California tribes weather pandemic storm

Indian Country Today

Navajo Nation citizen Vanesscia Cresci gives us an update on how tribes in California are dealing with an increase in coronavirus cases. National correspondent Dalton Walker tells us about a nine term U.S. representative who is making a run for their 10th.

Indian Country Today

As COVID-19 infection rates in California slow down, tribal nations are seeing an increase. Vanesscia Cresci, director for the research and public health department for the California Rural Indian Health Board joins us to talk about how tribe's in her state are weathering this pandemic storm.

Plus Indian Country Today national correspondent Dalton Walker tells us about one U.S. representative who is seeking a 10th term in office.

Some quotes from today's show

Vanesscia Cresci:

"I think many of these tribal communities are rural and located in parts of the state where there's not a large population of Californians. And so as parts of California are starting to open and starting to allow more types of services, California tribal communities are starting to see an increase in cases. So there are communities surrounding them that are opening up which will result in cases in their tribal communities."

"California is unique. We are a large state. We have 109 federally recognized tribes. There are 32 tribal health clinics and 10 urban Indian health clinics that provide care to about 725,000 American Indians in California. And so we rely on three datasets. So one from the Indian health service that is clinics in California self-report data to the federal government through a portal. The second is from the California department of public health. They publish data on their website and the third is CDC data that a lot of tribal epidemiology centers have recently gained access to. So from that we create a daily situational report that shows the number of positive cases that are occurring in California tribal communities."

"So for California, there are approximately 725,000 American Indians. And through the tribal health program system, they serve about 87,000 American Indian active users throughout California. And there are cases that are starting to increase in Northern and central California. Relying on to Indian health service data. There are cases that are starting to increase in the North coast and cascades. That's where we're seeing a majority of the positive cases. And when you look at urban settings there are a lot about 260 positive cases in LA County and 240 in San Bernardino County. And all those are counties with a large American Indian population. In California, there are a lot of American Indians that live in urban settings, but like many of us, we tend to travel back home often. And so there is travel back and forth from living in the city and then going back home to visit loved ones. And so many of our tribal community members may seek services both at a tribal health clinic and also maybe in town at the urban Indian health center."

"So when partnering with a tribe, they have the authority to contact us if they need assistance with their investigations. So we have been providing technical assistance to tribes into tribal health clinics as they respond to positive cases in their communities or with outbreaks. And so we can assist them in training the tribe staff, or the clinic staff to conduct case investigation and contact tracing. And as we know this allows the tribe to take ownership of what's happening in their community, and also builds capacity within their tribal community to be able to respond to any outbreaks and positive cases."

Dalton Walker:

"Yeah. I had a chance to talk with US representative Tom Cole recently as part of our election coverage on our website. As you know, we are less than two weeks out from a huge national election and Cole is on the ballot in Oklahoma. And as you mentioned, he is seeking his 10th term and has a really good chance at getting to it. And Oklahoma is an interesting state and it has a rich history when it comes to Native people. And of course, current news events affecting Native people seem to come out of the state often. And so it was nice to chat with Chickasaw nation citizen Cole, even though it wasn't as long as I was hoping, but it was still a nice conversation."

"He did, his district has a pretty big military influence and a lot of his focus leans towards military issues and bringing some of that momentum back to his district. So I think he has a pretty good following regarding that. Of course, his perspective on Native people and Native issues, not only in Oklahoma, but across the country which also plays a role in his success. And it sounds like he isn't slowing down. He's been endorsed by president Trump. As you mentioned, it will be his 10th straight term if he wins in November. He said he doesn't consider a next term until the early part of the year, during an election year. So he didn't give away any clues about what he wants to do next, but it doesn't sound like he's ready to move on. Or as I mentioned, slow down."

"He’s facing two others, a Democrat and a Libertarian. They both have a good shot, but Cole has such a hold on that district, that'll be tough for either to overcome. Not saying that he's a shoo-in to win, but just because of his reputation, his history, he has a lot of support. He has a lot of backing and so he has a great chance. He was talking a little bit about his campaign through the COVID-19 and what he's been trying to do, but it kind of just kind of circles back that he just stresses the things that he was able to accomplish regarding the military, regarding his bipartisan work, and regarding Native people. And he believes that will get him over the top once again."

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Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

WATCH ELECTION NIGHT WITH INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY. Live news broadcast starting at 8 pm Mountain Standard. Indiancountrytoday.com

(We will post a list of stations airing the program next week.)

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