The Navajo Nation, the country’s largest reservation, stretches across 16 million acres of land in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. As of May 27, the Navajo Nation had the highest per capita infection rate — over 4,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 out of 173,000 residents.
By June 14, over 6,600 cases had been confirmed with over 300 deaths. While no longer the country’s coronavirus hotspot, the Navajo — or Diné, as they prefer to be called — suffered an infection rate higher than 15 states.
With an unemployment rate of over 40% and many residents living on less than $12,760 per year, the pandemic is yet another challenged faced by an impoverished nation.
One third of the population suffers from diabetes, heart conditions, and lung disease, further exacerbating the virus’ impact on infected individuals. Worst of all, the abysmal lack of grocery stores — only 13 in a 27,413 square mile area — makes social distancing nigh on impossible. Residents from different households frequently carpool to the nearest store to save on gas.
The lack of access to clean water is also a massive barrier against fighting COVID-19. According to a study conducted by the US Water Alliance and DIGDEEP, Native Americans face a greater lack of clean water than any other group in the country.
Casino closures have also devastated tribal nations. Dr. Philip Smith, a Navajo Nation resident, states that those living in the interior of reservations — in other words, further away from non-tribal land — rely on seasonal tourism work as their sole source of income.
And if all of this sounds like a disaster of epic proportions, bear in mind that it’s all a direct result of deeper, systemic abuse perpetuated by the American government against Indigenous tribes.
The CARES Act, the Federal coronavirus relief bill, allocated $8 billion to Native American tribes, but much damage had already been done by the time payments began to trickle out.
The Diné are fighting for survival amidst a global pandemic while facing abject poverty, limited access to water and fresh food, a crumbling infrastructure, substandard healthcare, and limited opportunities for education.
Here’s how you can help:
Donate directly to the Navajo Relief Fund.
Donate to the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 GoFundMe.
Donate to the Far East Navajo COVID-19 Response Fund.
Donate to Protect Native Elders.
Buy from Indigenous-owned brands.
Shop Native-owned Etsy stores.
If you run an Indigenous-owned shop, please leave the link in the comments so I can update this list!