Native and Homeless During the Coronavirus

“American Indians and Alaska Natives clustered in camps or on the streets; ‘It’s been a crazy time’J. Estus, Indian Country Today

As many as 4,000 of Anchorage’s 300,000 residents don’t have permanent housing. Photograph- Ash Adams:The Guardian

 

Excerpt: Homeless. Vulnerable. And no option for ‘self isolation’ By Joaqlin Estus, Indian Country Today

“Every major city has a virtual suburb for the homeless. Homes consisting of tents, scrap wood, shopping baskets and cardboard boxes. In shelters, a family dwelling might have a common kitchen and bedrooms with bunk beds. Others may have a large room filled with dozens of bunk beds or canvas cots. Some have dozens of rubber-coated thick pads placed a foot apart in rows laid across a concrete floor.

Chronic diseases are higher than normal in the best of times. The ideal terrain for a virus, such as COVID-19, to take hold and spread…Seattle has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. There have been 1,187 COVID-19 cases and 66 deaths in Washington as of March 19. (New York City has more cases, 4,000, but fewer deaths, 22).

‘It’s been a crazy time,’ said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Pawnee, chief research officer at the Seattle Indian Health Board. ‘I’m just trying to put out as many resources as I possibly can and serve my community to the best of my abilities. I’m just grateful to all my ancestors that came before me, who have taught us how to be strong, resilient people.’

The Seattle Indian Health Board offers medical, dental, and behavioral services as well as elders and youth services. It provides resources to prevent homelessness. It also runs the Urban Indian Health Institute, one of 12 tribal epidemiology centers in the nation. In King County, where Seattle is located, American Indians and Alaska Natives are seven times more likely to be homeless than whites…She said the Seattle Indian health board is working to live up to CDC guidelines that, for now, are beyond its reach. ‘If we shut down our programs [involving more than ten people], our elders have nowhere to go for shelter and they have nowhere to go for their meals, which we provide. So from that harm reduction approach, we are making sure that there is distance between them of six feet.’

Echo-Hawk noted although the largest outbreak was in an affluent suburb, the first quarantine and isolation facility opened in one of Seattle’s lowest income neighborhoods. She said, in the interests of equity and social justice ‘we have to ensure that all of the risk is not just taken by low income communities.

We have to recognize it is now the time for the community as a whole to come together and to support one another.’

Tuesday evening at a press conference, municipal manager Bill Falsey said, ‘The sheltering capacity for homeless individuals in Anchorage was a challenge before COVID-19. The new issue is that our homeless community includes many individuals with underlying health conditions.

An outbreak of COVID-19 in a homeless shelter could be particularly severe. That would be terrible for the residents, but it also potentially affects everyone.”

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY:

COVID-19 Tracker in the United States: Story summaries, lists of closures, resources. Last update 03/26/20 at 3 pm.  Information Here

COVID-19 financial strain? Here are resources in 50 states Federal and state services include monetary and food assistance, unemployment benefits, and more. The National Retail Federation also has over 70 corporations looking for workers.

COVID-19 online resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Basic information.

Indian Health Service

National Congress of American Indians

National Indian Health Board

 Online Teaching  Activities Sites with Free Materials for Teachers, Students and Parents

STEM Teaching Guide

“Learning Packets” for students During School Closures By Larry Ferlazzo:It seems like a fair number of districts don’t have any kind of learning plan in place for their students right now. Some districts, however, even if they don’t have a full-fledged remote learning program going on, are creating “learning packets” for students to complete. It’s not great, obviously, but it seems like it’s better than nothing and can help out parents.” For more information visit

Home With Your Kids? Writers Want to Help” –  The New York Times Mo Willems, Gene Luen Yang, Amie Kaufman and other authors for young readers are reading their work online and offering drawing tutorials, to help fill our strange new hours. For more information visit

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide – Boston Children’s Museum & WGBH Welcome! Are you ready for some fun?

The STEM Sprouts Teaching Kit is the product of a collaborationbetween National Grid, Boston Children’s Museum, and WGBH. The goal of this curriculum is to assist preschool educators in focusing and refiningthe naturally inquisitive behaviors of three to five-year-olds on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). For more information visit here

Be Smart, Be Careful, Be Safe!

