Infectious disease nothing new to Indian Country, says health director

Indian Country Today

Michael Bird, Kewa Pueblo, is the public health program director for the Indian Health Council

Michael Bird acknowledges the history tries have with pandemics at the hands of immigrants and later the U.S. government. "We've been dealing with infectious diseases from day one once Europeans set foot on this homeland."

He points to the lack of federal funding despite being spelled out in treaty rights. "Indian Health Services has been funded, historically, at 50 percent of the level of needed," Bird said.

"We also are aware of the fact that, more funding per capita goes to the care of federal prisoners than to Indian people."

"All of us are scrambling. We're still behind the curve in terms of we've never been resourced to meet the needs prior to this," said Bird. "Indian people are largely invisible. People don't see us. They don't know us. They don't interact with us. People don't feel like they need to respond to our needs because they don't hear from us. It's a lot easier to ignore us than other communities who have representation"

Bird says: "We will survive this."

Also on the Indian Country Today newscast, Washington Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye reports updated COVID-19 numbers in Indian Country.

The host of the program is Patty Talahongva, executive producer of Indian Country Today.

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