Currently, the Navajo Nation has the highest infection rate in the country, 1 greater than that of the worst-hit state, New York; it is even greater than that of Wuhan at the height of the outbreak in China. Tribal gaming revenues are equivalent to state tax revenues, and federal law requires tribes to use these to fund tribal government operations and programs. At the root of all these vulnerabilities are the broken promises that the federal government made to tribes in the constitutional process of ing treaties to acquire their lands.
Tribes ceded huge swaths of land to the United States with the formal, treaty-enshrined understanding that the federal government would protect the tribes as sovereign political entities whose right to self-governance it would safeguard and to whom it would provide adequate resources to deliver essential services.
This is the foundation of the government-to-government relationship that exists between the federal government and tribal nations, which function not as racial groups but as sovereign political entities to whom the United States has a recognized trust and treaty responsibility embodied in the Constitution, treaties, and federal statutes. While tribes have native dating Corona CA to honor these treaties, however, the U. Conscious of the unique vulnerabilities of Indian Country and recognizing their roots in this ugly and inexcusable history, most tribal governments have taken proactive virus containment measures that go beyond those of neighboring states and nontribal communities.
Many were quick to enforce travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders. Structural inequalities born out of the U. This is evident in the immediate unmet need for test kits and equipment as well as the bureaucratic bungling of emergency relief measures.
In order to allay the current crisis, enable tribes to recover, and prevent an even more devastating recurrence, the U. Egregiously, tribes were required to certify their enrollment data under penalty of law, but the federal government still chose to use its flawed census figures instead.
COVID has exposed the broken nature of the federal-tribal relationship, which is legally meant to be one of sovereign governments implementing treaties. The U. Instead, federal support during the pandemic has been meager and counterproductive, structured through agencies that have no experience or familiarity with Indian Country.
California tribal communities
The grant-based funding model is forcing tribes that are already overextended and strained by the pandemic to spend unnecessary resources on a duplicative reporting process simply to access aid that is already deated for them. This burdensome process has been exacerbated by a severe lack of interagency coordination, meaningful tribal consultation, and transparency.
When tribes protested and Congress clarified that tribal casinos, which are the lifeblood of tribes that lack a tax base due to the land-trust structure, did indeed qualify for the emergency relief, the SBA took almost a month to consult with tribes and resolve the issue, by which time the first round of funding had already run out. Instead of receiving financial support, tribes are stuck in consultation with the Fed, while many banks have begun refusing tribes for the program, leaving them with enormous debt as other industries and governments receive relief.
Trust and treaty responsibilities require that the executive branch build infrastructure to overcome these hurdles as a nation-to-nation duty. There is no evidence that the White House council has held a principal-level meeting yet—and its revival looks, so far, to be on paper only, lacking the authority and structure it had under President Obama. Congress needs to make good on its treaty and trust obligations by providing much more direct relief during this downturn and investing in a robust recovery.
Locations & demographics
The trust relationship obligates the federal government to enable the socioeconomic well-being of tribes as payment for acquired lands. These tribal communities that suffer from preexisting conditions in addition to ificant shortages in hospital and treatment capacity are not receiving enough test kits, personal protective equipment PPEand technical information during the pandemic. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, for example, received only two test kits for a tribe of 44, people. There is an immediate need for the federal government to provide stopgap solutions such as clean drinking water and hand sanitizer supplies in some tribal communities.
However, the next stimulus package is also an opportunity to address the underlying tribal infrastructure crisis that makes infectious diseases more lethal in Indian Country. Many of these challenges are even more pronounced in Alaska, where remote Native communities face food shortages due to reduced air traffic and limited flexibilities to fly test samples and even patients out to health care centers. In the face of COVID, infrastructural obligations should be seen as urgent, life-or-death priorities and health investments.
Coronavirus (covid) and indigenous communities
Congress should honor its responsibilities and pass a comprehensive package to address the most immediate needs in Indian Country—but then must also continue to take longer-term action as the pandemic continues to prevent new disparities from emerging in the wake of COVID Domestic violence rates increase during natural disasters and economic depression, and the combined effects of COVID have led to a rise in incident reporting in 48 states.
This displacement denies tribal citizens access to culturally competent programs and rehabilitation resources; during a pandemic, it also denies them access to the resources their tribes deployed to contain the virus.
The solution is, and has always been, to defer to the tribes themselves on how best to handle social issues in a culturally competent manner. Treaty obligations mandate that the federal government not only respect their ability to do so but also direct funding and resources toward that end.
For too long, the federal government has been an aggressor when it should respect tribal sovereignty and absent when it has the responsibility to act. It has never been more apparent or urgent that this double-headed disaster be reversed and redressed.
