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Protests as Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to U.S. Supreme Court; New York targets transportation, the state's biggest source of carbon pollution.


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Navajo Nation COVID-19 Cases Soar from Lack of Resources

About 40% of Navajo Nation households don't have running water, and many of the filling stations they use to get water have closed during the pandemic. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
About 40% of Navajo Nation households don't have running water, and many of the filling stations they use to get water have closed during the pandemic. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
April 29, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. -- After New York and New Jersey, the place with the highest coronavirus infection rate in the United States is the Navajo Nation. Long-standing problems within the Nation have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in mostly rural tribal areas of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Many households' lack of access to running water makes frequent hand-washing difficult, said Jade Begay, creative director for the NDN Collective, an organization that provides support for indigenous communities.

"The way that they access water is by traveling, sometimes hours, to these water-filling stations and then they haul the water back home," she said. "During this pandemic, some of those water filling stations have been closed because they are gathering places."

Her group is calling on state governments to reopen those filling stations using social-distancing practices. As of Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 cases for Navajo Nation topped 1,700, with total deaths at 59.

Begay said fighting the virus also involves solving other significant community problems, such as getting food and medical attention to isolated residents. However, she said, the pandemic poses a unique challenge to her people because it brings up trauma from past exposures to lethal viruses, such as smallpox, during early periods of colonization.

"This ancestral trauma can bring up a lot of anxiety, a lot of doubt, a lot of fear," she said, "and so our communities have that unique experience and have to process all of that while shifting our lives around this global pandemic."

She recommended that indigenous communities connect with traditional medicines, and traditions such as smudging, to stay grounded. The group has put information about community resources online at NDNCollective.org.

A U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report is online at usccr.gov.

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This story was produced with original reporting from Jade Begay for YES! Media, at yesmagazine.org.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - NM