Trump can’t mask mes­sage to In­dian coun­try: Live and let die

Times Standard (Eureka) - - OPINION - Amy Good­man

The COVID-19 pan­demic has hit the Dine/Navajo peo­ple hard, in­flict­ing the high­est per capita in­fec­tion rate in the coun­try af­ter New York, New Jersey, Con­necti­cut and Mas­sachusetts. The Navajo Na­tion is the largest reser­va­tion in the coun­try, larger than West Vir­ginia, strad­dling Ari­zona, New Mex­ico, Colorado and Utah. Half of the over 300,000 en­rolled mem­bers re­side on the reser­va­tion. Navajo Pres­i­dent Jonathan Nez has is­sued some of the strong­est stay-at-home mea­sures in the coun­try, in­clud­ing a week­day evening cur­few and a com­plete, stay-at-home cur­few for the en­tire week­end. Nearby Gallup, New Mex­ico, with a large Dine pop­u­la­tion, has en­acted a com­plete lock­down, with the Na­tional Guard pro­hibit­ing en­try.

As of May 5, de­spite these ef­forts, there were 2,559 con­firmed COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Na­tion and 79 deaths.

The Navajo Na­tion, along with the nearby Hopi, Pue­blo, Zuni and Gila River in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, have en­dured de­spite cen­turies of geno­cide, op­pres­sion and sys­temic racism and poverty. The novel coro­n­avirus pan­demic is af­flict­ing them dis­pro­por­tion­ately, as it has African Amer­i­can and Lat­inx pop­u­la­tions across the U.S. Ac­cess to wa­ter is chal­leng­ing on the Navajo reser­va­tion.

“That’s from a long state of his­to­ries with treaties and our re­la­tion­ship with the [fed­eral] govern­ment,” Dr. Michelle Tom ex­plained. “Our in­fra­struc­ture for wa­ter has never been at the ca­pac­ity where we can pro­vide wa­ter for ev­ery­one on the reser­va­tion. So, you’re telling peo­ple to wash your hands for 20 sec­onds, and yet peo­ple are try­ing just to get wa­ter just to drink and to cook with.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump made a rare trip Tues­day, vis­it­ing an Ari­zona N95 mask fac­tory, where he ig­nored fac­tory rules by not wear­ing a mask. Guns ‘N Roses blared from a fac­tory sound sys­tem, play­ing the song “Live and Let Die.” It’s not clear if it was a co­in­ci­den­tal mu­sic choice or not.

Trump also met with elected of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Navajo Na­tion Vice Pres­i­dent My­ron Lizer. The Navajo Na­tion joined a law­suit filed by nu­mer­ous na­tive tribes against Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, for his ab­ject fail­ure in dis­burs­ing $8 bil­lion promised to Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes in the CARES Act.

“The amount of money that’s be­ing sent to ‘In­dian coun­try,’ as we call it, is the largest amount in the history of the U.S. And you de­serve it. And you’ve been through a lot,” Trump said to VP Lizer. “The Navajo Na­tion will soon re­ceive over $600 mil­lion. That’s a lot. Should I rene­go­ti­ate that? Can we rene­go­ti­ate that?” (Laugh­ter.)

There was no laugh­ter back on the Navajo reser­va­tion. “To­day, the fed­eral govern­ment an­nounced that they in­tend to re­lease a por­tion of funds ap­pro­pri­ated by Con­gress over one month ago to tribes to help fight COVID-19, but I’ll be­lieve it when I see it,” Pres­i­dent Jonathan Nez, who him­self tested pos­i­tive for the virus, replied. “We couldn’t sit around and wait for those dol­lars, so we’ve had boots on the ground in nearly 20 com­mu­ni­ties giv­ing out food, wa­ter, fire­wood, pro­tec­tive masks and other sup­plies ... We lost many of our beloved rel­a­tives and fam­ily mem­bers to this virus, but our teach­ings also tell us to move for­ward. We will and we are.”

Amy Good­man is the host of “Democ­racy Now!,” a daily in­ter­na­tional TV/ra­dio news hour air­ing on more than 1,400 sta­tions. She is the coau­thor, with De­nis Moyni­han and David Good­man, of the New York Times best-seller “Democ­racy Now!: 20 Years Cov­er­ing the Move­ments Chang­ing Amer­ica.”

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