Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, and Taika Waititi join Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and frontline organizers to address the growing COVID-19 crisis on the Navajo Nation

Pictured: The Navajo Nation flag.(Photo: David from Washington, DC, CC-BY 2.0 [creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0])

Press Pool

Navajo Nation & other Native communities are being severely impacted by the spread of the virus

News Release

Protect the Sacred

The Navajo Nation is continuing to experience a rapid increase in the spread of the COVID-19 virus on tribal lands in Arizona and New Mexico. The population living on the Navajo Nation is approximately 173,000 and as of Thursday, April 10, 2020, 558 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 22 have died. As is the case globally, however, those are only the cases that have been recorded by healthcare facilities on the reservation. Many homes are overcrowded and lack basic necessities like running water and electricity, which continue to be some of the leading challenges for families in rural areas on Navajo, putting the population at a greater risk. Earlier this week Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer told MSNBC ‘If we’re out of sight we’re out of mind,’ urging the rest of the country and leadership to put Native American communities on the radar.

"Protect the Sacred" flyer.
"Protect the Sacred" flyer.(Image: Allie Young)

In response, Protect the Sacred COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative is hosting its second Facebook Live Stream tonight “Calling All Heroes to Protect the Sacred” at 5 p.m. PT / 6 p.m. MT / 8 p.m. ET with stars of The Avengers family  Mark Ruffalo aka “The Hulk,” Paul Rudd aka “Ant-Man,” and Thor: Ragnarok Director Taika Waititi - to bring national and international attention to the crisis happening on the Navajo Nation.

The first live stream was held last Monday, April 6, with Ruffalo, Navajo comedians, and Navajo youth. In tonight’s live stream, the Hollywood stars will be in conversation with leaders from the community who are organizing on the ground  Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Former Miss Navajo Nation, and Recording Artists Radmilla Cody, Dine Hataalii Association, a health physician and Protect the Sacred Co-Creator and Organizer Allie Young. This conversation will launch the Navajo Nation’s 57-hour curfew that was mandated to keep families home this Easter weekend. The speakers will address Native youth about the importance of sheltering in place and social distancing, especially as cases and deaths continue to rise. Non-Natives are also encouraged to tune in as the community leaders will provide information to the public about ways they can donate and help the tribe. The livestream can be accessed at ProtectTheSacred.net and the Protect the Sacred Facebook page.

The rapid response efforts are also happening amid obscene acts of racism towards Native American communities. Last week, a member of the right-wing made a video dressed in an offensive “Indian” Halloween costume mocking the funding going to Native communities in the stimulus package, claiming Native Americans are getting extra relief aid. In actuality, the White House wanted to give $0 to tribes in the $2 trillion stimulus bill. On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, Daniel Franzen was arrested in Page, Arizona for threatening and urging Arizonans to kill Navajos infected with COVID-19. This stereotypical messaging and misinformation being perpetuated is very dangerous for our communities and unnecessary as we’re struggling to get a handle on rising cases and deaths.

Campaign co-creator and organizer, Allie Young, said, “My people, the Navajo Nation, are in dire need of support from the rest of the nation, in order to get a handle on the crisis we’re facing and protect what’s sacred to us, and that’s our elders who are our first language speakers and hold the knowledge, wisdom, medicine ways that are the foundation of our people and culture. Too often, Native communities face erasure and invisibility, so we’ve called on our popular allies to help us bring national attention to what is happening on Navajo and other tribal nations, and address how COVID-19 is greatly impacting our communities as it exacerbates the health issues and disparities we already face.”

Allie Young continued, “On top of the crisis we’re dealing with, non-Natives are mocking our call for help and threatening our lives, so we’re taking control to tell our narrative and relay accurate information in hopes that allies to Indian Country will join us in our efforts to slow and stop the spread in Native American communities. We are hanging on to what is left of our communities and culture after centuries of genocide and intergenerational trauma, and we’re asking for support as the first peoples of this land.”

The group of organizers seeks to share the campaign on social media to a wide audience of Native American people. The campaign organizers hope that it can grow to give youth tangible ways that they can help, as well as an opportunity to meet virtually and support one another at a time when many are feeling isolated. They will be launching a “Navajo Hero Challenge” for young people to use their time at home to organize their families and learn traditional stories, language, and culture.

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