The Disastrous Impact of COVID on Native American Communities

Native American Communities BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of MedPageToday.

As we near a whole year since the pandemic started in the United States, the nation continues to grapple with deaths, cases, and variants. So far, one in every 475 Native Americans has died since the beginning of the pandemic, a picture of the Native American Communities’ horrible reality in this country. 

According to an analysis by APM Research Lab, American Indians and Alaskan Natives are dying at twice the rate of white Americans, the Guardian reported.

On the other hand, one in every 825 white Americans and one in every 645 Black Americans have died. However, if what the records show is nowhere near the actual number, it is remarkably higher than the data provided. 

States like Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota don’t provide the most accurate data, suggesting Native American Communities are significantly impacted. 

The Lab’s Color of Coronavirus project intends to provide the most explicit evidence that provides a clear picture of how Native Americans have been disproportionately affected over the last year. 

The tribal council delegate for the Navajo Nation said, “Everyone has been impacted. Some families have been decimated. How can we go back to normal when we’ve lost so many after so many layers of trauma? It’s unbearable.”

Unfortunately, on February 2, the former Navajo president and Arizona state representative, Albert Hale, died from Covid. 

While other nations recover from a deadly year, America’s numbers continue to increase. Last month was the highest recorded number of deaths in the United States. With 958 deaths recorded of Native Americans, it reflects a 35% increase from December. 

Andi Egbert, the senior analyst at APM Research Lab, said, “Not only do Native people have the highest rate of Covid deaths, the rate is accelerating, and the disparities with other groups are widening. This latest data is terrible in every way for indigenous Americans.”

The worry is beyond the damage that is going on in real-time; it is about the lasting impact that it will leave on future generations. 

Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear, an assistant professor of sociology and American Indian studies at the University of California, said, “Our language, culture, and traditions is what makes us Cheyenne, but we’re losing our teachers. How am I going to teach my son when I still have so much to learn? Indigenous communities are facing a cultural crisis that other communities are not.”

The Biden-Harris administration signed a disaster declaration for the Navajo Nation to respond to how deeply they’ve been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The disaster declaration is meant to shift federal resources and compensate for emergency funds used for Covid-19. The current Navajo Nation President, Jonathan Nez, regarded this move as a ‘step forward.’

The bipartisan legislation brought by Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Kristen Senema proposed $1.3 billion towards efforts for the Sanitation Facilities Construction Program to better the water and sanitation of the country’s tribal communities. 

However, one year into the pandemic, the damage is done, and the road to recovery appears to be increasingly impossible.