COVID19 Resources for Indigenous Peoples

Art by Isaac Murdoch

Hello relatives! During this difficult time, we wanted to put together some links for Indigenous folks north of the medicine line, specifically. We hope that you’re all staying safe; we will get through this like we always have. If you have any other COVID-19 resources that would be good for Indigenous folks to have access to, please send them to lindsey@indigenousclimateaction.com

This page will also be updated with resources as they come out

Every Sickness has a herb to cure it.-BlackCloud

In case you missed it, Indigenous Climate Action and Idle No More hosted a webinar on Covid19 and Indigenous communities. You can watch it here.

Photo- John Locher:AP Photo

Elderly hour started at 6am Bashas in Arizona. Elders really needed this time for their own shopping. Kenny Corona Sanchez

 

HEALTH PROTOCOLS

Symptoms

Cold or Allergies:

Itchy eyes

Stuffy nose

Sneezing

Flu or coronavirus:

Fever

Fatigue

Body Aches

Cough

Worsening symptoms

Coronavirus:

Shortness of breath

History of travel

Exposure to a confirmed person

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, center, meets with other Navajo Nation officials to discuss the coronavirus crisis.Navajo Nation

Symptom Self Assessment Tool

Defining Coronavirus Symptoms – mild, moderate & severe

Common Questions about COVID-19

How to apply for EI sickness benefits and the new emergency worker fund

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response plan – supports for individuals & business

Please call TeleHealth before visiting a doctor or the emergency room:

Tollfree throughout Alberta: 1-866-408-LINK (4565);

Edmonton: 780-408-LINK (4565); Calgary: 403-943-LINK (4565)

Tollfree throughout Manitoba: 1-888-315-9257

Winnipeg: 788-8200

New Brunswick, Quebec, BC, Nova Scotia: 811

Ontario: 1-866-797-0000

Saskatchewan: 1-877-800-0002

Use the SKODEN Protocol (from 4Rs Youth Movement):

If you are displaying symptoms of coronavirus, check-in on the SKODEN protocol: S – Severe symptoms, go to the doctor; K – know the precautions; O – Obey social distancing; D – Don’t touch your face; E – Every time wash your hands for 20+ seconds; N – Nose and mouth should be covered if coughing.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day [Asaf Bitton, Medium]

The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’

How to “flatten the curve”

Slowing The Spread Of Coronavirus Is Easier Than You Think: Just Stay Home [Buzzfeed]

Cancel Everything – social distancing is the only way to stop the coronavirus

When Social Distancing is a Matter of Life and Death

ENTERTAINMENT FOR CHILDREN

Virtual field trips list

Free educational websites

Anaana’s Tent: website with songs, videos and games in English and Inuktut

PBS Space Time

Scholastic offering free online courses for Kids

Giant List of Ideas for Being at Home with Kids

APTN Kids: shows for Indigenous children

EMERGENCY FUNDS

Resources for artists, writers and media workers during shutdowns

A summary of COVID-19 emegency funds

Coronavirus Risk Higher in Native Rural Areas

“When you start out with health conditions that are worse than a majority … you’re already vulnerable and at risk’. As the coronavirus spread outward from cosmopolitan hot spots it reached the rural Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation on Monday. In due course, it’ll reach more isolated rural areas.” J. Estus, ICT

 

Edward Enoch, Yup’ik, unloads chunks of ice chipped out of a river and hauled home by snow-machine to melt for drinking, washing, and other uses in western Alaska. (Credit- Charles Enoch,)

Excerpt: Coronavirus Risk Compounded in Rural Areas By Joaqlin Estus, ICT

“Unfortunately, indications are rural areas harbor conditions that contribute to higher rates of infection and people getting more sick than in urban areas.

According to the First Nations Development Institute’s report Twice Invisible: Understanding Rural Native America, 54 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native people live in rural and small-town areas on or near reservations.

The Notah Begay III Foundation report Native Strong lists factors in Indian Country that contribute to diabetes and obesity. The same factors affect overall health. They include poverty, low educational attainment, and historical trauma. Housing shortages and overcrowding facilitate the spread of disease. A lack of self determination and cultural activities affect Native health too.

Dalee Sambo Dorough, PhD, Inupiaq, is the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. She said the health of Indigenous people living in rural Arctic Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (in Russia) is compromised by a range of conditions ranging from food insecurity to air pollution.

‘The overall general condition of individual health and wellbeing is contributing to a lower life expectancy,’ Sambo Dorough said. ‘We’ve had a whole history of epidemics that have devastated our communities in the past and tuberculosis being on the rise now, all of these things are compounded with other adverse impacts like climate change that make it really difficult for our communities to even respond to something like the coronavirus.

