May 26, 2020

The Washington Post: The federal government fiddles as covid-19 ravages Native Americans

Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts in the Senate. Deb Haaland, a Democrat, represents New Mexico’s 1st District in the House.

For generations, the federal government has failed to honor its promises to Native American people. Now, covid-19 is ravaging Native communities, killing young people and elders alike, and devastating tribal economies. We are fighting in Congress to ensure that sovereign Native nations have the resources needed to protect the health and well-being of their citizens during this pandemic. The novel coronavirus’s terrible impact in Indian Country underscores that the federal government must live up to its unique legal and moral obligations to Native nations and act as a partner to help build security and resiliency for the future.

The coronavirus has taken a tragic toll on Indian Country. The Navajo Nation had infection rates higher than any state as of last week. In New Mexico, Native Americans make up just 11 percent of the population, but account for more than half of the covid-19 cases. Native nations’ economies have been devastated. And American Indians and Alaska Natives also disproportionately suffer from health conditions that make them especially susceptible to complications from covid-19, in part because of environmental injustices that have left their communities grappling with the health impacts of poisoned water and air.

By disregarding the clear health crisis in tribal communities, the federal government continues a tragic pattern of broken promises to Native nations. During negotiations over the Cares Act, the major coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in March, the White House fought against any direct aid to the 574 federally recognized sovereign Native nations. Even when Senate Democrats and the Congressional Native American Caucus successfully ensured the legislation included this critical economic aid, the Treasury Department dragged its feet for weeks. More than a month after the Cares Act was enacted, Native nations still hadn’t received a penny of the $8 billion the law provided to them. Only after we and our colleagues pressed the Treasury Department did it release some of the funds to tribal governments.


Read the full op-ed on The Washington Post here

By:  Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Deb Haaland
Source: The Washington Post