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Tribes say they’re shorted in COVID response

Rep. Grijalva holds tribal roundtable
Posted at 6:20 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 21:20:56-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Tribal Nations are an important part of Southern Arizona and many parts of the U.S. but they feel they’ve been very much an after thought in the Federal response to COVID-19. They outlined their concerns in a Congressional roundtable Friday.

Tribal Nations are sovereign governments within the U.S.. Their relationship with the Federal Government is governed by treaties and agreements. And tribal leaders told Congressman Raul Grijalva the Federal government has let them down in the coronavirus crisis.

Grijalva chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. In a video conference, tribal leaders from as far away as Alaska told Grijalva they have many of the same concerns as other areas---severe shortages of protective equipment for health workers and shortages of COVID test kits---but they have additional challenges

Navajo President Jonathan Nez says the Navajo Nation has the third highest infection rate per capita but years of Federal neglect prevent some of the simplest COVID precautions..

He says, “15 to 30% of our people on the Navajo Nation don’t have running water. but yet we're telling our folks to wash your hands with soap and water. And we have a lockdown people can't afford to be washing their hands, every so often with soapy water, they're using it for drinking water and for their livestock.”

He’s hoping Federal stimulus money will help tribal lands get modern services others take for granted.

Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan is a member of the Ojibwe. For her, COVID has an especially personal impact.

“I lost my brother to COVID-19, just a few weeks ago.”

Grijalva: “I'm sorry”.

Flanagan: “And so thank you for that. And it has been one of the things that has has driven me to ensure that asnative people that we are seeing and we are heard and we are valued and that none of us are a statistic.”

Congressman Grijalva says the COVID crisis has shined a brighter light on longstanding problems for Native American communities and he hopes this crisis will bring them more attention and respect.