Story at a glance
- President Trump has made a push for voters in the Navajo Nation.
- The reservation has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic and fought to receive aid.
- Despite signs of a flatter curve this summer, new coronavirus cases are now on the rise.
In August, as the Navajo Nation sought a pardon from President Trump, the reservation saw a push in advertising from the president's campaign for reelection.
"My administration is fighting for Native American communities," Trump said in September upon the return of Native American artifacts and sacred remains from European archeologists.
The president’s push comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the Navajo Nation, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. The tribe's Department of Health said family gatherings and off-reservation travel directly caused the cluster cases, which have brought the area's total number of positive COVID-19 cases to 10,546 as of Thursday.
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The new cases “have the potential to lead to an outbreak and another surge in cases on the Navajo Nation, which may overwhelm the health care system on the Navajo Nation if not mitigated immediately,” according to the order.
On Friday, the reservation is implementing another 57-hour weekend lockdown on top of a nightly curfew, after a stay-at-home order was reissued on Sept. 22. The weekend lockdowns have become common in the Navajo Nation, which once had the highest coronavirus infection rate per capita. While the curve showed signs of flattening in August, that trend has reversed.
And while Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer praised Trump for the CARES Act as the first tribal leader with a prime-time slot during the Republican National Convention, the reservation had to go to court to get the entirety of their funding. A federal judge ruled against the administration in finding that Alaska Native Corporations are not eligible for funding under Title V of the CARES Act, sending thousands more their way.
But that money, which must be spent by Dec. 30, came with a condition that it only go toward “necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency.” The coronavirus pandemic, however, has worsened existing crises, including a lack of running water and the loss of coal mining jobs — a talking point of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“I applauded him for a while,” Jeff Begay, a business consultant living in Navajo Mountain, Utah, told The Guardian. “And then I saw the negative turnaround. … We have more enemies internationally, globally, than we did before.”
Last month, a group of Navajo Nation citizens filed a lawsuit over Arizona's mail-in voting requirements, which say that the ballots must be received before 7 p.m. Nov. 3 instead of postmarked by that date, which could leave out Navajo voters. A federal judge denied the request, leaving voters in the historically Democratic district at the mercy of the United States Postal Service.
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