COVID-19 in Indian Country, April 12th, 2020.

There is plenty of news coverage of the Coronavirus Pandemic, but information on how the outbreak is affecting native peoples is harder to find. I know that many of my students are interested in this most important story, so perhaps yours will, too. I will post the stories I find to the blog as frequently as my other duties permit.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has been bringing attention to her state’s struggle against the outbreak, pointing out that the state faces a unique challenge. On CNN Sunday, she said that 25% of the state’s COVID-19 cases are Native American. “Some of these areas, particularly in Navajo nation, you’re in a situation where you’ve got folks living without access to water and electricity and this creates unique challenges.” Governor Lujan Grisham is one of the few public elected officials to bring up racial disparities in coronavirus cases with reference to native peoples. The Arizona Department of Health Services has pointed out similar figures. 4.6 of Arizonans are American Indian or Alaska Native, according to the Census Bureau, but “Native Americans make up 16% of those who have died from COVID-19, among the cases for which race and ethnicity are known.” Governor Lujan Grisham said on CNN that “We’re looking at a regional strategy to support the leadership at the Navajo Nation between Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.” Efforts so far, she said, include setting up field hospitals and triage centers, and delivering food through the National Guard. More on the figures from Arizona and the Navajo Nation can be found here, here, here, and here.

The New York Times has begun to look at factors related to ethnicity, race, and class that intersect with pandemic mortality. Meanwhile, National Geographic reported on the first coronavirus deaths in the Amazon. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, while pointing out that people of color were not biologically or genetically prone to infection, said, according to a piece in Yahoo Finance, that “known health predispositions that have dogged black, Latino and Native American populations historically,” like “asthma, high blood pressure and obesity all exacerbate COVID-19’s effects.”

There is plenty of bad news. But as historians who study Native American history know, native peoples have always reacted creatively in the face of epidemic disease. An AP story over the weekend shows how “Native Americans across the u.S. are organizing online and social-distancing powwows and posting videos of dances as a way to offer hope and spiritual support during the coronavirus pandemic.” You can read about it here.

That’s all for today. Stay safe, everybody, and stay home.

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