Voices from Navajo Nation & Calls to Action: Go Fund Me Effort Underway

Today’s post is short & to the point. The Navajo & Hopi Nations are riddled with coronavirus and given the remote geography, lack of infrastructure and health facilities, the virus has spread rapidly. Time to step up. Details.

This is the most important function Retake performs: educating, organizing and activating. And right now we need you to take action. We urgently ask you to share this post with many others. Use Facebook, use your own email lists and share it with any organizations in which you are a member. And since some of you will receive this alert via a FB Share or a friend forwarding it to you, we ask that you consider subscribing to the Retake blog. We offer posts 4 days a week with in-depth analysis of issues urgent to New Mexicans. And in times like this, we offer ways to take action. Click here to subscribe and try it for a week or two.

Today we share two action alerts, one generated from Navajo Nation and the other from TEWA Women United. The action from TEWA comes with good news, the radioactive tritium release scheduled from LANL has been postponed, but is still under consideration for some time in the future, so continued pressure is needed. The second alert comes from Navajo and Hopi Nations who are being inflicted with skyrocketing rates of coronavirus and with severely limited health and medical resources to combat the virus. Read on for how you can help.

Share This Alert Broadly: We Need More Petition Signatures to Prevent a Future Tritium Release & the Navajo & Hopi Nations Need Financial Support. NOW.

GOOD NEWS: LANL Postpones in Tritium Release

Together, a growing community effort and global pandemic have stopped the proposed venting of radioactive tritium stored at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), for now.

On Wednesday, April 1st, the Department of Energy (DOE) notified the New Mexico Environment Department by email that it will postpone its plans to vent the four containers. TEWA sends its profound thanks to all of you who responded to last week’s Action Alert, signed the petition we created at Change.org (more than 2,300 signatures at this point), and contacted Congressional representatives. Your voices have made a difference.

The petition remains open until this Saturday, April 4. Please continue to share it as it’s important to keep the pressure on. We will keep you posted about how we can work together to stop these radioactive releases completely, ensure that a public process is in place, that there is government to government consultation with Pueblos, and no increase in future LANL production.

Special thanks to our friends at Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety who have done so much groundwork on this fight. Please read their article on this victory here.

A Plea from Navajo Nation

I received the message below on Thursday afternoon and wanted to get it out ASAP.

“I just participated in a zoom meeting with the grassroots organization (Navajo & Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief) that is spearheading the major relief effort on the ground. One of the leaders is Janene Yazzie, the massively impressive young woman who ran for the PRC and is a Navajo lands rights activist. They recognize that they are still in the formation stage of all of this, but they are going about it in such a smart fashion, coordinating with all players. I am attaching their website, and their FB presence, so it can be shared. They have a GoFundMe site that we have given to–I was so massively impressed with all of the people in on the zoom meeting this morning that I feel confidence in what they are doing, and exceptionally compelled to spread the word, for what we can do here in town–donate. “

At the bottom of the post, Retake has provided links to the Navajo & Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief Go Fund Me site, their Facebook page and website. We also did some online research to provide you with more context, using links offered on the Navajo-Hopi Relief site as a starting point (link below). From the LA Times, I found that:

“The Navajo reservation is the largest Native American reservation, one that spans portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, politicians and health officials are mounting a frantic effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The impact could be especially devastating, officials fear, in an extremely rural area larger than West Virginia, with roughly 175,000 residents and only four inpatient hospitals.”

LA Times: “No running water. No electricity. On Navajo Nation, coronavirus creates worry and confusion as cases surge”

The initial coronavirus case in Navajo Nation was confirmed on March 17 and only days later the number had jumped to 115. Given the challenges of doing extensive testing, fears are that the number is far higher. Indeed, as of Wednesday, KRQE reported seven deaths and 174 positive COVID-19 cases including the following counties:

  • Navajo County, AZ: 85
  • Apache County, AZ: 17
  • Coconino County AZ: 40
  • McKinley County, NM: 10
  • San Juan County, NM: 15
  • Cibola County, NM: 1
  • San Juan County UT: 6

There is a reason this pandemic can spread so easily in remote, rural reservation land. From the L.A. Times:

Many residents live in remote areas of the reservation where you can drive for miles and see nothing but towering junipers dotting red-rock mesas. Others live in cities like Flagstaff and Phoenix, where the virus is spreading, and travel several hours to the reservation to visit family and worship. Some Navajo don’t have running water, making it complicated to carry out the best prevention method: frequent hand-washing.

LA Times: “No running water. No electricity. On Navajo Nation, coronavirus creates worry and confusion as cases surge”

Sadly, before knowledge of the virus had penetrated the reservation, a large evangelical church assembly occurred in Chilchinbeto, Ariz with scores of attendees packed together and coming from throughout the Navajo Nation with many congregants becoming ill within days.

Given how challenging we find adhering to all the social distancing and isolation practices, imagine being without running water or electricity. Imagine your closest health facility is 50 miles away. Imagine that because of the lack of television, internet and newspapers and the geographic span of the Nations, you know little or nothing about this pandemic. That is a potentially toxic combination. Indeed, according to the CDC, during the H1N1-flu epidemic, the death rate among the US indigenous population was 4 times that of all other racial and ethnic populations combined:

“A total of 426 H1N1 deaths were reported by the 12 states during April 15–November 13. Forty-two deaths (9.9%) occurred among American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/ANs), although AI/ANs make up approximately 3% of the total population in the 12 states. The overall AI/AN H1N1-related death rate was 3.7 per 100,000 population, compared with 0.9 per 100,000 for all other racial/ethnic populations combined.”

CDC: “Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report”

But fortunately, an all-volunteer, indigenous-led effort is being mounted to help educate the population and to distribute needed resources. But they need your support. From the website:

“We are an all volunteer grassroots indigenous led group operating on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. We are prioritizing the elderly (especially those raising their grandchildren), single parents, and struggling families by helping them buy groceries, water, and health supplies, and by protecting them (and their vulnerable communities) from exposure by engaging volunteers to make the purchases and deliver them to a safe transfer location for the families.”

Navajo Hopi COVID-19 Response Website

Time for those with privilege to step up. If you have the means, please make a contribution to the Go Fund Me campaign below. And please share this post with others.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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3 replies

  1. Dear Paul and Roxanne,
    I work as a psychiatrist with the Pinon community. I wonder about having a food truck from Basha’s which could drive to different people’s homes selling staple food items and other necessities. It seems like Basha’s is almost the only place to go to contract the virus (besides other people’s homes) and it might be helpful if it were all but closed down. Just a thought. All the best to you and the group working on this. It is so good that you guys are doing this. My prayers are with you.
    Donna Schindler

    • You need to fill me in here I don’t know what Basha’s is. Are you suggesting that food trucks should shut down and become food/supply delivery trucks? Just want to understand what your suggestion was.


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