WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — For Navajo Marine Colin Tsosie, helping lead the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund’s Chinle distribution team was a way he could help protect his elders and those affected by the pandemic.
Since April 2020, Tsosie and his staff of ten have been working long hours, organizing staging areas for food distributions, receiving and packaging food and cleaning supplies, and conducting up to four distributions in one day across the Central Agency region of the Navajo Nation.
For all his effort, Tsosie said he feels rewarded by being able to help those in need.
“Personally, my crew, we’d do over 120 hours every two weeks. Some weeks were above that. We’ve been doing this for a year and it’s easy to get burned out,” Tsosie said…
Often, Tsosie and his crew would direct people to the distribution locations by sending texts. After the day’s distributions were done, he said the crew would receive text messages saying “thank you” and noting appreciation for the assistance.
Chinle Chapter Manager Walton Yazzie facilitated the initial partnership between the Chapter and the Relief Fund for food distributions…
At the height of distributions, the team would distribute 800 food boxes in Chinle one week, then the following week distribute 800 food boxes to the communities of Nazlini, Cottonwood, Blue Gap, Whippoorwill, Low Mountain and Hard Rock. The third week the team would distribute 800 food boxes to the communities of Tsaile, Lukachukai, Rock Point, Round Rock, Cove and Mexican Water. Some weeks the team distributed as many as 1100 food boxes. With this vigorous schedule, 12-hour days were common.
“When the request numbers were at the highest, we’d start at 4 a.m. and finish around 9 p.m. Generally, we’d do this for three days in a row. Our fresh produce would arrive at 5 a.m. and we’d unload the truck by 6 a.m. The rest of the morning we’d spend preparing food boxes,” Tsosie said. “By the afternoon, we would be out in the communities conducting touch-free food distributions.”
Tsosie and his team helped assemble and relay over 100,000 PPE kits across Navajo and Hopi communities. The PPE kits include 8 oz. bottles of sanitizer, clorox wipes, and 50 three-ply masks. The Relief Fund has also distributed approximately 8,000 kids PPE kits that include kids-sized masks, sanitizer and culturally relevant educational material related to the prevention of COVID-19.
Note: The video footage below is from November 2020 and state relief efforts and resources may have been redirected and increased.
Navajo Code Talker Memorial is located at Window Rock, Arizona
The Navajo Nation is located in the Four Corners area of the United States