Surviving apocalypses ... again

Indian Country Today

Reporters' Roundtable: Getting food to people is a logistical challenge. Just because you drop off at one point doesn't mean that it necessarily gets to a village or a smaller part of a tribe

For months now the global pandemic has dominated the news cycle. Now the country is facing the biggest wave of civil rights protests ever. 

Joining us today on our Reporters' Roundtable are two journalists who have been covering these stories. 

Dana Hedgpeth, Haliwa Saponi, is a reporter with the Washington Post. She's been at the Post since 1999 and covers breaking news, courts, military spending commercial real estate and other beats. 

Julian Brave NoiseCat, Secwepemc & St'at'imc, is our other guest. He's a writer and his stories have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review and Indian Country Today as well as many other news platforms. 

Here are a few of their comments, first from Julian Brave NoiseCat:  

"So this week I published a story in The Nation. It was part of a series called Think Big. It was a bunch of writers and thinkers and a few policy walks talking about what they thought the world in the most utopian vision that they had could look like after this pandemic.”

“I thought about the experience of our Indigenous people as people who have survived apocalypses before.”

“The apocalypse is colonialism. It's the apocalypse of the loss of our land, loss of so much life.”

“It's sort of the enduring legacies of that in many of the injustices and inequalities that our communities face today, whether that be the really grisly phenomenon of Native women going missing and murdered, or the way in which this pandemic by statistical measures has actually disproportionately impacted Native communities.”

“The most impacted areas of this country are in fact our reservations.”

“You can't understand those current circumstances without understanding the deeper history that led to them.”

“On the other hand, I think that there is a very powerful history of resilience, political struggle and of artistic creation coming out of those same circumstances of tragedy.”

“I think that that sort of notion that there can be beauty after tragedy was kind of what I was trying to suggest with the essay I wrote.”

“It seems to lack a sort of broader perspective and a broader sense of compassion, like the reason that we need to remain socially distant is that we need to care about our neighbors.”

“We haven't lost that sort of sense of kinship and connection and community, where you go over to your family or friend’s house and there's food and you take care of each other.”

“The situation of people living in overcrowded circumstances is not something that usually is a choice, but it's an economic sort of circumstance that it's pushed upon people.”

“In the reservation context, it's because we have grossly underfunded Indian housing block grants for over 20 years. Similarly in urban centers, it's because the rent is insanely high. I live in Washington, D.C. and I spend an enormous fraction of my income on rent.”

“What ends up happening is that people end up crowding into the housing that is available to them. They bring in their brothers, their sisters, their girlfriend, their cousin and in the circumstances with pandemic, that can be a really dangerous way to be living.”

“In many ways, I think this pandemic has just revealed the way in which so many people in the United States were already living on the edge. And all it took was a very novel zoonotic virus.”

From Dana Hedgpeth:

“The Native community has been dealing with so many of these issues already, overcrowding issues, they have been dealing with their struggles as best they can often with limited funds and then to be hit with a tsunami of sorts.”

“We all need food. Getting that food to people is a logistical challenge. Just because you drop off at one point doesn't mean that it necessarily gets to a village or a smaller part of a tribe. It is a logistics nightmare.”

“We have tribes that are still dealing with the basics of running water. The message from the CDC has been over and over again, ‘wash your hands, wash your hands.’”

“I don't mean to be mean, but this is such a simple thing for so many of us and many communities, but there's a huge gap of so many Native Americans who don't have that.”

“When you're telling people over and over to wash your hands, it does make people put their hands up and say, ‘I can't wash my hands much less social distance when I'm crowding to taking care of grandkids and taking care of an aunt and uncle.’”

“It's very easy for a health specialist to say, you know, quarantine yourself, but I know even in my own house and asked my husband, if one of us gets sick, knock on wood, where would they go, and this is our home.”

“When you share your home with others, it's in our culture. We've never kicked grandma and grandpa out or aunt and uncle; we take care of people.”

“When you have disease that has hit the world, then people focus in on Indian Country, they have this sort of shock and surprise.”

“Whereas all of us in the circle have heard of these issues for years. And it's like this is what this is telling you. Folks have been dealing with this for a while.”

From Brave NoiseCat:

“What Dana was also just saying about there's sort of this discovery again, of Native people that just happened. It really reminds me of this piece that Vine Delaria Jr. wrote back in the seventies where he described this sort of constant rediscovery of Native people who kind of like jumped out of the side of the scene in American history and then sort of disappear as like the cameo theory of history.”

“I love Nick Kristoff's column in the New York times, the other week that talked about how Indian Country is disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus. On the other hand, it's like we pop into a New York times column once every couple months and then we're, you know, we disappear again.”

“I think that there's a real failing of journalism, which is in a hard spot, obviously right now to have sustained attention on our communities and our people. It's kind of frustrating.”

Hedgpeth:

“The Post recently printed a poem called "Voices," where people were able to write in and across the country of their experiences.”

“There was a woman from Minneapolis and she's Native and she has long been involved in some sense. She said she wasn't at first going to get involved but this time she did because it's her hometown. She's very concerned about her community. And the picture that she sent is, or someone took her for I believe, is of her with the devastation in Minneapolis.”

“We see pictures of people arm-in-arm and every time I sort of cringe because my daily job is to keep up the numbers of our local tracker of how many cases. And I can tell you they're improving slightly, I would stress that word, nowhere near enough of what the health authorities want to say.”

“And they're warning that in a week or two, when symptoms typically show up for folks, we can see another spike.””

“We're blessed to live in a country where we have freedom of speech, our first amendment rights. I fully support that but at the same time, I do tell you that my part hinges a bit of getting back to even semi-normal, it's all going to depend on these numbers.”

“180 people get arrested in a night, a jail is not known for social distancing, even a normal times of being spread out. You're packing those folks together, which is completely the opposite. That's worrisome.”

Brave Noisecat:

“I think that it's really encouraging that despite the circumstances of a pandemic that people are willing to risk their own health to go stand in solidarity with the black community against something that is obviously wrong, which is police killing people and specifically killing a lot of black people.”

“I went down to Lafayette Square Park the other day with my citizen hat on. And I think it is, it's really encouraging that despite the circumstances of the pandemic that so many people are out there.”

Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country. The anchor and executive producer of the program is Patty Talahongva.

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