The Wednesday Politics Thread Supports The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund

Good morning everyone, I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’d like to boost a community effort to provide relief to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation in dealing with the current pandemic.

The problems facing many Native Americans at this time are rooted in several systemic hardships which Native communities deal with.

American Indians and Alaska Natives remain the most impoverished and marginalized group in the United States.

Indian tribes have fewer resources than other communities in the U.S. to respond to the crisis. Many Native Americans lack basic access to water, indoor plumbing and adequate housing. Overcrowded housing and homelessness make social distancing difficult, and isolation impossible, for some.

Others do not have access to adequate health care services near their homes on tribal lands. The federally funded Indian Health Service provides health care to over 2.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, more than a quarter of whom do not have health insurance.

Native populations also suffer from diabetes, asthma and other chronic illnesses at a higher rate than the U.S. population generally. These health disparities place many American Indians and Alaska Natives at a higher risk to get COVID-19, and have more severe cases of it. An inadequate response to containing the virus may lead to deadly results for many American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the federal government’s aid to Native communities is not being provided in time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to release any of the $80 million promised to Indian Country, according to tribal leaders and advocates familiar with the situation. It’s now been more than three weeks since Congress appropriated the much-needed funds, as the number of positive cases continues to rise in communities that have been hit hard by COVID-19.

… “We haven’t nearly reached the peak of the virus — that’s what’s our health care experts are telling us,” said Navajo Nation President Myron Lizer. The tribe is among the poster children for the CDC’s failure to work closely with Indian Country. Even though the agency, in an internal planning document, said the Navajo Nation was among the recipients of an initial $40 million in funds, Nez said he was never told about the money.

The Navajo Nation, as the second most populated Native American reservation, is set to deal with these problems on a very large scale. Ethel Branch, former attorney general of the Navajo Nation, has taken initiative and started a fund for the Navajo Nation and neighbouring Hopi Reservation, in support of the community’s response to the crisis.

Here on the largest Native American reservation, one that spans portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, politicians and health officials are mounting a frantic effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The impact could be especially devastating, officials fear, in an extremely rural area larger than West Virginia, with roughly 175,000 residents and only four inpatient hospitals.

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus on the reservation came on March 17, but just days later, the Navajo Nation announced that the number had jumped to nearly 115. With limited testing, many fear the number of people infected could be far higher.

… Many residents, like Robbins, live in remote areas of the reservation where you can drive for miles and see nothing but towering junipers dotting red-rock mesas. Others live in cities like Flagstaff and Phoenix, where the virus is spreading, and travel several hours to the reservation to visit family and worship. Some Navajo don’t have running water, making it complicated to carry out the best prevention method: frequent hand-washing.

… Ethel Branch, a former attorney general for the Navajo Nation who lives an hour away in Flagstaff, recently started a GoFundMe page, soliciting food donations for the most vulnerable people on the reservation. To fight the pandemic, Branch said, it’s critical that people can get supplies delivered directly to their homes so they don’t have to travel into towns like Cameron and cram into small general stores.

So far, hundreds of families have received food baskets, including flour, beans, rice and Tylenol, Branch said, adding that the coronavirus could be especially dangerous for low-income families with health problems, such as diabetes, a side effect from uranium mining in the area.

“We have to all do our part,” Branch said, “because who knows if the government support will do anything.”

Branch said the fund’s volunteers sterilize the items and then organize them into baskets, and they’re trying to work with community health representatives to identify and reach the most needy individuals across the Navajo Nation, which spans some 27,425 square miles.

The fund has already raised quite a bit of money, but they are trying to deal with several obstacles and could always use further support.

The Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation are extreme food deserts with only 13 grocery stores on Navajo to serve some 180,000 people and only 3 small grocery marts on Hopi to serve some 3,000 people. These communities also have high numbers of elderly, diabetic, asthmatic, and cancer-afflicted (i.e., high risk) individuals. These communities could be devastated by coronavirus and COVID-19.

We want to help these individuals, especially the elderly and high risk individuals, and families with children, to gain access to the food and water (1/3 of Navajo residents do not have running water) and other essential items they will need to weather this pandemic, such as food for their animals, PPE, and diapers. The need is so great. Navajo regularly has roughly 50% unemployment (most of the residents are elderly or children; those who can work often leave the Nation to find jobs), and Hopi has roughly 60% unemployment. Please give if you can.

Our goal will be to help the elderly (especially those raising their grandchildren), the immunocompromised and mobility impaired, single parents, and struggling families by helping them buy groceries, water, health supplies, and necessary items so they (and their vulnerable communities) can be protected from exposure to the virus by engaging volunteers to make these purchases and deliver them to a safe transfer location for our beneficiaries.

We are also helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 on these reservations by engaging volunteers to sew masks for medical workers and first responders on Navajo and Hopi. We will also use these funds to help purchase the fabric for these masks.

And we will invest in a media campaign to urge folks to stay home and socially distance, and to embrace sterilization practices. Our team is led by enrolled Navajo and Hopi tribal members.

Please consider spreading the word about this issue, and about the relief fund specifically. And if you are able, please consider donating whatever you can to the fund.

Welcome to Wednesday! Let’s make this day a good one. Please be respectful and considerate, let’s try to assume good faith and good intentions even in people we disagree with, and don’t forget to take a break once in a while. Don’t threaten Mayor McSquirrel. If you have a problem, you can flag the comment, or feel free to contact the mods at