In a pandemic, Navajo community steps up for its vulnerable

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Sep 14, 2021, 9:56:49 AM via Website

TEESTO, Ariz. (AP) — For as long as Raymond Clark has lived alone on this quiet stretch of the Navajo Nation under the watch of the “Praying Mountain,” he has depended on everyone yet no one.

The 71-year-old has no vehicle or running water but is content hitchhiking and carrying jugs down a dusty washboard road to replenish his supply. He works at home in Teesto painting murals and silversmithing, but friends often stop by.

Or at least they did before the pandemic. Now, rides and visits are scarcer in an area with no grocery store or gas station and where homes sit far apart.

The sense of community, though, never faded. With residents urged to stay home, tribal workers, health representatives and volunteers have stepped up efforts to ensure the most vulnerable citizens get the help they need.

“Our grandmas and grandpas teach us, you have to give back to your people,” said Sophia Francis, secretary for the Teesto Chapter, one of 110 tribal precincts that make up the vast reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. “We have to help our elders. We have to help the community.”

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