Contributing Author: Elena Seeley
Editor’s note: This article will be continually updated throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and will remain in alphabetical order. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to add an organization to our running list.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, Native communities across the country have been particularly hard hit by the virus.
In New Mexico, half of those who died from COVID-19 in a single day were American Indian/Alaska Native. And in Arkansas, the Pacific Islander community represents 1.2 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state, despite making up only 0.3 percent of the population.
Health disparities and limited access to healthcare have contributed significantly to these trends. Diet-related illnesses, including diabetes, that disproportionately impact Native communities have made them more susceptible to severe symptoms of the virus.
In tribal nations, where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly, communities also face a unique set of challenges. Between 35-40 percent of homes lack running water. And limiting the spread of the virus is difficult when 16 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native households are classified as overcrowded.
The pandemic has also exacerbated food insecurity in Native communities, which typically already face high rates of poverty and hunger in urban and rural areas. As COVID-19 disrupts food supply chains, communities face more severe water and food shortages.
Although the federal government distributed aid for tribes, communities say it is not enough. In response, Native-led organizations have established funds and mobilized volunteers to keep the most vulnerable fed and safe. Food Tank is highlighting these incredible efforts that you can support to ensure that Native communities receive the food and supplies they need.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) created the Pueblo Relief Fund to support the needs of 20 Pueblo Nations during the pandemic. Funds will be used to provide cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and food. Through this collaboration, APCG and IPCC hope that they will meet the needs of all New Mexico Pueblos.
These three organizations launched the Native American Community Response Fund to support Native-led organizations serving people impacted by COVID-19. Funding initially focused on the 78 percent of Native Americans who live off-reservations, but as the pandemic spread, the Fund expanded its efforts to include tribal communities. This financial support ensures that Native peoples can access reliable shelter and food. Native Americans in Philanthropy also compiled a comprehensive list of resources to help Native communities access additional aid.
The volunteer-run mobile pantry in Zuni, New Mexico delivers food baskets and non-perishable goods to homebound elders in the Zuni community. The pantry is actively seeking donations of food and cleaning materials. Financial donations are also accepted to help them purchase additional supplies from local businesses.
In response to COVID-19, the First Nations Development Institute created the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to meet the needs of American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. The Fund offers direct financial support to Native nonprofit organizations and tribal programs that need it most. The Institute also coordinated the donation of over 21,000 gallons of water and over 12,000 pounds of meat.
Surrounded by the Navajo Nation, which reports one of the highest per-capita rates of positive COVID-19 cases, the Hopi community is at great risk during the pandemic. In response, the Hopi Foundation is directing funds from their Emergency Assistance Fund to local villages, organizations, and individuals to help distribute emergency relief. Donations primarily support low-income families, elders, single-parents, and disabled individuals in need.
The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health’s COVID-19 Response mobilized over 200 people to support families in tribal communities. The Center repurposed its mobile food truck to deliver food, water, and other supplies. They have also hired a team of community members to make face masks for healthcare workers at their field sites in Whiteriver, Arizona and the Navajo Nation.
Since 1971, the Kansas City Indian Center has provided health, welfare, and cultural services to Native peoples in the Kansas City area. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Center has remained committed to serving the community. Although the Center is currently closed to the public, clients can make an appointment to access services such as food pantry items, face masks, and hygiene supplies.
Kinłani/Flagstaff Mutual Aid in Arizona is a volunteer-run response to COVID-19. Community members can offer skills, resources, space, and time to support the most vulnerable. A central hub was established to accept material donations, while financial donations support the purchase of additional goods. Their website also provides resources to help volunteers build new neighborhood pods to create a support network across Kinłani/Flagstaff.
Serving the Navajo and Zuni peoples in Northwest New Mexico, McKinley Mutual Aid is a network of organizers and advocates. By partnering with Strengthening Nations and the United Methodist Church of Gallup, they have been able to utilize a community church as a distribution and storage center. Since they launched their COVID-19 response, they have distributed food, PPE, firewood, and baby supplies to almost 500 families.
Navajo and Hopi tribal members started The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund to support the elderly, families with children, and immunocompromised and mobility impaired individuals. Funds raised go toward the purchase of groceries, water, health supplies, and other necessities. Since the campaign was launched on March 15th, it has raised over US$3 million, and organizers are forming a nonprofit to manage its funds and distribution efforts.
11. NDN Collective
An Indigenous-led organization, the NDN Collective works to build Indigenous power through organizing, activism, philanthropy, narrative change, and capacity-building. As part of Phase I of their COVID-19 Response Project, the Collective secured over US$2.3 million to support programs and projects that provide immediate relief to tribal communities. Currently, they are distributing funds to support Indigenous artists and Indigenous-led small businesses, but they intend to offer additional service grants in future phases of the Project.
The Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation is a Native-led nonprofit that works to improve the health of Native youth. In response to COVID-19, the Foundation launched the NB3 Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund to support families and children in Navajo Nation, New Mexico and tribes in South Dakota. Funds will support access to food and clean water as well as educational resources for students.
The Northern Diné COVID-19 Relief Effort (NDCVRE) is a community coalition that offers relief to the Shiprock Chapter area and neighboring communities in the northern Navajo region. The coalition’s volunteers deliver care packages that include food, infant formula, and PPE to a list of homebound families in need. NDCVRE also provides assistance to local farmers and ranchers.
For nearly 30 years, Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA) has provided immediate relief, educational support, and more to 60 Northern Plains and Southwest reservations. As a first responder in its nine priority states, PWNA quickly acted to provide relief to tribal communities impacted by COVID-19. PWNA is delivering food, water, toilet paper, and other essentials to families and elders that face stay at home orders.
When Seeding Sovereignty noticed that critical financial support was not reaching Indigenous communities in New Mexico, they created the Indigenous Impact Rapid Response Initiative. Through the Initiative, they are able to provide mental health support, supply healthy meal kits to students and elders, and distribute stipends to those who require financial support as a result of COVID-19. Seeding Sovereignty is also providing PPE to frontline medical workers from reservation clinics. They are accepting financial donations and essential supplies to support their efforts.
Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Inc started the Flicker Fund to provide resources to Indigenous communities around the world who are impacted by COVID-19. Working with trusted Native community partners, Seventh Generation Fund focuses its efforts on elders, multi-generational households, and families with young children. As part of the recent Apsaalooke project, funds were used to deliver food staples, hot lunches, and cleaning products to those on the Crow and Cheyenne Reservations.
Established over ten years ago, the Torreon Community Alliance is a community development nonprofit. Because Far Eastern Navajo communities are removed from large medical facilities, governmental centers, and food markets, the Alliance hopes to shorten chains of support with the Far East Navajo COVID-19 Response Fund. The Alliance releases funds monthly to purchase food and sanitation supplies for community members in need.