So when you start out with health conditions that are worse than a majority of the people in the rest of, for example, the United States, you’re already vulnerable and at risk,’ Dorough said…’We have had really decades of lack of public health measures to prevent the spread of disease. And then you add all these other layers including the limited space and capacity to treat patients with severe illness in rural areas,’ said Sambo Dorough.

‘These are matters that are nothing new. And that’s why the Inuit Circumpolar Council calls upon governments to take action to close those gaps.’

No one wants to get that sick, so prevention is key. Covering coughs, staying home when sick, and the CDC recommends, ‘Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,’ to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Twice as many homes in Indian Country lack running water compared to other Americans. (Credit- Joaqlin Estus)

However, Indian Country has about twice as many homes without running water and flush toilets as other Americans. In its annual report on sanitation deficiencies, the Indian Health Service said of 68,000 American Indian and Alaska Native homes, ‘approximately 7,600 (or 1.9 percent) lack access to a safe water supply and/or waste disposal facilities, compared to less than 1 percent of homes for the US general population.’

Overcrowding is a major factor in the transmission of diseases. Housing shortages can force families to live in small, older homes similar to this one in Kwethluk, Alaska. (Credit- Joaqlin Estus)

Alaskans without piped water can buy water, which even if only ten cents a gallon is too costly for most villagers. Many collect rainwater and chip ice out of rivers and lakes to melt for daily use…When COVID-19 does arrive in Indian Country, some of the places it lands will be areas without long-standing systems of reliable access to primary and specialty care. In some places, it will land amid people living in conditions that contribute to higher rates of infection. Properly handled, however, risk can be minimized.

Cherokee Seeds of Life Saved for Future Generations in Arctic vault

“Varieties of corn, beans and squash seen as central to Cherokee identity will be deposited in Norway’s Svalbard seed bank.” N. Lakhani, The Guardian

Cherokee seeds.

Excerpt:Cherokee Nation to preserve culturally important seeds in Arctic vault, N. Lakhani, The Guardian

“The Cherokee Nation will bank corn, bean and squash seeds in the Arctic “doomsday vault”, becoming the first US-based tribe to safeguard culturally emblematic crops for future generations.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault outside Longyearbyen on Svalbard, Norway. Photo- Heiko Junge:EPA

The Svalbard seed vault, the world’s most sheltered storage facility, currently holds 992,039 crop seeds from across the world.

It was created on a Norwegian archipelago about 800 miles from the North Pole in order to safeguard as much of the planet’s unique genetic material as possible. Losing a crop variety is as irreversible as the extinction of an animal or bird. On 25 February, nine Cherokee seeds will be deposited into the vault, deep inside a mountain on permanently frozen ground called permafrost.

Packets of Cherokee corn and other seeds.

The seeds chosen are Cherokee white eagle corn – the tribe’s most sacred corn, used for cultural ceremonies – Cherokee long greasy beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, Cherokee turkey gizzard black and brown beans, Cherokee candy roaster squash and three other varieties of corn. The crops predate European settlement and are a core part of Cherokee identity.  The Cherokee seeds will be only the second deposit from an indigenous community to be stored in the Svalbard vault, following the deposit of 750 South American Andean potato seeds in 2015…There are more than 1,700 food gene banks across the world but many are considered vulnerable to natural catastrophes, war, funding deficits, erratic electricity or poor management.

The Svalbard vault, which has the capacity to hold 4.5m crop varieties, was created in conditions resilient to natural and manmade disasters, in order to safeguard duplicates of samples kept elsewhere. It is well above sea level and the permafrost and thick rock ensure seeds remain frozen even without power. The vault is only accessible via a 120-metre tunnel.

Svalbard includes unique varieties of African and Asian staples such as maize, rice, wheat and sorghum, as well as European and South American varieties of aubergine, lettuce, barley and potato. About 500 seeds of each variety are stored at -18C in sealed foil packages.

The climate crisis is still a threat: the vault has required multimillion-dollar upgrades to prevent flooding caused by extreme rainfall and melting of the permafrost.

‘Svalbard is the ultimate failsafe for biodiversity of crops,” said Stefan Schmitz, executive director of the Crop Trust, which manages the vault with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre. ‘It’s important for the Cherokee nation to have this vital back-up.’

It has been a long road. In 1838, 15,000 Cherokee were expelled by US military and militia from their homelands in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee, then forced west to Indian territory, present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee lost about a quarter of their people and their traditional plants and crops.

