Coronavirus briefs: Native Americans respond to the pandemic

Photo source: Alaska Indigenous Peoples Cultural Center and Museum.
Photo source: Alaska Indigenous Peoples Cultural Center and Museum.

Thanks to the confluence of culture, politics and history, the indigenous peoples of North America are uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic. And, they are uniquely positioned to protect themselves from its worst effects.

Ignored in the data, and historically unequal

Native Americans, like other minority groups in the United States, suffer from unequal access to healthcare, increasing their risk of complications from coronavirus infection compared to the national average.

But we may not know how bad the problem is, because Native identities are being ignored.

Even in states with substantial Native American populations, such as New Mexico, tribal affiliation is not being recorded along with standard data on testing and infections.

This is par for the course — American Indians have often been left out of public health data, or misclassified.

As quoted in The Guardian, a Native American spokesperson from Texas said: “We are a small population of people because of genocide … if you eliminate us in the data, we don’t exist. We don’t exist for the allocation of resources.”

Source: The Guardian

Native Corporations are not tribal governments

A federal judge has sided with tribal governments suing the Trump administration for giving coronavirus relief funds to Alaska Native Corporations.

In Alaska, Native Corporations are for-profit entities that manage resources and act as holding companies for service businesses, such as oil pipeline construction and maintenance, lumber, or janitorial services.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled that the Alaska Native Corporations are not “tribal governments” and therefore cannot receive the $8 billion the federal government is providing for coronavirus relief for Native Americans.

One key issue was that there’s no way to demonstrate that Native Corporations, which are primarily business-service providers, would actually be able to provide pandemic health and relief services directly to Native American communities.

Tribal governments successfully argued that they alone are best positioned to do so.

Source: Buzzfeed News

How have the Yurok completely avoided COVID-19 infections?

The coronavirus pandemic has so far left the Yurok Tribe of Northern California untouched — in stark contrast to the disease’s devastating toll in Navajo and Pueblo communities, which have some of the highest infection rates in the country.

One official says that a key difference is how the tribe has used “culturally relevant” language to tell people how to protect themselves.

This means addressing people over 70 as “elders” rather than “senior citizens,” and reaching out to people using road signs rather than just the Internet, since some Yurok tribal homes do not have electricity.

Also critical has been making sure that tribal leaders are addressing the Yurok people rather than government representatives.

That’s because state and federal government representatives are seen by many Native Americans as untrustworthy.

Source: KQED Public Broadcasting

Scams target Native elders

The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era of scams targeting vulnerable Native American elders.

Scammer try to fool elders by pretending to be tribal officials, or grandchildren, or by falsely offering COVID-19 testing for a fee.

Scammers are looking in particular for ways to access personal data, such as banking details, as well as the $1,200 Economic Income Payments the federal government is providing to most citizens.

Source: Indian Country Today

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