Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Indigenous Environmental Network
Posted: March 18, 2020
Dear Relatives,

We are in a unique and unexpected moment. As the pandemic known as COVID-19 spreads across Mother Earth, many of our Indigenous nations and communities are being faced with some tough challenges.  As the staff of the Indigenous Environmental Network, we wish to encourage our network members, native nations and communities to stand strong to their teachings and prepare for this global issue that is COVID-19.

In line with this point our leadership team and executive director have declared all non-essential travel for IEN employees and contractors to be restricted, until at least April 30th. This travel restriction may be extended based on the discretion of the IEN Leadership Team and Executive Director. During these times of uncertainty, IEN has also postponed our Protecting Mother Earth Conference to a later date. Despite employee travel restrictions, IEN will remain open and our employees will continue to work remotely to serve our network and work with our allies.

To put it bluntly, this is a new strain of coronavirus that is very infectious and needs to be taken seriously. But it does not need to cause panic.

Best Up-to-Date Sources for COVID-19 Information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

World Health Organization:

Indian Health Service:

For more local information please seek out your tribal, local and state health departments

As for you, our friends and relatives, members and affiliates, accomplices and allies, we wish to share the following thoughts:

How we center our Indigenous Knowledge in the response to COVID-19 is as important as where we get our information about COVID-19.

While we are concerned about how Indigenous nations and communities are going to continue their way of life, utilizing their respective values based upon Indigenous Knowledge, we also recognize and honor the extreme resiliency that our peoples have always demonstrated during times of crisis. With that in mind, we at the Indigenous Environmental Network offer the following four principles:

Ceremony: There are many stories and prophecies in our respective traditions and spiritual ways that can give guidance in difficult times.  We encourage the utilization of Ceremony and the teachings associated with them to provide guidance and comfort. Stress is a known cause of weakened immune systems, and this in turn makes people more vulnerable to getting COVID-19 in a way that is more severe. Panic is a form of stress.

Caution: Standard practices for preventing the transmission of viruses such as social distancing and personal hygiene have been well communicated by health care experts, and we urge you to take all recommended precautions and to be very careful in taking care of yourselves and your family members, and to also seek help if the COVID-19 symptoms become present.   To be clear, as a new virus amongst humans, there is no natural immunity, so if a person comes into contact with it, they will get COVID-19. Some in their early adulthood have become critically ill, and those over 60 and with pre-existing underlying conditions are particularly vulnerable– other’s will be carriers able to spread the virus. In consideration of others it is important that proper respect is given to those most vulnerable and that caution is exercised.  Indigenous Peoples have a higher proportion of our population with underlying conditions, stress levels, and other factors to take into account, due to colonization and present societal marginalization. Being considerate of others even if not in a high-risk category is an important step in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The purpose of social distancing is to slow its advance into communities so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system and cause its collapse.  This is especially true of remote rural communities where many of our Peoples live.

Community: Despite the fact that we must heed warnings of social distancing,  this does not mean people should be fearful of all interactions. In many Indigenous communities, this is not even possible. Those who come into contact with the COVID-19 virus will become ill or and can become a carrier, but this doesn’t mean we cannot maintain our connection to our communities.   The need for social distancing should not be taken lightly, but the importance of checking on our families and elders in creative ways is important. We have built a movement of resilience and strength and we cannot lose our sense of connection to each other in this moment. It’s time to call your elders to hear those stories you miss or to video chat your auntie for that wojapi recipe you have been meaning to make.

Compassion: It is easy to blame others for this.  It is easy to only think of ourselves in this pandemic.  It is easy to panic, buy and hoard. It is easy to think that everyone for themselves is the way forward.  We reject these colonized behaviors. In times of crisis, it is important that we act with compassion, putting the needs of the most vulnerable first, caring for those who are sick or might become sick, and ensuring that we look after one another.  Make sure everyone in the community has someone to check in on them and that they have enough to eat and to keep warm. Be compassionate. Reject fear, hatred, and racial profiling. Organize and advocate for protections and safeguards for our frontline health and community workers, our undocumented relatives, our houseless and our incarcerated brothers and sisters, and for the less physically or mentally able members of our human family.

We are also mindful of the economic hardships that are now even worse for our lower income and working class relatives and we demand that our governments and community leaders pass and uphold laws for free access to healthcare and testing, paid sick leave, job and eviction protection, unemployment benefits, economic relief resources with local leadership at the helm, and other demands that our social justice movement alliances have articulated.

We hope these four “C”s can be of help.  We encourage Indigenous nations and communities to develop Emergency Preparedness plans.  Some have them and many do not. In the coming days please go to the IEN website where we will have links to some of the planning tools.

IEN was born of hope, courage and common vision.  During this time of great upheaval and hardship we remain optimistic in the face of fear and we remain committed to justice in the face of new threats.  We also continue to hold in our collective hearts and minds a beautiful vision for the health and wellbeing of our Indigenous peoples, our Mother Earth, and the full Circle of Life.

Indigenous Environmental Network:

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