Given the socio-economic realities of many Indigenous communities in the U.S. – poverty, limited or contaminated resources, health service and infrastructure disparities – particular care and attention must be paid to First Nations and Native people during the coronavirus pandemic. For financial support and the economic stability of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S., we've compiled stimulus legislation resources and grant and business development opportunities, as well as recommended reading.
For health concerns, First Peoples recommends updates and resources from the National Council of Urban and Indian Health Coronavirus Resource Center and Indian Health Services, updates on spread of the disease in Indian Country from the Center for World Indigenous Studies, and official CDC Guidelines. For daily and developing news specific to Indian Country, visit Indian Country Today's COVID-19 syllabus and Indanz.com’s COVID-19 in Indian Country. Additionally, the Tribal Law and Policy Institute's COVID-19 Resources offers a list of tribal initiatives, best practices, and service provision strategies.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has produced a full summary of tribal provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a federal package appropriating $2 trillion for economic stimulus in the U.S., $8 billion of which aids tribal nations.
JustMoney.org created a user-friendly, step-by-step explanation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) enacted as part of the CARES Act. The Loan Program provides financial support for small businesses, nonprofits and tribal businesses with 500 or fewer employees.
In addition to the PPP, the National Law Review outlines several other loan programs and relief grant opportunities within the CARES Act specific to Native communities and tribal governments, including:
• Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans Program and the
• Tribal Economic Stabilization Fund
• U.S. Department of Treasury's Loans and Guarantee Loans
• FEMA - Disaster Relief Fund
• HUD - Indian Housing
• USDA - Commodities: Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
• DOI - Direct Tribal Assistance
• DOI - Healthcare and Education
• Office of Child Care - Indian Child Care Development Block Grant
In addition to CARES Act and other stimulus legislation summaries, the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) highlights useful agency resources for Native businesses and organizations, including administrative relief for federal aid recipients and applicants, deadline extension from the IRS and Department of Agriculture, and an FAQ from the Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding Native American programs. A separate e-mail alert outlines PPP eligibility expansion to include most tribal gaming operations.
Among first wave emergency resources such as FEMA's Tribal Declaration and Disaster Assistance Resources and Emergency Declarations Mechanisms Under Tribal and Federal Law, the Bureau of Indian Affairs outlined disbursement methodology of the additional $522 million in direct appropriations resources for COVID-19 response activities through BIA and the Bureau of Indian Education.
NDN Collective's $10 million COVID-19 Response Project provides "grants, communication and strategic support to Tribal Nations, front line Indigenous-led organizations, and individuals who are providing essential services to Indigenous communities." Initial grants support services and relief efforts such as medical supplies, food delivery, housing, youth and eldercare, economic relief and cultural, ceremonial and spirit-aligned support. There are also grants available for artists and entrepreneurs. Future grant opportunities will address long-term transition and recovery planning.
Change Labs regularly updates their list of relief and recovery loans and grants for small business owners, nonprofit leaders, and self-employed artists to help with immediate expenses, and has compiled an extensive list of COVID-19 information, resources, toolkits, and funding available to Native entrepreneurs. Their Rez Rising platform allows people to connect with and support Native entrepreneurs and artisans.
Food Tank compiled a list of several organizations with funding specific to food relief, as well as other essential services. These include the Pueblo Relief Fund, Native American Community Response Fund, Emergency Mobile Pantry in Zuni, New Mexico, First Nations Development Institute's COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, Hopi Foundation's Emergency Assistance Fund, The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health’s COVID-19 Response, Seeding Sovereignty's Indigenous Impact Rapid Response Initiative, Seventh Generation's Flicker Fund and several more community and region-specific funds. For further grant and funding opportunity, see Illuminative's Warrior Up resources and Native Philanthropy's Coronavirus Resource Center.
Among their list of resources and consultation opportunities, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development compiled the COVID-19 Contracting and Business Assistance Resources, and links to the Center for Indian Country Development's comprehensive Map of Native American Financial Institutions.
