Stories of Resilience from Indian Country, Volume 8

As a result of the ongoing pandemic and the public health recommendations that come with it, ASU celebrated its Spring 2020 graduates in a virtual, online ceremony the week of May 11. Among those celebrated were many American Indian scholars who received this letter of congratulations from Laura Gonzales-Macias, American Indian Student Support Services Interim Director, and Bryan Brayboy, Special Advisor to the President on American Indian Affairs. Well done graduates, we’re excited to see all that you will accomplish! 

While the Navajo Nation remains a hotspot for the virus, donations continue to pour in from local, national, and international sources. The Phoenix Indian Center coordinated a relief drive with the Navajo Nation’s command center to deliver three trailers full of materials to Window Rock last weekend. The packed semi-trailers carried food and water, hay and chickens, personal protective equipment, and baby care items. Also mentioned in the article is Bruce Plummer, an Assiniboine minister who is a citizen of the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana. Bruce, with the help of some friends and colleagues, gathered up 30,000 pounds of water and 12,000 pounds of food, which they trucked down to White Mesa (UT) in a convoy. From there, the group delivered the supplies to more than 160 families in need. Further, the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix is organizing its own relief drive for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, with a donation drop-off opportunity scheduled for this weekend. A list of items needed can be found here

Earlier this week, the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund surpassed $4 million raised. There are now nearly 75,000 unique donors to the fund, as individuals rally behind the Nation and Tribe. On Monday, the Korean War Commemoration Committee of South Korea announced plans to deliver 10,000 face masks and other health protective equipment to members of the Navajo Nation. This donation is in remembrance of the Navajo men who fought in the Korean war seven decades ago. A few weeks ago, we shared information about a virtual run sponsored by Kahtoola which planned to raise funds for the Havasupai Tribe. Now completed, the event raised $25,000 from more than 600 donors, with participants from 23 different states taking part in the run. All money raised went to the Havasupai Tribe COVID-19 Relief Fund

In Minnesota, a Native-owned farm is expanding to grow culturally-specific traditional foods and teach Native youth about agriculture and nutrition. Dream of Wild Health is tripling its land as part of a broader movement in Minnesota’s American Indian community to combat health issues and promote healthy indigenous foods and food sovereignty. The nonprofit believes the new farmland will help meet the growing needs of local families as the pandemic continues. 

Image credit: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune 

In Louisiana, the United Houma Nation received a much appreciated donation from Procter and Gamble this week. The company, known for its many household products, donated a large semi-truck full of supplies as part of an initiative with local ministries. In New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories donated $250,000 to the many Pueblos in the state, as well as the Navajo Nation. The company raised the money in less than two weeks, with employees contributing more than $120,000 within the first two days. 

The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe of California displayed their generosity this week by donating 500 sheet sets and 70 pillows to local homeless shelters. Additionally, the Tribe has provided over 4,000 meals to help feed the homeless staying at the shelters, according to Rancheria officials. “The tribe values giving to the community and helping in ways we can during this challenging time - we all must pull together,” Arla Ramsey, the Tribe’s vice-chairperson, said. 

In Montana, a new public health advocacy organization is targeting the needs of rural and Native communities responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cora Neumann, a public health expert who ran for U.S. Senate earlier this year, launched the nonprofit. We Are Montana will serve as a public health information and training hub for rural and Native communities in the state. In addition to working with local public health leaders, the nonprofit partnered with Native-led organizations to start a COVID-19 relief fund with the goal of raising $50,000 to help tribal nations in Montana meet immediate needs and acquire supplies. 

Weeks ago, we highlighted the Social Distance Powwow Facebook group for its efforts to spread culture, tradition, and dance through the online forum. Now, as the group takes on a life of its own, a new online trend is encouraging people to share their photos and stories of sobriety. Uplifting stories populate the page daily as more Natives share their struggles and triumphs, emphasizing their own resiliency in the process.