Coronavirus crisis hits Native America; believers spread hope

By April 6, 2020

USA (MNN) — More coronavirus complications unfold this week as infection rates continue to rise across the U.S.  Read our full coverage here.

Data from shows nearly 6,000 deaths and over 33,000 people have been hospitalized in the U.S.  However, Dr. Deborah Birx says ongoing shortages mean “big picture” data is incomplete and the situation remains extremely fluid.  Birx serves as response coordinator for the national Coronavirus Task Force.

Last week’s $2 trillion stimulus bill designates an additional $1 billion for the Indian Health Service and $8 billion in relief funds for tribal governments, Huffington Post reports. Yet critical awareness, infrastructure, and funding needs remain.

“We’re seeing reports on the news every night on just about every aspect of the coronavirus crisis, except about the First People of this continent,” Brad Hutchcraft from Ron Hutchcraft Ministries says.

“Most of America has no idea what’s going on in Native America.”

More Native America headlines here.

Challenges and complications

Experts say the pandemic exacerbates challenges faced by most tribal health care systems – things like outdated technology, provider shortages, and a general lack of resources. As described here, COVID-19 will impact reservations differently than the wider community.

“A snapshot of how hard this can hit Native America can be found on the Navajo Nation,” Hutchcraft says.

“The beautiful Navajo people make up 2% of Arizona’s population, but they’re representing 11% of Arizona’s COVID-19 cases right now.”

(Stock photo courtesy Pixabay)

Realities outside of the medical field pose a challenge, too.  In many cases, Native culture prioritizes community, which makes social distancing and isolation difficult.  Furthermore, accessing daily necessities like food and medicine can be problematic for those who live in remote areas.  Even if transportation becomes available, finances present another restriction.

“The poverty rate in Native America is over two times the national average… and can be over four times the average in a lot of these communities,” Hutchcraft says.

Hutchcraft oversees On Eagles Wings, a division of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries.  On Eagles Wings empowers Native believers to reach their communities for Christ.  More about OEW here.

“Long before the virus invaded reservations, there was so much brokenness…now this ‘viral bomb’ is going off across Native America and all these issues are piling up,” Hutchcraft says.

How to help

Native believers are finding ways to keep hope alive during the crisis, but solutions aren’t always obvious. “Some of these states with the highest Native populations are the ones that are on lockdown” which restricts movement and transportation, Hutchcraft explains.

“Part of our ministry that’s out in Arizona is working with a food bank to try to get a truck delivery up to the reservation… just basic supplies that people can come and pick up… [it’s one way] to be the hands and feet of Jesus while observing the restrictions that have been put in place.”

You can support their efforts while still obeying social distancing orders.  “Prayer is going to be the decisive factor in helping Native America right now, and then [you can] be part of sending messengers of hope to these communities when the restrictions have been lifted,” Hutchcraft says.

“The reality is, a lot of these Native communities are trying to make sure they don’t have outside people coming in so they can protect their people, which is a good idea.”

(Stock photo courtesy Unsplash)

Use prompts listed alongside this article to guide your prayers.  Find tangible ways to help here.  “This is a time for God’s people to be lifting up Native America in prayer like never before,” Hutchcraft says.

“Maybe what starts here with a massive prayer effort will continue on and be the face of hope and change for decades to come and Native America.”



Header image courtesy of via Flickr.

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