Our rural communities are in an emerging need that may be unseen by those living in cities or suburbs. Native Americans and remote-lifestyle individuals are being disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic often losing their jobs/ income, capacity to buy food or pay rent, and care for their families and self. Besides the lack of access to health care, those living remotely must travel significant distances (burning fuel and dollars) to reach empty shelves at stores. Not only has access to food (and their capacity to purchase it) been limited, but so too household provisions, prescriptions, and medical care. Aid from the Federal and State government will likely not arrive soon enough to provide for the needs of these people.
Having taught on the Navajo Nation for 10 years, I’ve spoken with friends experiencing and witnessing this emerging need. I spoke with State Senator Jamescita Peshlakai and discussed how individuals, different organizations as well as local and state governments may be able to respond. We agreed that a response needs to be coordinated and may be best managed through the County and State Incident Management System. She has encouraged Navajo President Nez to request Governor Ducey call on the State National Guard to assist the Native tribes of Arizona. She has also contacted U.S. Senator Sinema and Representative O’Halleran anticipating long-term needs per the Federal responsibility to native people.
I am engaging with others to develop ideas about how we, as the Greater Flagstaff community, can help our neighbors who live in these situations. We are looking at and contacting existing resources (such as the Flagstaff Family Food Center, St. Mary’s Food Bank) as to how we, as individuals, can help support this effort.
- Currently, St. Mary’s Food Bank is working on a plan to get food to the Navajo Nation. This is being coordinated with the County Emergency Response Team.
- The Flagstaff Family Food Center is open Tuesday-Saturday 9am to 1pm for those needing food boxes. A personal ID is required and boxes may be picked up at 3805 E. Huntington, Flagstaff 86004.
- County Supervisor Jim Park’s office shared that Chapter Houses can apply for $5000 Community Initiative Funding to provide food and provisions to those in need.
- County Supervisor Lena Fowler asks that people not take food to the Navajo Nation because 1) they may transport the COVID-19; 2) Tuba City has recently had trucks deliver food and necessities to stores; and 3) the Navajo Nation Incident Command is handling the situation 928-871-7014.
While our country has become politically divided and we are now impacted by the Covid-19, the way forward is for us to work together as a community. Nobody asked or cared about my politics when I was making and delivering sandbags during last year’s Museum Fire crisis, and the same should be true today. Nearly all religions call on individuals to work for the common good. Let’s make sure that we contribute to our community health by helping those in need that have often supported our businesses and community. Look for more announcements on how giving to others will help us through our current pandemic challenge.
Bryan Bates, Doney Park