Skip to main content

Indigenous family surviving COVID-19

On the show today Nicole Willis, Chickasaw Nation, tells her story about being affected by COVID-19. Aliyah Chavez is following this historic confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary Designate Deb Haaland
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Like many Native families Nicole Willis and her family did everything they could to keep the coronavirus at bay.

She’s Chickasaw and lives in Ada, Oklahoma.

The family took precautions, wearing their face coverings, ordering groceries and picking them up at curbside and they kept their distance from other relatives

Then in mid-November everyone in the family came down with COVID-19.

Her husband Michael, daughter Lila who is 10 and her son, Cassius who is five were all infected. Yet, none of them had a fever.

Nicole joins us today to tell us how this virus has affected her family and how she’s still recovering, months after first getting sick.

For two days U.S. Senators grilled Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico.

She’s Laguna and Jemez Pueblo and if confirmed she will be the first Native American to serve in a U.S. President’s Cabinet.

Aliyah Chavez is following this historic confirmation hearing and she joins us now to take a closer look at the questioning from the committee. 

Scroll to Continue

Read More

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • Rep. Deb Haaland passed a key hurdle this week on her path to becoming the first Native American to head a major department of the United States Government.

  • It’s been 19 years since a new judge ship was authorized in Arizona according to Diane Humetewa. She is the first Native American woman to be appointed as a Federal judge. She serves in the U.S. District of Arizona. Humetewa is Hopi.

  • A federal appeals panel rules in favor of New York in a case that pit the state against the Seneca Nation of Indians over casino gaming revenues
  • Apache Stronghold filed an emergency appeal last night to save a site sacred to Apaches from being destroyed by a copper mine

Some quotes from today's show

Nicole Willis 

"We quarantined, we did everything we're supposed to myself, I started kind of feeling like I was coming down with some allergies, but nothing major. And then my husband and the two kids, they still did not really have any symptoms and come Monday the 16th, we all, all four of us tested positive.”

"It was very difficult knowing that she was going to be exposed and there were, it seemed like pretty periodically there were notices coming out.This grade has been exposed, she's been exposed to this and that. And she has still been exposed a couple of additional times since we've recovered from COVID, but it has been really hard because of course you want to keep them home and keep them safe and do everything that we could. But I mean, she had to go to school. My son had to go to school, we had to return to work. And so it was just something that we tried to do our best, you know, to prevent, but it happened, you know, it just happened.”

Aliyah Chavez 

"I think it's hard to sort of encapsulate it all, but I think the biggest takeaway is, as you mentioned earlier in the show, is that this is the biggest hurdle for representative Holland to overcome so far. A couple of takeaways from her responses were that she really hopes to strike a balance with working with both sides of the aisle in terms of the Democrats and the Republicans to make sure that policy pushes forward. But additionally, she also mentioned that she's always had an open door and really seemed to want to work with various stakeholders in terms of the types of policies and work that she'll do at the interior.”

"A lot of Republicans stress her activism, specifically standing with water protectors. She had a lot of questions to answer in terms of tweets that she had posted and published. And so a lot of the times she was having to defend herself. And I think one of the strongest points that she made was that as interior secretary, she fully acknowledges that she will be serving the American people, not necessarily in her role as a New Mexico representative where she's only looking after her constituents in the state. And so I thought that that was a really great point. Holland mentioned that as an interior secretary, she'll be in charge of looking after what's best for all Americans, rather than just a specific group of people”.

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.