Inspired by the Svalbard vault, tribal scientists led by Gwin spent several years tracking down “lost” crops in former territories and museums. They started two tribal gardens in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, dedicating one to cultivating 24 of the most significant Cherokee crops. Medicinal and inedible plants such as river cane, a type of bamboo traditionally used for construction, are also grown. Thousands of seed packets are sent each year to Cherokees across the world.”


The Coronavirus: What We Need to Know

“U.S. health officials offered a reality check Tuesday about the scary new virus from China: They’re expanding screenings of international travelers and taking other precautions but for now, they insist the risk to Americans is very low.” Q. Yazzie, ICT

IHS Emergency Management Coordinator Gerald Johnson, Navajo, is being fit tested for an N95 respirator. Credit- R Benally Phoenix IMC 2

Excerpt: Indian Health Service prepares for the Novel Coronavirus By Quindrea Yazzie, ICT

“In the U.S. so far, there are five confirmed patients, all of whom had traveled to the hardest-hit part of China — and no sign that they have spread the illness to anyone around them. The most recent case hit Maricopa County, Arizona, where an adult from the Arizona State University community tested positive for the virus. According to county health departments the patient lives in Tempe, Arizona, but does not live in university student housing. It is not known whether the individual is a student, faculty member or on staff at the university.

Arizona State University is working closely with Maricopa County Department of Public Health to investigate any potential contacts that this individual may have exposed.  A university statement said any direct contacts will be notified. “The university remains open and classes are not cancelled,” said Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle.

Where did the virus Start?

“Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by Coronavirus in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread,” the CDC reported. “However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.”

Travelers at a train station in Yichang, China, about 200 miles from Wuhan. Credit- CHINATOPIX, via Associated Press

What is the virus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that sicken mostly animals, but six of these cases, like SARS and MERS, are known to infect people. This new type of the coronavirus adds to the list, marking it number seven of now eight cneoronavirus types.

Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona. image- NativeAntigen

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms begin after an incubation period of 2-14 days according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those infected have symptoms of a fever, a cough and shortness of breath. Severity of the symptoms could lead to hospitalization and even death.

Source- Center for Disease Control and Prevention-USA Today

What is being done?

Airports in Wuhan, China, are restricting outbound traffic and health screenings are now being conducted at U.S. airports. The CDC announced that at least 20 U.S. airports have also initiated health screens to seek preventative measures against the spread of the virus.

Chartered planes carrying evacuees home to Japan and the United States left Wuhan early Wednesday as other countries planned similar evacuations from areas China has shut down to try to contain the virus. The lockdown of 17 cities has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.

IHS prepares for the virus

The Indian Health Service’s Phoenix Indian Medical Center has been taking the initiative to prepare for the respiratory illness.

The Indian Health Service will continue to follow normal policies and procedures for evaluation and treatment of respiratory illnesses, said Constance James, director of community relations and tribal affairs.

When asked if Indian Country should be concerned about the virus, Dr. Jennefer Kieran, director of Inpatient & Specialty Services at Phoenix Indian Medical Center, said there is a protocol set in place by the IHS leadership team along with infection control and special rooms are in place for critical respiratory illnesses.

How to Prevent Catching the virus?

The important thing to do right now is to take precautions, continuing to wash your hands and covering your cough.

“While any direct impacts of this outbreak to Indian Country are not yet known, we must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent the introduction and spread of infections among our patients and within the communities we serve,” James said.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez released a statement on the virus stating, “as we continue to closely monitor the coronavirus, we caution our Navajo people and encourage them to be aware of the growing spread of the virus. This is a serious public health concern that must be shared with all people.

“We ask that you share information with your children, elders and others who may not have access to information via internet, television and other means.”~Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez~

Holding On to A Racing Tradition

“Indian Relay, a type of bareback horse racing practiced by Native American tribes in the plains states, blends heritage and danger. For one family, it’s a shared passion that means everything.” V. J. Blue, The New York Times

Richard Long Feather, left, with his sons Jace, in white shirt, and Jestin. Credit- Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Excerpt: Holding Tight to a Racing Tradition, Photographs and Text by Victor J. Blue, The New York Times

“Richard Long Feather is searching for his son Jace among the bareback riders as they storm toward the grandstand at the Crow Fair. Stepping away from the rail and onto the dirt of the track, Richard raises his arms above his head as a signal: In one motion, he is telling Jace where to aim and warning Jace’s horse to slow down. Before Jace even reaches his father, he leaps from the back of his horse. Hitting the ground bounding, Jace grabs a handful of mane of a second horse, held by his brother, Jestin, and swings himself onto its back. Jestin slaps the second mount on the rump, and it fires back onto the track. Richard hands off the first horse to a fourth teammate and braces for the next exchange. Dust swirls. The crowd cheers.

