Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians
Yesterday, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) featured a virtual fireside chat with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. As the most influential public health leader in the U.S., Dr. Fauci is widely respected throughout the world for his efforts against the coronavirus. Today’s discussion was timely as tribes across the Northwest have scrambled to address the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities across the country and has taken a devastating toll on tribal economies and loss of life.
According to the Indian Health Services, one in every 475 Native Americans has died since the pandemic began. Several families across Indian Country have been decimated as COVID-19 infection rates have been 3.5 times higher than non-Hispanic whites. American Indians and Alaska Natives are also four times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19. At the pandemic’s height, COVID-19 was killing Native Americans at a faster rate than any other community in the United States.
“We’re grateful to have this face time with Dr. Fauci to discuss strategies and best practices for vaccinating our younger generations across tribal communities across the Northwest,” stated Leonard Forsman, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians President and Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe. “While Native Americans are leading in rates of vaccination, we are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 infections in our teens, and today’s discussion helped us identify the most effective approaches to protecting all members of our communities.”
Despite a troubling history with U.S. public health systems, Native Americans are more receptive to receiving a vaccination than the general population, according to a national survey conducted in December 2020. Many respondents viewed the vaccination as a community responsibility even though three-quarters of the respondents having reservations about personal safety concerns.
“As Northwest tribes continue to recover from the pandemic, tribal leaders are taking every precaution to proactively stem any further loss of life from COVID-19,” stated Terri Parr, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Executive Director. “Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians is committed to supporting vaccination efforts by our member tribes, and we appreciate the esteemed Dr. Fauci joining us for an exclusive forum for discussing COVID-19 vaccination development and deployment for our youngest members.”
Tribal leaders expressed grief and frustration as the pandemic exposed glaring inequities in public health services, a long-standing digital divide with historic under investments in broadband infrastructure, housing shortages that exponentially increased infection rates, and structural racism in data collection systems that invisiblize American Indian and Alaska Native deaths and misallocate resources needed to respond to the pandemic.
Dr. Fauci’s discussion and assessment of the next stages of vaccination deployments for youth in Indian Country were well received by tribal leaders in attendance. With an end of the pandemic in sight and historic investments in Indian Country’s recovery, many tribal leaders expressed appreciation for improved consultation and government to government relationships with the Biden Administration.
Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians
In 1953 farsighted tribal leaders in the Northwest formed the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and dedicated it to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Today, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians is a nonprofit organization representing over 50 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, Northern California, and Western Montana. Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians is an organization whose foundation is composed of the people it is meant to serve — the Indian peoples. Through its conferences, forums, networks, and alliances, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians intends to represent and advocate for the interests of its member tribes to national Indian and non-Indian organizations and governments.