Story at a glance

  • The Navajo Nation is a food insecure region, with only 13 grocery stores on the massive reservation.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has hit the Native American community particularly hard and drained their resources.
  • Still, the Navajo are using their knowledge of farming and community networks to take care of their own.

At one point during the coronavirus pandemic, the Navajo Nation was under lockdown with the highest COVID-19 infection rate per capita in the country. While cases are steadily declining, the reservation remains under a state of emergency, and its residents are struggling to get by with already limited resources. 

The Navajo Nation’s roughly 173,667 residents are served by just 13 stores on a reservation that is roughly the same size as Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined, forcing them to travel an average of three hours for essentials. 


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Some are going back to their roots and turning to the land. Navajo farmer Tyrone Thompson is using social media to teach his community traditional farming techniques.

"As we see the shelves emptying of food and toilet paper we kind of reconnect to our roots," Thompson told NPR. "Some of the tools that were given by our elders and our ancestors — our planting stick and our steering sticks — those are our weapons against hunger and poverty and sickness."


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It's been five years since many Navajo abandoned farming after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accidentally released 3 million gallons of wastewater into the Animas and San Juan Rivers, which run through the reservation. Last year, a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss claims brought against the EPA related to damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill.

As of 2018, the EPA said it has awarded the Navajo Nation $1,067,756, which includes reimbursements for costs such as field evaluations, water quality sampling, laboratory analyses and personnel. But the money still hadn't reached any of the victims, the Associated Press (AP) reported at the time, who were waiting on claims for lost income, fallen property values and other losses. Then in March 2019, the treatment facility was built after the spill failed, a local news outlet reported, leading to a power loss and potential contamination of local waters. 

Still, the Navajo people are sharing heritage seeds, farm equipment and costs for tractor fuel to continue processing, packaging and distributing food through the COVID-19 pandemic. Navajo Ethno-Agriculture, a local nonprofit, which normally runs education programs for the community, has shifted to working alongside neighboring plot farmers and donating produce to community partners.


BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

MORE THAN 8.7 MILLION CORONAVIRUS CASES WENT UNDETECTED IN MARCH

EXPERTS: 90% OF CORONAVIRUS DEATHS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED

FAUCI PREDICTS ANOTHER CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN THE FALL WITH A 'VERY DIFFERENT' OUTCOME

TEXAS REPORTS SINGLE-DAY HIGH IN CORONAVIRUS DEATHS TWO WEEKS AFTER REOPENING


 

Published on Jul 29, 2020