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The entire country turned its focus on combatting the COVID-19 global pandemic this month, including Native American communities. We’re sharing the most important updates from March, as well as a few additional headlines from Indian Country. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

As a coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world, American Indian communities turn to one another, teachings via The Seattle Times

  • “Tribal communities know death by pandemic. As history threatens to repeat itself with the menace of the novel coronavirus, tribal communities are turning to their teachings and one another to protect themselves amid what they call a near total failure of federal resources to help, despite solemn promises in treaties. No one is waiting in these communities for someone else to come to the rescue. Response to the threat of the virus by tribal governments and health care providers has been swift and aggressive. Tribal governments are sovereign in their territory, with broad emergency powers — and they are using them.”

Tribes take measures to slow spread of new coronavirus via ABC News

  • “Sharon Bahe has made her home on the Navajo Nation a refuge, placing cedar branches and burning sage to help purify the space and praying for protection for herself and her children home from boarding school and a toddler with severe asthma. Her community of about 500 in northern Arizona has become a hot spot for the new coronavirus, with several cases confirmed. While other kids play outside, she tells hers they can’t ‘until the virus goes away.’ Officials on the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American reservation, on Friday broadened a stay-at-home order from Chilchinbeto to the entire reservation: No visitors in, and residents can’t leave their homes except for essential tasks, including to get food and medical supplies.”

Exclusive: Emergency coronavirus funds for American Indian health stalled via Politico

  • “The Trump administration has held up $40 million in emergency aid Congress approved earlier this month to help American Indians combat the coronavirus — a delay that’s left tribal leaders across the nation frustrated and ill-equipped to respond to the fast-growing outbreak. The funding has languished in bureaucratic limbo for weeks, despite increasingly urgent pleas from tribal organizations desperate to stockpile essential supplies and keep health clinics operational. Federally run American Indian health facilities are well short on hospital beds and ventilators, some frontline clinics received fewer than a dozen coronavirus tests, and federal officials have already signaled there will be little in the way of reinforcements — telling tribal leaders that all they can send right now are expired respirators.”

Native American tribes brace for coronavirus: ‘It’s going to be a test’ via NBC News

  • “The normal sound of students shuffling through the hall has been replaced by silence at Marty Indian School, a kindergarten to grade 12 facility on the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s reservation in South Dakota. Following in the footsteps of other school officials across the country, Superintendent John Beheler said the decision was made to close Marty Indian on Thursday and Friday ahead of this week’s spring break. It comes after an Indian Health Service patient in Charles Mix County, where the school and reservation are, tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, health officials said. An Indian Health Service official said the person had traveled to a conference in the United States, and others who came into contact with the patient were being tested as well.”

Why Native people ‘need to count’ in the 2020 census via Crosscut

  • “When Ramona Bennett became a member of the Puyallup Tribal Council in 1968, she wanted to see change. The tribe had no health clinic, no school, no large source of income like the casino they currently own. They didn’t even own their cemetery. ‘This tribe literally had nothing,’ she recalled. At the time, the Puyallup Tribe was down to about 170 enrolled members, a stark contrast to the more than 5,000 it has today. ‘We had no services, none whatsoever, and no recognized rights,’ said Bennett, who wanted the tribe to have a clinic and a school. Both required money it didn’t have, so she set out to apply for grants. That, she soon realized, was an issue in itself.”

Native American Winemaker Tara Gomez Is Making History via The Daily Beast

  • “For the last 15,000 years, members of the Chumash Indian tribe have lived in California on land they believed was given to them by the gods. Their original territory ran from Malibu to Monterey until settlers crammed them onto a sliver of property, a 127-acre reservation near Santa Barbara. Today, the area is more well-known for its wines rather than the history of the Chumash people, but that might soon change. Tara Gomez is a spirited woman with a vivacious chuckle that often peppers her sentences. Her father was a Chumash tribal elder and her mother is from the Pueblo tribe in Arizona. She is the only certified Native American winemaker in the country and produces wines with her tribe at their Camp 4 Vineyards.”

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