies to needy families across the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation. Households in need are able to register for help online or by calling a call center volunteer who records how much food they have left, allergies, and medical needs in order to prioritize orders. Hundreds of care packages – containing core items such as flour, beans, rice, canned soups, dried meat, fever and cough medicine, as well as fresh vegetables, fruit and meat when available, have already been delivered to elders caring for grandchildren and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Even in the hardest hit areas of Indian Country, stories of resilience shine through. “It warms the heart,” said Daniel Tso, former tribal council delegate.
Other online resources available
Indian Country Today’s COVID-19 Syllabus for the latest updates on the virus