This 10-minute anonymous survey from groups including Roanhorse Consulting, Native Women Lead, Change Labs, and Native Community Capital is being used “to identify resources and best practices to help Native Businesses not just survive but potentially grow despite the uncertainty of the current pandemic.” Resources are distributed through their Facebook Group.
For Native entrepreneurs and social investors working within Indian Country, the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Business (SOCAP) compiled a range of helpful resources, including Emergency Funding Sources and Resources For Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMEs).
Highlighting health resources, congressional actions, and news stories pertaining to the crisis in Indian Country, the House Committee on Natural Resources is soliciting feedback directly from Indian Country about coronavirus impacts and preparations currently affecting Native communities. Link to survey here.
Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 (PDF)
In their wide-ranging report, the United Nations asks governments to ensure that human rights and inclusion are primary factors in crisis response, particularly for “natural, ethnic or religious minorities, Indigenous Peoples, or LGBTI people.” They recommend the international community “take explicit measures to boost the economies of developing countries” – an important consideration for Indigenous communities in the U.S. where the economic realities are often more similar to those of developing nations.
Developing countries need international support, given that their ability to fund expansionary stimulus is already limited, and has been further limited in recent days by currency instability. This will require debt relief for many countries to create the domestic fiscal space. This will also require creative thinking about how to mobilize large injections of concessional finance – not only from multilateral development banks but also from private lenders such as pension funds, who will be in a hunt for low-growth investment opportunities.
“Tribes and tribal entities are hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Many of these communities already struggle to access quality health care, and a large number of tribes are heavily dependent on the industries hit hardest by COVID-19 – gaming, tourism, and hospitality in particular.”
–Chris James, CEO, National Center for the American Indian Enterprise Development (Via.)
We Know What Is Best for Us.' Indigenous Groups Around the World Are Taking COVID-19 Responses Into Their Own Hands
Mélissa Godin - TIME - 5/29/20
Indigenous-led responses have already proven to be successful, and in some cases, more effective than federal responses.
New Report Highlights the Impacts of COVID-19 on Indigenous Women in the Americas
Cultural Survival - 5/29/20
“Within the framework of our right to self-determination, the Indigenous communities of the Americas decided to close our frontiers and prohibit the entry of outsiders, as a response to the lack of action on the part of governments…”
Deforestation, oil spills, and coronavirus: Crises converge in the Amazon
Rachel Ramirez - Grist - 5/29/20
Early reports suggest that Brazil’s indigenous peoples are being especially hard hit by the virus. According to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, an indigenous rights organization, the mortality rate among this population of nearly one million is double that experienced in Brazil overall.
Tribal leaders oppose online consultations with the U.S. during the pandemic
Anna V. Smith - High Country News - 5/27/20
“Consultation has to be meaningful in that it has to provide the tribe an ability to give input. It cannot be lip service, or they can sue you. This is a legal obligation."
As Covid-19 tears through Navajo Nation, young people step up to protect their elders
Mona Gablemay - STAT - 5/26/20
Young Navajos, sensing that help could not wait, are now leading a variety of response efforts, from donation drives to deliver much-needed water and food, to social media campaigns to reach isolated residents, to recruiting medical volunteers to staff clinics.
Why Native Americans took Covid-19 seriously: 'It's our reality'
Nina Lakhani - The Guardian - 5/26/20
…native communities have demonstrated a greater historical awareness of the experience of pandemics, and tried to protect their citizens through measured emergency responses with limited resources, but which assert their right to self determination and governance. In South Dakota, tribes set-up roadblocks to protect their citizen… In Washington, the Lummi Nation created the country’s first field hospital, while the Navajo Nation, the second largest tribe in the US, has tested over 13% of those on the reservation compared to 4% in the US.
Native communities have been hit hard by COVID-19 — and fear for their survival
Stephanie Sy, Lena I. Jackson, Casey Kuhn - PBS News Hour - 05/25/20
"This pandemic's impact on our community has been almost entirely economic at this point. I would estimate that, right now, we have about two-thirds of our tribal employees out of work. And then our tribe has a pretty sizable commercial fishing industry that's really been hit hard."