This is Indian Relay.

For the Long Feathers, races likes these are both a family undertaking and a deep-rooted passion, a form of competition practiced and sustained by Native American tribes in the plains states. In Indian Relay’s traditional form, one rider completes three circuits of a track, changing his mount after each loop.

Richard, who works as a maintenance supervisor at a local hospital, loading his horses into his trailer after an evening of training.

Each race features up to eight teams consisting of a rider, three steely handlers and three horses. The competitors ride bareback, using only reins and a whip to stay on. As the rider approaches the starting line for each successive lap, he leaps from a running horse onto a fresh one. It is dangerous, athletic and intensely competitive.

Richard Long Feather, the head of his family and his team, was born in 1963 on the Standing Rock reservation, which straddles the border of North and South Dakota and which is home to the Hunkpapa band of the Lakota to which he belongs. Raised by his grandparents, he spoke only Lakota until he was 5. The first horse he rode was yoked to his grandfather’s wagon as it delivered water and provisions to isolated families…As a teenager, he began entering so-called suicide races — unofficial cross-country competitions on improvised courses. After his uncles recruited him as a rider for their Indian Relay team, he built a reputation as a tough rider and dependable breaker of colts.

Richard’s thoroughbreds, failures on the racetrack, now carry his son in Indian Relay races.

As an adult, he and his wife, Virginia, settled their young family near Fort Yates, N.D., where Richard taught his children to ride. The Long Feathers entered their first Indian Relay in 2013… Training for relays is a constant said of the 6 a.m. agility workouts that fill his winter months…Conditioning for the horses starts early, as well. ‘This year we started and there was still three feet of snow on the ground,’ he said. ‘Make ’em jump through those big snow banks. It just builds ’em up.’ In the springtime Jace and Jestin move to the track to train the horses in pairs, working on their exchanges. These split-second handoffs are the key to Indian Relay success. The top relay teams all have quality horses, but every competitor knows a relay is won or lost in the exchanges: If the two transitions are not performed flawlessly, it will not make much difference how fast the horses are…It isn’t just the riders who have to be skilled athletes. The setup man who holds the next mount as the rider circles the track — on Richard’s team, this is Jestin’s job — has to be a great horseman, too. ‘t’s impossible to hold a horse still for longer than a minute,’ Real Bird said. ‘You’ve got to let a horse be a horse.’ And the catcher — Richard, on Team Long Feather — who must stop the speeding horse that arrives has to be fearless. ‘He’s going to get run over,”’Real Bird said, ‘and he’s got to be O.K. with that.’

Richard blessing, or “smudging,” his horses with sage before a race at the Crow Fair.

As post time nears, Richard fills a can with dried sage and lights it. While the boys wrap the legs of the three horses they will run — Cabaret, Mr. Coke Man and Runaway Cal — Richard makes his way from stall to stall, wafting the gray smoke over the horses’ backs, half-singing prayers in Lakota for speed and safety in the race.

Ken Real Bird, a Crow horseman, calls the races at the fair. He has seen the sport grow from a bush-league pastime to a high-stakes competition, with purses worth tens of thousands of dollars. No one knows for sure when Indian Relay began in its modern iteration. The Shoshone Bannock Tribe in Idaho claims to be the originator of the sport, but Real Bird notes that the first Crow Fair, in 1904, had horse racing.

The first heat goes well for the Long Feathers. The exchanges are smooth, and Jace runs hard for second place but is caught at the wire and finishes third. It is good enough to secure a spot in the Sunday’s championship race, but Jace knows it won’t be easy. Teams are getting better every year. ‘Two years ago, you could be good and win anywhere,’ he said. ‘Now, you’ve got to be good just to keep up.’

Richard Long Feather feeding his horses.

The Crow Fair races offer unsatisfying results for the Long Feather team: Jace finishes in fifth place, though the family still heads home with a check.

Richard Long Feather’s horses grazing after competition.

As the sun rises the next day, Richard pulls into his driveway and unloads the horses. Restless after hours in the trailer, they sprint off over the prairie. In minutes, they are out of sight.”