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Sun May 17, 2020, 04:52 AM

Coronavirus has been devastating to the Navajo Nation, and help for a complex fight has been slow

CRYSTAL, N.M. — A group of more than a dozen tribe members filled dozens of dust-covered cars with diapers, flour, rice and water, the bare staples that are sustaining the Navajo Nation as many fall ill and die.

If the novel coronavirus has been cruel to America, it has been particularly cruel here, on a desert Native American reservation that maybe has never felt more alone than during this pandemic. There's a lack of running water, medical infrastructure, Internet access, information and adequate housing. And as of Wednesday, as the Navajo tried desperately to take care of themselves, the promised help from the U.S. government had, as usual, not yet arrived.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, 44, watching over the volunteer operation in a parking lot that day, said the tribe had not received "one cent" of the $8 billion that was allocated to Native American communities as part of the Cares Act passed in Washington on March 18. Nearly 2,700 people had fallen ill, and more than 80 had died, with the 350,000-resident reservation becoming one of the worst-of-the-worst American hot spots. Almost everyone knew someone who was sick, or someone who had died.

"We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," Nez said. "We're going to help each other out."

Nez was nearly through listing the ravages of the coronavirus on his people when something rendered him silent mid-sentence: Two red-tailed hawks soared majestically above, their wings spread wide against an azure sky. He pointed: “Look!”


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