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The Navajo Nation faces battle to guard its elders and traditions as deaths spike from Covid-19

“Every time one of those elders leaves this world, it’s like a whole library, a whole beautiful chapter of our history, of our ceremonies — all that knowledge, gone,” Clayson Benally, a member of Navajo Nation, stated. “It’s not written, it’s not dictated, you’re not going to find it on the internet.”

Self-isolating of their Flagstaff, Arizona, properties, Clayson and his sister Jeneda Benally have been working to cross on the information of their elder father, Jones Benally, through the pandemic.

“I take it as the greatest responsibility I’ve ever had in my life to make sure that our knowledge keepers, to make sure that my parents, come out on the other side of this pandemic,” Jeneda stated.

Native Americans are significantly inclined to the coronavirus as a result of they undergo from disproportionate charges of bronchial asthma, coronary heart illness, hypertension and diabetes.

The Navajo Nation is the biggest tribe within the US, with over 300,000 members, and had reported 22,776 confirmed Covid-19 circumstances and 783 deaths as of Thursday. The tribe has been on lockdown since November 16 and can proceed to remain at house till January 10, in response to a latest announcement from the Navajo Department of Health. The new measures additionally embody 57-hour weekend lockdowns.

“Wherever we go, we’re cautioned,” Jones stated.

Keeping tradition alive

A conventional drugs man and world-renowned hoop dancer, Jones is acknowledged by the state of Arizona as an Arizona Indian Living Treasure. His household doesn’t know his precise age, however they estimate he’s in his 90s primarily based on his recollection of occasions.

Siblings Jeneda and Clayson Benally pose as the punk-rock duo Sihasin.

Jeneda and Clayson, together with their brother Klee, had been taught Dine,’ the standard Navajo language, in addition to tradition and sciences by their father. Now, with ample time at house, Jones is working together with his youngsters to cross this information on to the grandchildren. One of their frequent actions is occurring nature walks to find out about medicinal vegetation.

“I try to make it a multi-sensory experience,” Jeneda, who has two daughters, stated. “You know, we walk into the forest and I’m like, what do you see that you can eat? What do you see here that’s medicine?”

A beloved teacher wore an oxygen mask for virtual classes before she lost her battle with Covid-19

Due to the pandemic, Jeneda, a conventional drugs practitioner, has needed to cease seeing sufferers. It’s not the one career she’s hit pause on — she and Clayson have not carried out as their band, Sihasin, in months.

But, the award-winning punk-rock duo has taken benefit of their on-line platform to share cultural information with members of the Navajo neighborhood and past. They host Facebook Live concert events, submit informational movies on YouTube and take part in on-line occasions for Native American causes.

“We want to utilize that as a platform to catch youth’s attention, to remind them, hey, culture is cool,” Jeneda stated.

However, the Benally siblings are aware about what info they publicize on the web.

“There is a history of exploitation and people taking advantage of sacred and ceremonial knowledge,” Clayson stated. “How much can we share? You know, this is sacred knowledge.”

Working to guard the elders

Some 10% of Navajos on the reservation reportedly wouldn’t have electrical energy and almost 40% reside with out working water. These situations have made residing via a pandemic tougher, particularly for the elders, in response to Jeneda, whose household lives off-reservation in a border city.
Navajo Nation in another three-week lockdown

“It’s devastating to see our people being impacted not only by this pandemic, but by the lack of infrastructure, which allows for us to even have a chance to support ourselves,” she stated. “I mean, how can you wash your hands for 20 seconds under running water if you don’t have that?”

Additionally, with out assets like grocery shops close by on the reservation, residents depend on journeys to frame cities for provides, risking the potential of bringing the virus house with them.

In order to assist hold weak elders house, Clayson has been volunteering with native organizations akin to K’e Relief Project to convey provides like water, firewood, and meals to households in want on the reservation.

“There’s been such an amazing humanitarian effort,” Clayson stated.

The Benallys consider the coronavirus has helped shine a light-weight on the injustices Native Americans face day by day. Many of the infrastructure issues hindering Native Americans as we speak return to how reservations had been established by the Department of War, they stated.

“If you think of what a prison looks like, the concept of a reservation is: here’s wasteland that we can move population onto and control them as a resource,” Clayson stated.

As they proceed to do what they will to guard their elders and neighborhood members, the Benallys are preserving optimistic mindsets.

“It’s hard not to be frustrated, but it is so important to carry that seed of hope within us,” Jeneda stated. “This heartbeat right here is one of resilience.”

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