Based on monitoring national news outlets, philanthropic, nonprofit, government announcements, and social media postings, it is evident that native people living on or off reservations continue to suffer from overall national and local misinformation and misunderstanding about the history of native people, our cultural distinctions and diversity and our rights to self-govern as sovereign nations. Moreover, this collective misinformation and misunderstanding has been the source that continues to cause significant impact to native people that has hindered progress to improve their quality of life. Our status as an ignored population is glaringly evident during this pandemic. As evidence now shows, the impact of Covid-19 has been greater among poor people of color, communities with a history of poor health status due to poverty, limited access to health care, and language/cultural barriers.
Nowhere is this truer than on American Indian reservations. While there are organizations in place to serve these vulnerable populations, few have been called upon to provide input on preventing the spread of the virus, treating those infected, or to guide philanthropic investments to assist others to survive during the mandated shutdowns. Many organizations still have not received direct financial philanthropic support such as native managed nonprofits who are designed to assist impoverish communities. Furthermore, we now know that many of those infected, hospitalized, and died, were the “essential workers” who had no options but go out and work as they were the sole breadwinners for their families. We can expect the infection rates to grow and spread as “essential workers” do not have the luxury to stay at home.
Nowhere have the above conditions during this Covid-19 pandemic been most evident than in Native American communities and specifically those living on reservations in rural areas. Recent headlines have included the struggle to disperse federal stimulus funds to federally recognized tribes due to eligibility questions, omission from national philanthropic initiatives, and state governors demanding that native reservations “open up the roads through their reservation” which further exposes native people to infection and disease. Native managed nonprofits, such as Walking Shield, can be trusted to better represent the needs and opportunities of American Indians living on reservations post Covid-19.