Navajo Nation Reeling Under the Scope of COVID-19

Reservation existence is tough. And that’s under the best of circumstances.

The 2020 assault of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has compounded the difficulty of rez life and Navajo Nation is reeling. There are more than 100 deaths reported, more than 3,000 cases confirmed at this point.

navajo health facilities overwhelmed by covid-19 cases
Navajo healthcare facilities are chronically underfunded and COVID-19 infection rates are second only to New York

Yes, the incidence of of both death and illness is extreme. With an infrastructure as suspect as it is on most reservations, the tragedy could not be dodged.

I’m not writing this to blame the criminal lack of funding or the neglect that has made it accepted practice to fill dusty Native care facilities with quirky docs and second-rate equipment. Mind you, I’m furious about it but too sad right now to go on that rant.

Instead, I’m typing through tears because my heart breaks again for the simple people who never have enough safety net to remove the pain of centuries of displacement and hostility. Right now they are dying as families – in twos and threes with no resources to do social distancing.

The Navajo grieving process is sacred. Days of time needed to honor the stories of the dead. A ceremony that properly closes the circle.

It’s a chapter of storytelling, processing, letting go. In the era of Coronavirus death is sudden, mourning is unsafe, burial often impossible. A book published without its rightful conclusion.

When you have so little of the world’s ‘things’ your tribe is your storehouse of wealth. Kin has a value far above rubies. It drops away in pieces and there’s no way to overstate that sense of loss.

But it’s accelerating right now. The dying, the grieving, the need to recover. All too fast for a Native American tradition that honors the dimension of time in countless rituals.

Navajo Nation, my heart breaks for you. Robbed again and, this time, the theft is irreplaceable.