Urban Indian Health Institute
A study released by Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) today highlights the financial, operational, and community impacts urban Native organizations and their members have experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five organizations, including Chief Seattle Club, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Seattle Indian Health Board, NATIVE Project, and American Indian Community Center, participated in the survey. Each organization provides various essential services and programming for urban American Indians and Alaska Natives.
“This study not only shows the pandemic’s impact on urban Indian organizations, it also shows how adaptive and resourceful they have been,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of Urban Indian Health Institute. “Each of the participating organizations have been leaders in our community since day one of the pandemic.”
Nationwide, 71% of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in urban areas, but are often overlooked when it comes to funding for essential services and programs.
“Our organizations have been leaders throughout the pandemic, being some of the first to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccines,” said Toni Lodge, CEO of NATIVE Project. “But it’s important to remember that we still continue to provide other essential services for our people, and we will need to continue to invest in telemedicine as the pandemic continues.”
The report highlights the organizations’ concerns regarding Native peoples’ hesitancy to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. For centuries, American Indian and Alaska Native communities have experienced traumas due to harmful clinical trials leading to distrust with government and medical establishments. The organizations expressed the need for the Washington State COVID-19 Vaccine Planning and Coordination Team to consult trusted messengers in the community for the planning and distribution of educational materials.
Another issue that raised concerns was the negative impact the ending of the state eviction moratorium would have on their communities and organizations. The organizations estimated it could cost between $25 million and $74 million to maintain housing if the moratorium ended. programs.
“If the state eviction moratorium ends, it will be a major setback,” said Colleen Echohawk, executive director of Chief Seattle Club. “We are already putting a tremendous amount of resources toward case management to keep our members housed. Our organizations need flexible funding and the moratorium extended throughout the pandemic.”
“I lose sleep thinking about all of our relatives that will be at risk of homelessness if the state eviction moratorium is lifted,” Colleen Echohawk said.