Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 29, 2020

Phoenix nurse counter-protesters donate generously to Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief

Arizona Nurses Stand in Solidarity with Navajo and Hopi Neighbors in Pandemic

By Cassandra Begay
Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief
Censored News
August 25, 2020

TÓ NANEESDIZÍ, DINÉTAH, (TUBA CITY, NAVAJO NATION) Yee Ha’oolníidoo is honored and moved by the generous donation of $50,000 to the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund by four Phoenix nurse counter-protesters. These strong women nurses are everyday heroes thrust into the spotlight while simply seeking to serve their communities. Their donation represents the combined efforts of tens of thousands of Arizonans who saw these nurses stand up for vulnerable patients at the Arizona State Capitol during ill-advised “freedom” marches in support of an early state reopening in late April.

Photos of the four nurses (Lauren Leander, Brittany Schilling, Jasmine Bhatti, and Jade Juriansz Hicks) raced across newswires when they showed up at the State Capitol wearing their workday scrubs and face masks. As furious, unmasked and coronavirus-exposed marchers screamed in their faces, these four women stood dignified, concerned, and willing to help. Now they bring that same great dignity and solidarity to their effort to help Navajo and Hopi families.

Their $50,000 donation will be used by the Relief Fund to purchase approximately 60 COVID+ Isolation Kits for Navajo and Hopi individuals who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and must isolate from their families and community members. The kits will contain two weeks’ worth of easy-to-prepare food, vitamins, items to help the recipient better weather their symptoms, and--where needed due to overcrowded housing or lack of electricity or running water--tents, sleeping bags, hand washing stations, ice chests, and battery-operated fans.

Lauren Leander, lead spokeswoman for the nurse counter-protesters, explained “I started the GoFundMe to use the power of our movement to support a patient population that is near and dear to my heart: the people of Navajo Nation. Our patients at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix’s COVID-19 critical care unit are flown to us from all over the southwest, and we have seen how hard this community has been hit in particular, and how much they need the support of their state to protect them.” She added, “I hope these funds give Navajo and Hopi families the support and resources they need to continue to self-isolate, hand wash and protect themselves against COVID-19. The power of an organization like yours is that we have an opportunity to even the playing field. We have an opportunity to give vulnerable groups an equal chance to fight and survive. We have an opportunity to make health and wellness available to all.”

Just as Lauren, Brittany, Jasmine, and Jade didn’t anticipate that their weekend day off spent standing up for their patients would inspire hundreds of thousands in donations, 12 women from the Navajo and Hopi Nations who began organizing to protect their communities from COVID-19 in March had no idea their effort would blossom into a fund of more than $5.5 million backed by nearly 93,000 supporters around the world.

“The only way through this pandemic is by helping each other. And every person has the ability to be a positive agent for change right now, no matter our differences. There are communities like ours on the Navajo and Hopi Nations that are disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to systemic racism and oppression,” said Cassandra Begay, Deputy Director for the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund. “We need more folks to say what these nurses showed with their actions, which is ‘The humanity in me recognizes the humanity in you,’ and then take action.”

In addition to donating 1,000 gowns to the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, the nurses purchased a total of 80,000 isolation gowns, 40,000 scrub caps, and compassionate care items for their fellow medical staff on the front line at Tuba City Regional Health Care Facility, Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility, and Kayenta Health Center. Chair massagers, Keurigs, coffee pods, clipboards, and other items from the nurse protesters were transported to Navajo nurses and doctors through the Navajo and Hopi Families’ Air Bridge Program.

Arizonans, Utahans, New Mexicans and neighbors around the world can support the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief effort and help offset the cost of purchasing additional COVID+ Isolation Kits by donating through the Fund’s GoFundMe page ( and via checks made out to Nonprofit Fiscal Services (our new fiscal sponsor as of June 18). Please note in the check subject line that the donation is for “Navajo/Hopi Relief” or “Navajo/Hopi Relief Isolation Kits.” Nonprofit Fiscal Services is located at 623 East 2100 South, Suite B1, Salt Lake City, UT 84106.

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