As the coronavirus pandemic strains supplies, Native Americans fight food insecurity
Erik Ortiz - NBC News - 5/24/20
The younger Native American generation is seeing the appeal of a type of farming that's more community-oriented rather than mass farming… Attempts to challenge that system to the benefit of Native populations are being made by Cherokee communities swapping seed kits for each season, Oglala Lakota chefs preserving Native food traditions and Native-run community colleges teaching methods that might otherwise be forgotten.
How Indigenous Peoples practices can guide our recovery from COVID-19
Cristina Eghenter - Medium - 5/22/20
In navigating our way out of this current crisis we must set course for a just and inclusive recovery which embraces diversity, sufficiency, reciprocity, solidarity, equity and equality. A responsible, respectful and caring relationship with nature and each other are the key tenets of achieving this just, equitable and sustainable socio-economic model.
Beyond the checkpoints: How a S.D. Native American tribe is protecting its people from COVID-19
Bart Pfankuch - KELO TV - 5/24/20
The tribe has instituted a mandatory nightly curfew, placed strict limitations on how people shop, distributed free safety equipment, hired more police officers, expanded hospital capacity, created food-sharing and storage programs and instituted an effort in which at-risk tribal elders are contacted every day for welfare checks by phone.
9 Ways Indigenous Rights are at Risk during the COVID-19 Crisis
Cultural Survival - 5/20/20
1. Deepening Health Disparities… 2. Lack of Access to Information… 4. Extractive Industries Greenlighted to Continue Operations Despite Threats to Health and Safety… 7. Increased Food Insecurity… 8 Increased Land Grabs…
Gardening Advice from Indigenous Food Growers
Stephanie Woodard - YES! Magazine - 5/20/20
…tribal gardeners will put into action traditional practices that arise from close observations of nature and the belief that humans, plants, animals, and other aspects of the natural world form a mutually reliant community. We are all related, Skye says. “Gardening and eating food you’ve raised give you a direct connection to Mother Earth.”
COVID-19 impacts every corner of the Navajo Nation
Kalen Goodluck - High Country News - 5/19/20
In 2003 and in 2018, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found that tribal infrastructure was chronically underfunded by billions of dollars. Since virus prevention requires access to information, electricity, running water, cleaning supplies, food and medical care, many Navajos are already at a disadvantage.
Navajo Nation surpasses New York state for the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the US
Hollie Silverman, Konstantin Toropin, Sara Sidner, Leslie Perrot - CNN - 5/18/20
"We have to stay the course when it comes to staying home as much as possible, wearing masks in public, washing our hands often, and taking every precaution to ensure our health and safety especially for our elders and children."
Battling lack of resources, Native stations provide lifeline with COVID coverage
Grace Vitaglione - Current - 5/18/20
Many parts of Indian Country lack internet access and broadband connectivity, making their public radio stations the only source of local information… The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this role more crucial.
Minneapolis nonprofit triples farmland to meet growing need for healthy food in Native American community
Kelly Smith - Star Tribune 5/15/20
…tribes, nonprofits and foundations across the state are adding emergency COVID efforts, distributing more food and resources to American Indians in need as unemployment rises and casinos — major tribal employers and sources of tribal revenue — stay closed during the pandemic.
How COVID-19 is impacting indigenous peoples in the U.S.
Randall Akee - PBS News Hour - 5/13/20
There are continuing issues and concerns that American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) individuals are being mis-categorized as Latinx or Hispanic based on surnames or appearance in certain state counts. In many state health departments, AIAN individuals are simply classified as “other.” If this is the case, then there will be an undercount of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in certain communities. A better understanding of how the pandemic is playing out in these communities might help provide better-targeted, context-specific policies.
A Life on and Off the Navajo Nation
Wahleah Johns - The New York Times - 5/13/20
“Today we don’t need handouts from the U.S. government. We need investment in building a restorative economy that is aligned with our traditional values and our relationship with nature."
