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NEWS RELEASE: Navajo & Hopi Families Relief Fund Builds Movement in Response to Covid-19 Pandemic




April 8, 2020

Cassandra Begay

Navajo & Hopi Families Relief Fund Builds Movement in Response to Covid-19 Pandemic

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TSIIZIZII, DINÉTAH (LEUPP, NAVAJO NATION/ARIZONA) — In response to the escalating health crisis facing Diné (Navajo) and Hopi communities in Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, and New Mexico, the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund has mobilized volunteer emergency food and water distribution throughout the region.

“It is so amazing to see our communities come together and respond proactively to the threat of coronavirus and COVID-19 on the Navajo and Hopi reservations.” said Ethel Branch, former Navajo Nation Attorney General and founder of the Relief Fund. “I thought this would make just a small impact, but the great love and care that the public has for our communities, and their sense of justice to correct the inequities that exist in Indigenous communities has morphed this effort into a movement.”

On March 15, 2020, Ethel organized a GoFundMe campaign to provide relief for Diné and Hopi families impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Within 22 days, the campaign has raised more than $400,000. 

“In just a few weeks we have managed to build a massive collaborative effort bringing together Diné and Hopi professionals, grassroots organizers and concerned community members to build the social net our communities have always deserved but have been denied because of treaty violations and on-going systemic injustices that make our communities extremely vulnerable to this pandemic” said Janene Yazzie, team lead in New Mexico for the Navajo-Hopi COVID-19 Relief Fund, “We have the expertise to build the solutions most meaningful for our people.”

The GoFundMe campaign’s mission is to “help the elderly (especially those raising their grandchildren), the immunocompromised and mobility impaired, single parents, and struggling families by helping them buy groceries, water, health supplies, and necessary items so they (and their vulnerable communities) can be protected from exposure to the virus by engaging volunteers to make these purchases and deliver them to a safe transfer location for those in need. We are also helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 on these reservations by engaging volunteers to sew masks for medical workers and first responders on Navajo and Hopi.”

Since the campaign launched, the Relief Fund has received more than 4,500 requests for support and mobilized numerous volunteers to provide direct relief to over 850 families in over 21 communities, including Chilchinbeto, Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Kayenta, the Village of Bacavi, the Village of Oraibi, Oljato, Monument Valley, Tuba City, the Village of Upper Moencopi, the Village of Lower Moencopi, Dilcon, and Fort Defiance.

“Volunteers with the Navajo Hopi Covid 19 Relief effort are doing a great job responding to the crisis with resources raised from everyday people,” states Lillian Hill, Hopi Indigenous Food Advocate and Community Organizer, “Our Native American communities face unique and substantial disparities that put our communities at extra risk. I’m humbled to assist as a volunteer in this effort as a way to offer mutual aid to my community.”


Confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation are already growing at an exponential rate, nearly doubling by the day. As of April 7th there are currently 425 cases of COVID-19 and 17 confirmed deaths on the Navajo Nation, which has an on-reservation population of more than 180,000. During a town hall streamed on Facebook Navajo Nation president Johnathan Nez stated, “We feel that the United States government once again has ignored or even left out the first residents, the first people, the first citizens of this country: Indigenous people.”  The Navajo Nation has projected that cases will peak by mid-May.

The Navajo Nation has been very proactive in responding to COVID-19.  On March 11th, two days before President Trump, the Navajo Nation declared a state of Emergency as a proactive measure. On March 17th, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on the reservation. On the 18th the Nation closed itself to visitors. On March 20, the Nation issued a shelter-in-place order for everyone living on the reservation and imposed a curfew 10 days later. On March 23rd, the Hopi Tribe halted all tourism through its lands and reported its first known case on March 26th.


Due to a host of systemic issues, tribal communities such as Navajo and Hopi are critically at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC warns that older adults and those with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are more likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19. These tribal communities have high numbers of elderly, diabetic, asthmatic, and cancer-afflicted individuals, putting them at a substantially elevated risk of requiring hospitalization for COVID-19. The Navajo Nation has 12 Indian Health Service facilities with a total of 170 hospital beds, 13 ICU beds, 52 isolation rooms, and 28 ventilators. Given the circumstances, the few medical facilities and resources on the Nation are likely to be severely overwhelmed in a short amount of time. As such, it is essential for the on-reservation community to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.

Orders to “shelter in place” and remain at home, however, are exacerbating systematic social issues and placing additional strain on already under-resourced communities. The Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation are extreme food deserts with only 16 grocery stores and small food markets that serve nearly 200,000 people.

