Virginia Hedrick is the executive director for the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health. It has a network of ten urban health programs throughout California. There are 110 federally recognized tribes within the boundaries of California , plus a few more tribes who have lands in both California and neighboring states. 75 more tribes are petitioning for federal recognition.
In total, more than 700,000 American Indian and Alaska Natives live in the state, according to the 2010 census. Hedrick is concerned about how those people are accessing health care during this pandemic and she chronicles the government policies that led to this large population.
A few thoughts from Hedrick:
"The story starts at contact. Indian people have already been impacted by a pandemic early on when we had, you know, non-Indian people enter our homelands."
"It is true that more than 90 percent of American Indian Alaskan natives in the state of California live in our urban settings."
"We have this large population because of a federal government relocation policy that promised Indian people health, education and welfare in California cities. And they quite literally bused Indian people from Arizona, from New Mexico, from South and North Dakota to California cities."
"Los Angeles itself is home one of the largest populations of homeless American Indian, Alaska Natives."
"Urban Indian health facilities were excluded from access to the Abbot testing."
"There's a huge disparity around what our urban Indian facilities do have access to. We only make up 1 percent of the entire IHS budget."
"The federal trust responsibility does not end at the reservation border. The trust responsibility that federal government has to American Indian people extends to any Indian regardless of where they live. And the federal government's lack of fulfilling that trust responsibility by adequately funding the urban Indian health system creates large disparities."
"We are being born Indian and dying white."
"It is difficult to trust the same governments who paid for our scalps, who paid for our deaths, who are now saying stay at home"
"I think this is a time where tribal sovereignty is strengthened where we have seen tribes in the state of California issue stay at home orders."
"We have seen tribes rise to the occasion and begin to deliver food directly to homes. It's the same with urban Indian facilities where our urban Indian clinics are calling families to make sure they have everything they need."
"This is a time where, our most vulnerable are being impacted in some of the worst ways, child abuse, domestic violence, food insecurities are all being heightened throughout the United States. But these things already existed at disproportionate rates in Indian country."
"I want people to know that we're resilient. We will get through this."
Also on the daily 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.