New York, NY—Today, Native youth delivered a petition with more than 1,000 signatures to members of Congress urging lawmakers to send needed emergency aid to Indian Country in the next COVID-19 relief package. The petition, organized by Next100 and the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, urges the Senate to provide $20 billion for tribal governments and entities, as included in the HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives, and to ensure tribal governments and entities can actually access the necessary funds in a timely manner at this critical time.
As of June 16, there have been 10,130 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Indian Health System and 406 total deaths. The rates of infection and death in Navajo Nation are higher than New York and New Jersey. Yet, tribes and tribal entities received just $8 billion in the Phase III stimulus package, falling far short of the $20 billion for which the National Congress of American Indians initially advocated to address the true needs of Indian Country. Since the petition was written and circulated, news reports have indicated that, in addition to the insufficient aid that does not meet the emergency needs of Native Americans, the small amount appropriated for tribal children and families has not been fully distributed, making the request for more aid even more urgent.
“It is unacceptable that we have been an afterthought in federal relief efforts made in this country—the country where Native peoples have been for centuries,” said Isabel Coronado, policy entrepreneur at Next100, lead author of the petition, and member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. “We are fighting the same health and economic crises as the rest of the country and we are experiencing among the highest impact rates in the country. Yet, once again, we get less support from the federal government. It is time Congress showed its commitment to Indian Country by ensuring that we receive sufficient emergency relief.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing disparities that Indian Country has faced for centuries. Even before the pandemic, Native Americans had disproportionately high rates of unemployment and poverty, with difficulty accessing quality health care, food, and broadband internet. Job loss, stretched resources, and unreliable access to the internet have left many tribal citizens across the continent with less support and fewer options to adapt to online learning and work than other groups. The $20 billion in requested funds will be used to feed tribal citizens, aid health care work, and jumpstart tribal economic recovery plans.
The petition was written and organized by Native youth representing tribes from across the continent. In addition to Isabel Coronado, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the other writers include: Owen L. Oliver, Quinault / Isleta Pueblo; Christie J. Wildcat, Northern Arapaho/Euchee/Navajo/Cherokee; Jazmine B. Wildcat, Northern Arapaho/Euchee/Navajo/Cherokee; Mikah Carlos, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community; Adam J. Soulor, Mohegan Tribe; Sam Schimmel, St. Lawrence Island Siberian Yupik/Kenaitze Indian. All are members of the Youth Advisory Board of the Center for Native American Youth.
“It is no coincidence that Native youth are leading the charge for our communities,” Coronado said. “As we are seeing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our communities, we have found that, to continue our survival, we must take matters into our own hands.”
Next100 is a startup think tank for and by the next generation of policy leaders, powered by The Century Foundation, a leading progressive think tank. Next100 is working to change the face and future of progressive policy, and to build a more inclusive, equal, and just America.