Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 18, 2020

Navajo volunteers race with water and food, as governments fail during pandemic

Dine' Bitahnii Wilson said, "Today we went out and delivered donated barrels and water to families with no running water again, my friend and classmate had 6 in her household, she said Thank You to whoever donated the barrels. We are working on getting more 55-gallon water barrels to distribute out to families."

Navajo volunteers race with water and food, as governments fail during the pandemic 

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Update with a statement by Percy Deal,
Dine' from Hard Rock

When a young Dine' man asked if anyone needed water and supplies, there were more than 100 responses. They are the blind, those without water, and those in hogans without phones. They are the young people living in tents in quarantine, they are the families living in tents. They are Navajo and Hopi. They live on Navajo and Hopi tribal lands and in the border regions.

Ashkii Abíní Naatsíilid Wilson asked, "Does anyone know of families who are in need of food or water? We have 55-gallon barrels that we can bring and fill up with water. We also have food, PPE, and cleaning supplies. Just want to make sure everyone is being helped!"

The responses were heart-breaking. Ashkii's response was swift.

"Ahéhee' for helping the young man who is in isolation in a tent," was among the thank you notes posted.

As the pleas for water and water barrels pour in, from Whipporwill, Dennehotso, Indian Wells, Grey Mountain, Shiprock, and beyond, Ashkii said they are willing to travel to deliver.

Ashkii said they were in Gallup, "but driving is no big deal. We are willing to go to anyone in need."

Ashkii's offer on social media is one of the heart-wrenching signs that so many isolated Navajo, so many with the virus, and so many in quarantine after exposure, are not receiving help.

Bitahanii Wilson said, "Ashkii is my son and we're all working together with our group called the Ke'h Relief Taskforce that's giving humanitarian aid to family and elders, based out of Gallup, New Mexico."

As Ashkii, his dad and other volunteers race to isolated homes, the Navajo Nation prepares for another lockdown this weekend.

The weekend curfew returns as the coronavirus spread in Arizona reaches a frightening level.

(Photo) 'Navajo Black Mesa families came together to help deliver food boxes packed with nutritious food items, potatoes, carrots, melons, grapes, celery, apples, oranges, bananas, yellow squash, zucchinis, farina cereal, Campbell's canned soups, spam, tea, cabbage, lemons, Bluebird flour, oatmeal, rice, beans, frozen chicken, ground turkey, eggs, loaves of bread, butter, bacon, and milk!' -- Casandra Begay, Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Meanwhile, the Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund has raised more than $5 million for its grassroots relief. The Navajo and Hopi volunteers purchase wholesome foods, sterilize donations, and distribute to the homes of those in need. The relief effort includes a seamstress circle creating masks and gowns for hospitals.

(Photo) Meanwhile, in New Mexico, McKinley Mutual Aid said, "We are so excited to work with our White Mountain Apache Relatives at Ndee Bikiyaa (The People's Farm) to source locally grown produce for our food boxes. Features this week: 250 units of kale! At Indigenous Lifeways, it is one of our goals to reestablish our ancestral trade routes, and we are so humbled to work collaboratively with our relatives to achieve that during this time. We look forward to working with more local indigenous farmers in the coming months." McKinley Mutual Aid is a grassroots coalition serving Gallup, portions of the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico. Read more and donate at Our Indigenous Lifeways.

Although the Navajo Nation government received $600 million in federal funds for virus relief on May 6, those funds have not been allocated yet by the tribal government and are not reaching the people.

Meanwhile, Navajos plea for funds by way of Go Fund Me accounts to bury their loved ones. Some families have lost more than one family member.

One Dine' family said the mortuary in Tse Bonito, N.M., was full and their loved one was placed outside. A source in the Navajo Nation tribal government said there are more than 500 requests for burial assistance. On social media, Navajo families say they can not find help for burial costs.

Across Arizona, the crisis is reaching new levels. On White Mountain Apache, there are more than 1,100 cases of coronavirus.

