COVID-19 in Native American Communities–Report for 20 April 2020

The Reno Gazette Journal ran an interesting story on Saturday morning profiling Velda Lowery, know to her friends and neighbors as “Auntie Jen in the Reno Sparks Indian Colony. It sheds light on how the Coronavirus pandemic has caused suffering in Native American families. The story is well-worth your time.

That Tara Sweeney, President Trump’s appointee to oversee the administration’s Indian affairs, has lost whatever support she once had in the Native American community was abundantly clear this week. “Every major inter-tribal organization, representing all the regions of Indian Country in the lower 48, has joined an unprecedented letter calling on the Trump Administration to ensure an $8 billion coronavirus relief fund benefits tribal governments as intended by Congress.” At the same time, a bipartisan group of congressional representatives has lodged a similar protest. “Any attempt to divert funds provided under the CRF away from the governing bodies of federally recognized tribal nations, which include Alaska Native villages, would clearly be contrary to congressional intent.”

KTVQ in Billings, Montana, aired a report from CBS News on the “Longstanding Issues [that] put Native American Communities at High COVID-19 Risk,” which included information on the Wind River reservation in Wyoming. Menonimees and Oneidas in Wisconsin have had relatively few cases, but they are struggling to obtain test kits and personal protective gear. Both tribes have closed casinos, but the Oneidas have been forced to furlough over 1900 employees. Arizona Democratic congressman Raul Grijalva hosted a virtual roundtable with tribal leaders to gather information about the impacts of the pandemic on their communities.

INDIANZ.COM has brought together information from tribes across America as they confront the challenge of Coronavirus. It is always worth your time to read INDIANZ.COM. The All Pueblo Council of Governors along with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center has established the Pueblo Relief Fund. If you are so inclined, you can donate at The Omahas of Nebraska have criticized Governor Pete Ricketts for withdrawing an offer to assist the tribe’s efforts to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The pandemic is showing the continuing assertiveness of native nations, and how that advocacy can threaten relations with Republican lawmakers.

CBC Indigenous has a fantastic story profiling historian Brenda Child‘s research into the jingle dress dance. Women and girls across Native America have posted videos of themselves doing jingle dress dances. This healing dance has historic ties to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-9. CBC Indigenous is also airing an important story on the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan, which has declared a state of emergency in response to the spread of the disease. Some really outstanding reporting here: Check out, as well, Darren Bernhardt’s story of how an indigenous family “living in a shutdown world of COVID 19 juggles a lot–with very little.”

In news totally unrelated to the Coronavirus pandemic, Land O’Lakes butter has finally removed the stereotypical Native American woman who has graced its packaging since 1920. Non-Indians seem more upset about her disappearance than they are by the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States and Canada.

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