How Pandemic is Affecting the Navajo Nation


How the Pandemic Is Affecting the Navajo Nation



Sharon Nelson and I clicked elbows goodbye on the Navajo (Diné) Nation on March 10, what we thought then was a heightened precaution was unfolding as the new normal in a world turned upside down by the COVID-19 outbreak.

We had just finished a workshop in Crownpoint, New Mexico, on the Navajo reservation, as part of the Global Arts Language Arts Culture Tradition Indigenous Communities (GALATIC), a collaboration between Navajo Technical University, where Sharon teaches Diné language and culture, and Indiana University. GALACTIC proposes an anti-colonial corrective to global studies that positions Indigenous communities as architects—not objects—of study.

On that March day, we discussed what Diné bina’nitin (Diné ways of knowing) have to offer the local, national and even global challenges that confront the Navajo Nation. In the midst of all the uncertainty around the new disease, it seemed clearer than ever that traditional knowledge and science needed each other.

We did not know that the very next day, the World Health Organization would announce that the coronavirus had escalated and become a global pandemic. That same day, the Navajo Nation proactively declared a public health state of emergency. The president of the Navajo Nation announced the reservation’ more:

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