A Native American health center requested supplies to help them fight Coronavirus but the government sent them body bags instead. Some see the mix-up as part of a broader pattern.
The Seattle Indian Health Board serves the Native American community in Washington’s Seattle and King counties. Their center asked for supplies to deal with Covid-19 from local, state and federal authorities.
Body bags arrived instead, though this appears to have been a mistake.
“My team turned ghost white,” said chief executive Esther Lucero. “We asked for tests, and they sent us a box of body bags.”
The mix-up has highlighted the treatment of Native American communities, however. Many Native Americans feel ill-served by state and federal government during this crisis.
The health board’s chief research officer Abigail Echo-Hawk reflected on these feelings.
“The Navajo Nation is in a crisis with cases, and there are tribes and other Indian organizations across the country that are in similar crises and can use medical supplies and help instead of watching people die,” Echo-Hawk said.
“My questions is: Are we going to keep getting body bags or are we going to get what we actually need?” she told NBC News.
There are serious concerns about the spread of Coronavirus in Native American communities. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $8 billion for tribes but only a portion of this has been paid out so far.
“We need to have the correct resources and be included at the state and federal level,” Echo-Hawk said.
“Until then, Native organizations like mine are going to push forward to create the resources needed for us and by us.”
Darragh Roche is a journalist covering U.S. politics and media