COVID-19 in Indian Country, 17 April 2020

COVID-19 in Indian Country, 17 April 2020

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country, the damages the Coronavirus does in Native American communities is getting more attention. Senator Tom Udall’s denunciation of federal incompetence in dealing with tribes and tribal governments was picked up by Huffington Post. The Democratic senator from New Mexico pointed out that the Treasury Department “is not familiar with tribes,” and that it does not “know how to interact in the appropriate way with tribes and they’re not getting the job done.” Similar complaints have been made by Oregon senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.

The crisis at Navajo Nation continues to grab attention. As the New Mexico Republican reported on Wednesday, “while states on both coasts are forming regional alliances to coordinate the eventual reopening of their economies, New Mexico is working on a different type of pact,” a joint effort with neighboring states and the Indian Health Service “to address the impact of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation.” New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham said on Wednesday that the state had 1484 cases, and half of its new case “were in the northwestern New Mexico’s McKinley and San Juan counties, which have high Native American populations.” Native Americans make up more than a third of New Mexico’s COVID cases.

Prairie Public Radio out of North Dakota has looked at the spread of the Coronavirus among that state’s Native American population. It will take you less than two minutes to listen to the story. On the problem of the invisibility of native peoples in too many discussions about how to combat and treat Coronavirus, check this story out. it includes information on philanthropic groups committed to fighting COVID 19 in Indian Country.

My students learn relatively little about Alaska Native Corporations. A story in the Anchorage Daily News explains how tribes in the Lower 48 have expressed anger that some of the CARES Act funds will be shared with Alaska natives. President Trump’s head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tara Sweeney, according to Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association head Harold Frazier, “has lost the confidence of Indian tribes. Charged with a large public trust, she unfairly sought to divert emergency Tribal Government resouces to state-chartered for-profit corporations owned by Alaska Native shareholders, including her and her family.” Sweeney, the letter continues, “seeks to deny the very existence of Indian country.”

If you want to follow this story, you should be sure to follow High Country News, the Indian Country Today media network, and the coverage on CBC Indigenous.

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