Latin America's indigenous shield elderly 'cultural guardians' from coronavirus
Cassandra Garrison, Marina Lammertyn, Anthony Boadle - Reuters - 5/11/20
“Grandmothers are the community counselors. Older people are those who transmit ancestral wisdom, those who organize us, give order, advise spiritually… Today, we meet less than before.”
Doctors Without Borders dispatches team to the Navajo Nation
Christina Capatides - CBS News - 5/11/20
"The lack of running water complicates things, but it's something that's really familiar to us and probably more familiar to us than other NGOs and nonprofits that work in the U.S.… Water sanitation and infection control go hand-in-hand, but it's something that we know quite a lot about, how to navigate those resources."
History of inequality making COVID-19 worse for Native Americans
Lisa Deaderick interviews AAIA's Shannon Keller O’Loughlin - San Diego Union Tribune - 5/10/20
"We need testing on every reservation and in every neighborhood where native people call home. We need meaningful tribal consultation at every step in the process. ... We need not to be ignored but respected as equal partners in the care for our shared country."
Native artists lend skills to COVID-19 campaigns
Sandra Hale Schulman - Indian Country Today - 5/10/20
With reservations and Native communities being hit particularly hard by the pandemic, Native artists are getting out the message of social distancing and hygiene through art.
10 steps to save Native Americans from Covid-19 catastrophe
Van Jones - CNN - 5/6/20
Native Americans themselves are doing all they can -- in government, NGOs and companies. Some tribal governments imposed curfews and quarantines. The IHS and National Guard are working miracles with what they have. Native leaders are invoking the resilience of prior generations to inspire their people to stay strong, stay safe and stay home. Now, it is our turn.
Scenes From a Pandemic: 6
Taté Walker - The Nation - 5/5/20
Surviving the very systems built without us in mind, or to destroy us, has forced us to expect and adapt to change. This capacity for creative thrivance gives me hope, and examples of it shine through in today’s bleak viral landscape—a reminder that medicine comes in many forms.
173 years, $170: Why Irish people are donating to help Native Americans hit by coronavirus
Alyssa Newcomb - NBC News - 5/6/20
Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation said adversity can “bring out the best in people” and said he’s happy to see his ancestors’ generosity inspiring donations to other Native American tribes.
Surviving Pandemics Is Indigenous Resistance
Kelly Hayes interview with Morning Star Gali - Truthout - 5/4/20
"What’s not being as reported is the structural barriers in place for our tribal and inner tribal communities. So the reality is that many of our communities are without electricity, they’re without clean drinking water. They face a lack of sanitation within their homes."
Makah tribe fights coronavirus with self-reliance and extreme isolation
Lynda V. Mapes - The Seattle Times - 5/3/20
By now, old habits of self reliance have new meaning. Many also said while closing the reservation has its hardships, there is a sweetness in once again having their home lands and waters to themselves. Theirs is a fortress of sea and sky and natural plenitude. It always has been.
Native nonprofit expands Minnesota farm, aims to scale up crop production amid pandemic
Emily Bright - Minnesota Public Radio - 5/3/20
"With the pandemic we’ve had to change our style of farming, not only to maintain social distance but also to create more growing space from how we used to farm the property. So we’re growing a lot more intensively on the existing property."
Dear High School Class of 2020
Indian Country Today - 5/1/2020
Part of this letter is to acknowledge that this is different, this feels overwhelming, this is real, and this is something that many of us have not experienced. We hold these realities in our hearts. We hold you. We also want to remind you that you are from descendants whose teachings will never die; they live in you. Teachings that tell us we belong, we are loved, and we are strong. Your original relations emerged from the earth, the waters (rivers and oceans), from the skies, and from other places…
Affected by Coronavirus — and Why It's Time for a New Normal
Stephanie Petit interviews NDN Collective's Nick Tilsen - People - 4/29/2020
"The normal meant injustices for Indigenous people. The normal meant underinvestment of our people. The normal meant fossil fuel industry exploiting our lands and our communities...There's opportunity here to architect and build a new world."