A third of the people living on the Navajo Nation do not have electricity in their homes. Another third of the Nation’s residents do not have running water in their homes.  Three of the twelve Hopi Villages largely do not have running water or electricity.  Economic opportunities on these reservations are scarce.  Thirty-eight percent of Navajo community members live in poverty and the Navajo Nation has approximately 50 percent unemployment.  Hopi has about 60 percent unemployment.


“I know these are difficult times. But let’s remember we are never alone,” said Cassandra Begay, Communications Lead with the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, “Let’s remember the important relationships we have that are always with us: the relationship below our feet. The relationship with our heart. The relationship between our breath and our Mother Earth’s breath. And finally remember, this is an opportunity to be grateful for many things.”

Vanessa Tullie, the team’s Buyer and Volunteer Coordinator, noted that “As this virus continues to spread across our Navajo and Hopi communities, compassion and care from volunteers will help relieve some of the disparities we are facing.  We are strong, resilient, and powerful and so long as we work together and stay safe, we will make it through this pandemic.”

Please visit our website to donate and for additional resources including volunteer & support request forms:

Diné and Hopi residents can also call toll-free to request support: 1-833-956-1554.

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1 Comment

  1. Christine Prat

    April 8, 2020 at 12:19 PM

    French translation / Traduction française:

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O’odham Executed by Border Patrol: Statement by Raymond Mattia Family




Raymond Mattia of the Tohono O’odham Nation was executed by US border patrol agents on May 18th at his home. He was reportedly shot 38 times.

A peaceful gathering to support all victims of the
unmonitored violent actions of the Border Patrol and other agencies will be held at The Border
Patrol Station in Why, Az, and Tucson on Golf Links Road this Saturday, May 27th, from

For more information please visit:

Statement by Mattia Raymond’s family:

We have been trying to find the strength to write this statement. This tragedy is so
grievous because it is apparent what had happened. Raymond called for help and, in turn, was
shot down at his doorstep. Raymond’s rights were violated by the authorities whom we trust to
protect our Nation. Improper and unprofessional actions of the agencies involved were witnessed
by family members present near the crime scene. Loved ones sat in agony, not knowing of
Raymond’s condition until they were told that he had passed hours later. Raymond lay in front of
his home for seven hours before a coroner from Tucson arrived.
In our eyes and hearts, we believe that Raymond was approached with excessive and
deadly force that took his life. He was a father, brother, uncle, friend, and an involved
community member. Raymond always fought for what was right, and he will continue to fight
even after his death. This is not an isolated incident, but it should bring awareness of the
oppression our people live through.
We want to thank so many of you for your condolences and support. A GoFundMe for
defense funds will be available soon. A peaceful gathering to support all victims of the
unmonitored violent actions of the Border Patrol and other agencies will be held at The Border Patrol Station in Why, Az, and Tucson on Golf Links Road this Saturday, May 27th, from 10:00am-Noon.

Contact for support:

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ALERT: Imminent Uranium Mining Threat at Grand Canyon – Haul No!




Underground blasting & above ground work has begun at Pinyon Plain/Canyon Mine, just miles from the Grand Canyon. 

Workers are readying to start mining uranium at the mine. According to the Forest Service, workers are blasting daily though no ore is being moved yet. Once Energy Fuels starts hauling out radioactive ore, they plan to haul 30 tons per day through Northern Arizona to the company’s processing mill 300 miles away. 

The Grand Canyon, sacred site Red Butte, precious water, and communities along the haul route are in danger! 

As all legal options have failed, we need you to join us to stand up and stop this nuclear catastrophe from permanently poisoning our communities!

Join our telegram channel to connect for actions and support:

For more info & to donate for legal defense:

Pinyon Plain/Canyon Mine Haul Route Facts:

* Total distance of 300 miles.

* 12 trucks with capacity to haul up to 30 tons of highly radioactive ore per day.

* Truck loads to be covered with thin tarps, the only shielding from uranium and only protection from environmental contamination.

* Proposed route will go through high population areas such as Valle, Williams, and Flagstaff; as well as through rural Navajo reservation communities including Cameron, Tuba City, and Kayenta; near the Hopi reservation, and finally arrive at Energy Fuel’s White Mesa Mill only three miles from the Ute Mountain Ute tribal community of White Mesa, Utah.

#haulno #stoppinyonplainmine



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