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Aliyah Chavez and Dalton Walker

Health conferences. Basketball tournaments. Powwows. Hula festivals. All of these are usual highlights in Indigenous communities. That is … until the coronavirus.

Around the country, life has been affected in some way by growing concern for a pandemic moving around the globe. Indian Country Today has collected a list of the events being affected in Indian Country.

So far, these are the numbers:

  • 25 conferences are postponed or cancelled
  • 32 events are postponed or cancelled
  • 19 tribal nations have issued a travel advisory
  • 4 tribes have declared “state of emergencies”

Updated list of cancelled, postponed, and on-going events.

San Ildefonso Pueblo has a new sign

The hand painted sign was installed on Thursday night. It reads that the pueblo is closed to all tourists until further notice. San Ildefonso’s governor says he hasn’t heard many responses yet but anticipates they’ll be both positive and negative.

“As governor I’m responsible for our community … I would rather have people criticize me and my decision than someone in my Pueblo come down with the coronavirus,” said San Ildefonso Governor Perry Martinez.

The pueblo shares a boundary with a national laboratory owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. This was one of a handful of reasons to close their community for the time being, said the pueblo’s leadership.

“Los Alamos Labs serves as an international hub with the work they do,” San Ildefonso Governor Perry Martinez said. “So that was one reason.”

“As governor you’re tasked with making tough discussions,” Governor Martinez said. “This was one of those times but ultimately the health and safety of our Pueblo is most important.”

The pueblo’s tribal council also convened Thursday night where they decided to ban non-essential travel for tribal employees and upcoming community events.

San Ildefonso is located in Santa Fe County where there are three other presumed cases of coronavirus. Their governor says they will continue to monitor the situation and create a plan if a community member begins to show symptoms.

Reporter's coronavirus test in Phoenix

Shondiin Silversmith, Navajo, is Indigenous affairs reporter at the Arizona Republic. She recently became ill, reporting a shortness of breath. She documented her March 13 visit to Phoenix Indian Medical Center on her Instagram story. “I’m documenting this because I don’t have a reporter notebook on me and this is my way of taking notes,” she said in one of her story clips.

Silversmith attended a computer-data conference in New Orleans last week where another conference attendee has been presumed positive for the coronavirus. Her employer has since asked her to quarantine at home for 14 days.

She said she struggled to sleep on March 12 because of her breathing. She spent more than four hours at the IHS facility and was asked to give multiple specimens for her COVID-19 test. Silversmith said her diagnosis so far is that she has a cold virus and her doctor was prescribing medication. She added that she won’t know the COVID-19 results for five to six days. “Hopefully, I’m already feeling better by then,” she said.

Silversmith said her nurse told her that she was the fourth person to be tested for the coronavirus at the health facility and the three tested prior were negative.

Diko Ntsaaígíí-Náhást’éíts’áadah is COVID-19

On Friday, leadership from the Navajo Nation announced more measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They will temporarily reduce the number of on-duty employees which does not include public safety personnel like firefighters, EMS personnel and others that provide essential services.

Earlier in the week, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez also declared a state of emergency for the tribal nation, as well. They also gave COVID-19 an official name in Navajo: Diko Ntsaaígíí-Náhást’éíts’áadah.

“There are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the Navajo Nation, however under the careful advisement of health experts, emergency preparedness personnel, and other experts the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Preparedness Team continues to move forward with preventive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the Navajo people,” President Nez said.

In addition, all grant, contract and Bureau of Indian Education schools located on the Navajo Nation will close for three weeks.

A “presumptive positive” case at Yankton Sioux

On March 13, Yankton Sioux Tribe tribal and health officials posted a live Facebook video update to talk about the presumptive positive coronavirus test at Wagner - Yankton Indian Health Service. The meeting included a question and answer and lasted about two hours and is available to watch via replay on the tribe’s Facebook page.

The positive test is considered to be the first at an IHS facility. Mike Horned Eagle, Chief Executive Officer of the Wagner clinic, said the person who tested presumed positive had traveled to a conference in the U.S. recently. No other details were given except that six others were also tested, of which three were negative. Health care officials are waiting for the results of the other three. For the three pending results, they are being quarantined at home for 14 days, Horned Eagle said. Each person is checked on daily. After the two weeks, they will be tested twice to make sure they remain negative.

The six self identified as a traveler outside the region and or had contact with the patient who tested positive.

Horned Eagle said the clinic will see those that have all of the following symptoms: cough, fever, shortness of breath and sore throat.

COVID-19 tests cases returned as negative on the San Carlos Apache reservation

On Friday, leadership from the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation confirmed that two patients who were tested for coronavirus at their facility were found to be negative. The two patients, as well as their families and other contacts were self-quarantined for 14 days.

San Carlos Apache says they will be testing any patient who has a cough, fever, difficulty breathing or tiredness for flu, step, childhood respiratory virus or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. If none of those viruses are found, they will move forward with official coronavirus testing.

“We have sufficient supplies of COVID-19 testing kits, as we planned for this event quite some time ago,” Victoria Began, CEO for the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation said.

Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at

Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker or email him at

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