Women Face Amplified Risks in the Pandemic. Funders Are Responding
Julia Travers - Inside Philanthropy - 4/28/20
“Indigenous women are on the front lines of response efforts in our communities. They are elders, mothers, medical professionals, tribal leaders, protectors, nonprofit executives, activists and entrepreneurs—sometimes all at once.”
Native American tribes have been hit hard by coronavirus, and they're battling red tape to get help
Christal Hayes, Nora Mabie and Jeanine Santucci - USA TODAY 4/26/20
“Even though we have this treaty relationship with the government, there’s so much red tape involved in getting dollars to tribal communities… We shouldn’t be going through these same hoops when we’re facing a public health emergency in Indian Country"
Native Americans being left out of US coronavirus data and labelled as 'other'
Rebecca Nagle - The Guardian - 4/24/20
“If you eliminate us in the data, we don’t exist. We don’t exist for the allocation of resources…With what we’re seeing right now, there will absolutely be a gross undercount of the effects of Covid on American Indian and Alaska Native peoples. We have an opportunity to prepare for the next wave.”
Navajo Nation Sees High Rate Of COVID-19 And Contact Tracing Is A Challenge
Laurel Moraels - NPR - 4/24/20
More than 150 years ago, the Navajo and many other tribes signed treaties with the federal government giving up their land in exchange for funding of things like housing, infrastructure and health care. But for decades that hasn't happened.
Navajo Nation, hit hard by COVID-19, comes together to protect its most vulnerable (VIDEO)
Stephanie Sy - PBS - 4/24/20
In recent days, vital resources have been delivered…The National Guard has brought in supplies, initially from its own stockpile of masks and other protective gear. And people are stepping up to fill the needs of their neighbors, Navajo sewing masks for front-line workers... "We're encouraging our elders to share their stories, the stories of our culture, our tradition, and our language, so that our young people don't remember this time as a scary moment."
Native American Tribes Say They’re At Risk Of Losing Out On Potentially Millions Of Coronavirus Stimulus Dollars
Zoe Tillman - BuzzFeed News - 4/24/20
What exactly qualifies as a “tribal government” is at the heart of the legal fight that’s quickly bubbled up in a federal district court in Washington, DC.
Celebrities, prominent Native Americans urge community to stay home
Anagha Srikanth - The Hill - 4/23/20
Celebrities including Ed Helms, Taika Waititi, Casey Affleck, Wilmer Valderrama and Taboo ask members of the Native American community to stay apart.
Coronavirus hits Indian Country hard, exposing infrastructure disparities
Chiara Sottile and Erik Ortiz - NBC News - 4/19/20
"They carry a lot of the knowledge and ceremonies that we, the young people, are still learning," Young said with her hand on her heart, adding, "Our cultures are in jeopardy right now if we lose our elders."
COVID-19 disproportionately impacts communities of color (VIDEO)
AM Joy - MSNBC - 4/19/20
"American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous People tend to be an 'asterisk' type population, where they'll add us to the end of their data table and say we don't have enough numbers… we [have to] gather own data and have to do our own reporting…"
Expert Analysis: What The CARES Act Means For Tribes
Law360 - 4/17/20
The [CARES Act] legislation contains several provisions to address the unique and disproportionate impacts of the pandemic in Indian Country… More specifically, however, are provisions that set aside a specific amount of funding to support tribal governments as they respond to and manage the significant costs and related impacts associated with COVID-19.
Drums, dancers livestream as virus moves powwows online
Felicia Fonseca - Associated Press - 4/10/20
Normally this time of year, a string of powwows hosted by Native American tribes and universities would be underway across the U.S., with tribal members honoring and showcasing their cultures — and socializing, like family reunions.
COVID-19's Growing Impact on Indigenous Communities Globally
Danielle DeLuca -Cultural Survival - 04/09/20
There is a special need to support initiatives managed by Indigenous governments, communities, organizations, women, youth and volunteers… Indigenous Peoples have solutions and need to be active participants in actions being taken by governments.
