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Many Native Americans are seeking comfort in cultural traditions and community goodwill despite the harsh realities of life amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re sharing a compilation of some of these noteworthy stories from the month of May. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

Powwows move online to keep Indigenous communities together via Cronkite News

  • “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some Native Americans have found a way to safely host traditional powwows by moving them online. In many Indigenous communities, powwows are celebrations of culture in which tribes gather to share art, stories, food, song, dance and the company of one another. But the ongoing pandemic has made it impossible to hold these gatherings safely – in person, anyways. The Navajo Nation, for example, has set curfews and asked the 173,000 tribal members living on the reservation to stay home because 142 Navajos have died of COVID-19 and 4,071 cases have been diagnosed.”

Sculpture marks Choctaw generosity to Irish famine victims via BBC News

  • “At the height of Ireland’s Great Famine, Choctaws in southern states of the USA sent a donation of $170 (£111). An extraordinary whip-round, that would be tens of thousands of dollars today. The sculpture Kindred Spirits stands in a park in the small town of Midleton, in east Cork. Cork-based artist Alex Pentek told the BBC that the 6m tall feathers, all unique ’as a sign of respect,’ signify the feathers used in Choctaw ceremonies. They are arranged in a circle, making the shape of an empty bowl that symbolizes the hunger suffered by Irish people in the famine.”

Tribal colleges and universities are putting native students first during the pandemic via Teen Vogue

  • “’I had a friend who told me one time that the more degrees you get, the more credentials you get, the harder it is to ignore you,’ Jasmine Neosh (Menominee) told Teen Vogue by phone. The junior at the College of Menominee Nation, a school chartered by her tribe, is working on her bachelor’s in public administration, and plans to pursue a master’s in environmental science and policy. When she graduates, she wants to help Indigenous communities, many of which are on the front lines, prepare for climate change. ‘As far as advocating for climate justice, the more quote-unquote credibility you can bring to the table, I think the better chance you have of getting your point across,’ she says.”

History of inequality making COVID-19 worse for Native Americans via The San Diego Union-Tribune

  • “Indigenous communities have already experienced generations of disparities in areas such as poverty, education and access to health care, so something like the COVID-19 pandemic magnifies the ways in which our systems have failed to serve everyone appropriately. These failures have made the virus especially dangerous. ‘Native access to healthcare is unacceptably limited and the fault lies with the U.S. government, which continues to fail its treaty obligation to provide healthcare to Native peoples,’ said Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and executive director and attorney for the Association on American Indian Affairs. ‘The conditions that are killing Native Americans now have existed for a long time and have been unacceptable for a long time.’”
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