IndigenousAction.org, April 22, 2021
Note: This was originally written May 2020 & published in part in Black Seed #8. This version has been slightly revised & updated.
DinĂ© BikĂ©yah (The Navajo Nation) has faced and endured the highest rate per-capita of COVID-19 cases than any settler colonial U.S. state.
As this respiratory virus wreaks havoc through these lands, mainstream media has again anointed our people as the mascots of poverty and victimization. The statistics are pounded loudly to evoke settler pity: Approximately 33% of our people have no running water or electricity. We live in a âfood desertâ with 13 grocery stores serving nearly 200,000 residents. DinĂ© BikĂ©yah has approximately 50% unemployment. While these facts are not wrong, the solution is not more fundraisers for the âpoor Indians.â
Has this pandemic impacted our people so disproportionately simply because we merely lack power lines and plumbing? Is it just because there arenât massive corporate stores on every corner of our reservation? Would we really be that much more immune from this disease if every member of our tribe just had a job?
Dehumanizing narratives have always been part of the scenery here in the arid Southwest. If you blink on your way to the Grand Canyon, itâs easy to miss the ongoing brutal context of colonization and the expansion of capitalism. We live here and we even donât see it ourselves. Weâre too busy putting up that âNice Indians Behind Youâ sign.