Navajo Nation: Fears of hunger as COVID-19 lockdown to intensify
Creede Newton - Al Jazeera - 4/8/20
Though some have referred to the situation of food distribution in the Navajo Nation a "food desert", [Dine Community Advocacy Alliance organizer Denisa] Livingston used the phrase "food apartheid"... The lack of easy access to food - especially healthy options - has been a problem for Navajo people for years.
COVID-19: A “Perfect Storm” for Indian Country
Debbie Warren - NPQ - 4/7/20
How will our [the U.S.] government support American Indians in this COVID-19 crisis? Its track record is dismal, one characterized by chronic underfunding, disrespect of Native sovereignty, and contempt for tribal traditions…
The risk to Native American nations from Covid-19
Kent Sepkowitz - CNN - 4/7/20
...the fact that this particular outbreak is occurring in a population already at high risk for poor outcomes, with services distributed across a very wide geographic area, chronic staffing shortages, and a need to compete with larger, more wealthy states and cities for desperately needed supplies and equipment likely will result in many lost lives.
Indian Country, where residents suffer disproportionately from disease, is bracing for coronavirus
Dana Hedgpeth, Darryl Fears and Gregory Scruggs - The Washington Post - 4/4/20
The coronavirus is ravaging the United States, but experts say more than 5 million people who identify as American Indian and Alaskan Native are especially vulnerable.
Historic Injustices Against Native People Put Them at Greater Risk of COVID-19
Jen Deerinwater - Truthout - 4/3/20
The American Indian and Alaska Native (AI and AN) population has only recently comprised 2 percent of the American population. This growth is a rebound from over 500 years of continual genocide, which has included pandemics and germ warfare. Additionally, 42 percent of AI and AN people are 24 or younger, making the conditions of youth of particular importance to Native nations.
Washington state tribes, allies mobilize to gather medical protection needed in coronavirus fight
Lynda V. Mapes - The Seattle Times - 4/3/20
“The biggest take-away for me is it is so important for people of color to develop their business capacity. So that in circumstances like this, we don’t have to wait for the federal government or that next grant cycle to do something for us.”
Indian Country faces higher risks, lack of resources in COVID-19 fight
Stephanie Ebbs, Cheyenne Haslett - ABC News - 4/3/2020
More and more conversations have circled back to warnings laid out nearly a decade ago, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked into the reasons the H1N1 flu killed four times the number of Native Americans compared to the rest of the population.
'It warms the heart': Navajo mount grassroots effort to tackle coronavirus
Nina Lakhani - The Guardian - 4/2/20
Women are leading a volunteer effort to care for elders and vulnerable people across the tribe’s vast, poorly served territory…
Indigenous Arizonans dance with thousands around world in online 'social distance' powwow
Chelsea Curtis - Arizona Republic - 3/27/20
"All the powwows have been canceled and we are quarantined, so this gives us an opportunity to see others and connect through our Native traditions… It is a new step in making those connections, giving natives from all over the world more access to each other."
The coronavirus is exacerbating vulnerabilities Native communities already face
Maria Givens - VOX - 3/25/20
Not only could the virus cause a drastic death toll — especially among at-risk elders who serve as community knowledge keepers — it could also wreak havoc on tribal economies that have barely recovered from the economic crash of 2008.
Tribes Expect Little Help in Fight to Protect Elders From Coronavirus
March Alex Brown -Pew Charitable Trusts - 3/19/20
Tribes have advantages as well as challenges in responding to the pandemic. Most tribes lack sprawling bureaucracies that can slow response to a crisis. Small leadership councils often are able to meet and act quickly, tribal officials said, unlike state legislatures, which must convene scores of members from a wide geographic region.
Native American tribe takes trailblazing steps to fight Covid-19 outbreak
Nina Lakhani - The Guardian - 3/18/20
The tribe’s proactive response to the evolving global pandemic has been possible thanks to vast improvements to the quality and capacity of its community healthcare system over the past decade. Like an increasing number of tribes, the Lummi nation has opted for “self-determination” which enables greater financial flexibility and clinical autonomy…