Native American Villages Are At Real Risk Of Infection

  "Help Protect Our Elders" Barricade at Gulkana Village Entrance. (Photo, May 10th, 2020 by Country Journal) Residents of a...

 
"Help Protect Our Elders" Barricade at Gulkana Village Entrance. (Photo, May 10th, 2020 by Country Journal)


Residents of a village near Bethel are being tested for coronavirus on June 26th, as concerns emerge that the village has been infected. The local health corporation, the city, and the village council all have banded together to mandate caution. People in the Yukon-Kuskokwim village of Napaskiak have received mandates that masks to be worn in public, and residents advised to "shelter in place" until July 5th.

All over America, and particularly in the West, the most cautious and proactive groups of people who are trying to make a difference anticipating the coronavirus epidemic are Native Americans. Coming from a strong heritage of oral history, Native Americans everywhere – the Navajo Nation, the Sioux, the people in areas of historic pueblos – are all concerned.

The Navajo Nation covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and has 250,000 residents. This spring there was more Covid-19 on the reservation than any part of the U.S., after New Jersey and New York. The Ogala Sioux ordered a reservation-wide shutdown in mid-May, as coronavirus entered their community, too. In Alaska, deeply troubled by the horrors of the 1918 flu epidemic, which hit the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta over a century ago, villages in that area were already anticipating the problem in early May, and worked to shut down cross-village traffic. But the virus has now caught up with the Y-K Delta, no matter how diligent they have tried to be.

THE 1918 EPIDEMIC IN ALASKA

Forty-six Flu Deaths Near Chitina in Only A Few Weeks. (File photo, Country Journal) 
Anyone who lives in the Copper Valley and knew Native elders 20 years ago in the region is well aware that the 1918 flu pandemic was a killer – and that it had a serious effect on local life, killing many people when it finally arrived in this part of Alaska.

WALTER CHARLEY'S WHOLE FAMILY DIED OF FLU
For example, Walter Charley was orphaned by it. His story was written in the Copper River Country Journal years ago - and more recently, on this website.
Link to Walter Charley's story

OVER 40 LOCAL PEOPLE DIED OF FLU HERE IN 1918
The Copper Center Museum has newspaper pages showing the impact of the flu and how many people quickly died, with over 40 dead in a two week period, in this part of Alaska once the flu arrived in the wilds of Alaska.
Read Our Copper Center Museum Story

BILL BUCK SURVIVED AN EPIDEMIC
Bill Buck, of Glennallen, grew up in Nome. He became a famed war hero in World War II. But first he had to survive the diphtheria epidemic that was later celebrated by the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
See link to Bill Buck's story here

EFFORTS TO PROTECT THE ELDERLY IN 2020
In the Copper River Valley, the only actual governmental agencies that exist are the region's Native American villages. The rest of the region is in what is called the "Unorganized Borough."

At least two of the region's villages, Mentasta and Gulkana, quickly responded to the threat of coronavirus months ago, by trying to institute barriers to infection. The Copper River Country Journal wrote about those efforts and why they were implemented – to protect the elderly, who are the most valued people in a Native community.
 Mentasta & Gulkana's 2020 Efforts For Their Elderly 

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