Indigenous people have a predisposition toward resilience that enables our communities to persevere for future generations, and we are testimony of this genius to thrive.
My uncle recently told my family and community a story of how my great grandmother was the sole survivor of a powerful, strong bloodline. She overcame a pandemic almost 100 years ago for me to be here now. And this story has stuck with me for weeks because it tells the story of collective resilience, perseverance and our responsibility to care for one another.
When we began hearing about COVID-19, none of us really knew we were about to face a pandemic. Neither did we have an idea of the full ramifications the virus would have on our economy, and most importantly on our families’ health and well-being.
Unfortunately, while COVID-19 has disrupted daily life for every person across the country, the pandemic has had an unequal impact on people’s physical, financial, emotional and mental health, and wellness. The magnitude of the disruption is due in part to generational inequities of access and opportunity that existed prior to COVID-19. Across the country, immigrant, Native American and low-income families and communities of color have been impacted the most by this outbreak.
As of today, COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting our Native American and Hispanic/Latino communities because nearly three out of every four cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico are coming from these communities.
Native and undocumented families are on the front lines of this crisis, providing labor for essential businesses while dealing with a lack of infrastructure and barriers to accessing health care. Many of the same families, and the students that we serve in our network, face the highest financial risk because they lack access to vital safety-net programs, have faced historic neglect by the federal government, have been excluded from relief aid due to immigration status, continue to face the possibility of deportation and live through the generational impact that inequitable policies have had on our communities’ ability to obtain financial, emotional and mental stability.
In response, the NACA Inspired Schools Network and N.M. Dream Team are stepping up to serve our native and immigrant communities being directly impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting economic downturn. Our organizations are united by shared core values of family and community, respect for culture and identity, as well as a commitment to our communities’ success in the present and future. Based on these shared strengths and values, we are launching the Stronger Together Relief Fund – an emergency relief effort created by community for community.
Through our emergency relief we will be providing cash awards to families in need, including undocumented and mixed-status families, so they can buy necessary food and supplies as we continue to follow expert advice from our state officials to combat COVID-19. In this way, while we are providing support to members of the community, we are in fact creating a net of support for students at home. Because by ensuring our families and young ones can have access to economic relief, and by creating strong collaboration and relationships across communities, grounded in shared values, we will tackle the most dangerous pre-existing condition that complicates COVID-19 pandemic in our communities: the systemic racism our communities have experienced for generations.
Families who have a student at a school in the NACA Inspired Schools Network can apply for an economic relief award by visiting: www.nacainspiredschoolsnetwork.org/strongertogether.
Undocumented and mixed status families interested in applying for an economic relief award can do so by visiting: www.nmdreamteam.org/covid19/.
NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN) is an indigenous education network serving communities in New Mexico, South Dakota, Colorado and California.