Cher Thomas in the Akimel O'odham community of Gila River makes a tearful plea to Gila River Gov. Stephen Lewis to shut down the tribe's casinos south of Phoenix after a security guard died of coronavirus.

Robert Washington, Jr., died of the coronavirus after returning to work at Gila River's Lone Butte Casino in Chandler, Arizona. 

On the border, the U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona continues its blatant disregard for human life, as the coronavirus spreads through agents and staff. With a steady increase of cases over the past two weeks in Arizona, there are now 52 agents and staff with the coronavirus.

The Border Patrol is silent about this, hiding the facts on its website in its statistics, while agents continue to carry out harassment stops of Tohono O'odham on the Tohono O'odham Nation, based on racial profiling, and breathe in their faces.

The Border Patrol agents are not wearing masks, or telling anyone where the infected agents have been, who they have infected, or who should now be in quarantine.

(Above) The Navajo Nation reports 75 new COVID-19 positive cases and three more deaths. The total number of deaths reached 322 as of Wednesday. So far, 3,342 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation is 6,747.

(Below) The Indian Health Service report shows the dramatic increase in coronavirus cases in the service agencies of Navajo and Phoenix. Phoenix IHS includes Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Cases are also on the increase in Oklahoma, the Great Plains and elsewhere.

The state governments are failing the people.

In Arizona, nearly one-half of the coronavirus cases are young adults, ages 20 to 44, and more than 4,000 cases are under the age of 20.

The death toll from the virus is highest for those over 65 years of age.

In disregard for human life, the State of  Arizona continues to focus on the economy,  as hospitals are near capacity.

Reckless and cavalier behavior continues to fuel the spread of the virus after the state's reopening, with the majority of the cases in the Phoenix area.

The Arizona Sheriff who refused to enforce the lockdown has coronavirus.

"Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb announced on Facebook on Wednesday that he had tested positive, likely from attending a campaign event on Saturday. He says he found out when he was called on Tuesday to meet with President Trump at the White House and was screened for the virus," Phoenix New Times reports from Pinal County, which includes Casa Grande, south of Phoenix.

There has been little attention given to the high rate of deaths in New Mexico and Arizona nursing homes. The failed care and unsanitary conditions are ignored.

With no help in sight, the virus spreads through prisons and the pleas of migrants and asylum seekers are ignored.

In one prison in southern New Mexico, there are now 570 cases of coronavirus. It is Otero prison, where migrants and asylum seekers are imprisoned.

Percy Deal, Dine' of Hard Rock, said:

"I agree it's a real shame our Navajo government has done nothing with the $600+ million federal COVIT-19 fund. It's been in their hands for over 40 days not only the federal fund but all the donated private funds as well. The Navajo Nation Declaration of Health Emergency was issued months ago. This means nothing to them.

A federal court on Monday ordered the Treasury Secretary (Trump Administration) to release an additional $679 million in emergency COVID-19 relief funds to Native American tribes. The fund is part of the federal CARES Act Congress approved. The court stated the inaction of the federal government "simply can not be justified and is doing irreparable harm". US Senator Udall stated, "it continues to be a shameful scandal that the Trump administration has dawdled with this funding while people in Native communities are getting sick and dying and while businesses and essential services are shuttering". US Representative Ruben Gallego stated, "it is unconscionable that it has taken court action to force this administration to distribute relief to tribal governments".

Does that seem like they are talking about the Navajo Nation government, since early March 2020, 6,672 of our people have tested positive that's 60 a day and it has taken the lives of 319 people that's 3 persons a day. They had the federal fund in their hands over 40 days plus they were receiving private donations long before the federal fund.

I think it's past time we the Dine' turn to our Navajo Supreme Court and have our government ordered to release those funds immediately. Enough is enough."

Percy Deal
Hardrock, Navajo Nation

Article copyright Censored News

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