Locations & demographics
In the long run, the federal government needs to acknowledge and internalize that the best it can do for Indian Country is to listen and work with tribes and tribal leaders. This is not only the most effective but also the lawful path forward.
In the case of COVID, many tribes have developed guidelines that are rooted in local context, make cultural sense, and go further than those of neighboring states and nontribal communities. It is time that nontribal governments underscore—not undermine—these efforts.
The covid response in indian country
While some states and local governments have lived up to their obligations to tribal neighbors, too many have actively harmed or undermined the efforts tribes made to contain the spread of the virus. Tribal measure: In April, when the state refused to issue a lockdown order even as infection rates soared, the two Lakota tribes closed their reservations to nonresidents engaging in nonessential travel without a permit through tribal checkpoints. These checkpoints are not only legal but can mean life or death to tribes that cannot afford to deal with additional exposure from outsiders.
Kristi Noem R threatened the tribes with an ultimatum: Remove the checkpoints in 48 hours or face legal repercussions. In issuing this threat, Gov. Noem threatened the sovereign right of the Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to make their own laws; violated numerous legal decisions and the Treaty of Fort Laramie, which gave tribes superior authority over highways running through tribal land; and undermined tribal efforts to protect their peoples.
Covid vaccines and indigenous peoples
However, Oglala and Cheyenne River leaders, supported by a chorus of tribal organizations across the country, have refused to remove the checkpoints. Notably, the checkpoints do not shut down any nontribal ro, take less than one minute to pass through, and have allowed the Cheyenne River Sioux to trace their only positive case of COVID on the reservation. Tribal measure: On April 6, the Yurok Tribe in California closed its borders to all nonmembers and issued a shelter-in-place order for all those living on the reservation.
Additionally, the tribe established a curfew within its borders. These proactive measures were established to protect those living on the reservation, 60 percent of whom are either elders or have an underlying health condition. Despite a warning from the tribe, the owners continued to serve patrons. Tribal measure: Concerned with a lack of medical services, high rates of underlying medical conditions, and a ificant elder population, the Walker River Paiute Tribe in Nevada closed its borders to nonmembers and established tribal curfews.
Tribal measure: The Yerington Paiute Tribe does not have access to clean water, as their supply has been contaminated with toxins due to nonnative corporations. In order to provide their tribal members with water, a biweekly delivery is sent to the tribe.
Homelands are essential to the economic, cultural, and political survival and well-being of tribes. Placement of land into trust is the main vehicle through which the federal government acts on its legal obligation to ensure tribes have the ability to pursue prosperity.
Through agriculture and natural resource management, tribes use lands to build economic and nutritional security. Moreover, homelands are ificant to tribal identity and cultural continuity during a pandemic that disproportionately kills elders—the traditional cultural gatekeepers of many tribes.
Inthe U. Supreme Court went against decades of legal precedent in its decision on Carcieri v.
Covid vaccines and indigenous peoples
The Trump administration is using the ruling to not just oppose new land-trust acquisitions but also to take existing lands out of trust from tribes. It is moving ahead with nonessential rulemakings and decisions such as oil and gas lease sales, 58 land management plan changes, and loosening of environmental standards. Pueblo governors in New Mexico, for example, requested an extension of a comment period on a proposal to expand oil and gas development near the culturally ificant Chaco Canyon landscape. The administration is, at best, ignoring tribal concerns; at worst, it is using the COVID pandemic to circumvent tribal consultation to jam through controversial actions.
The disproportionate impact of COVID on tribal communities is the direct result of systemic and historic failures by the U. As the federal government looks for short- and long-term solutions to enable tribes to respond, recover, and prevent future public health crises, it must begin the work of paying tribes what it owes in relief and investments to lessen the growing burden of COVID And it must avoid harmful and counterproductive practices that are infringing on tribal sovereignty and worsening the pandemic.
Tribes are telling the federal government exactly what they need; the onus is now on the government native dating Corona CA listen.
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She is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She ly worked at the U. Department of the Interior, serving as communications director and senior adviser. The authors would like to thank the National Congress of American Indians for their guidance and feedback as well as Lawrence Roberts and Bryan Newland for their ideas and insight. To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource .
Citations issued due to lack of compliance with health officer order
Energy and Environment. Subscribe to InProgress Subscribe. Cheyenne River Sioux and Oglala Sioux tribes Tribal measure: In April, when the state refused to issue a lockdown order even as infection rates soared, the two Lakota tribes closed their reservations to nonresidents engaging in nonessential travel without a permit through tribal checkpoints. Share this:. Select a Chapter.