Navajo President Nez: Immediately Allow Diné Relief Efforts During COVID-19 Curfews

Navajo President Nez: Immediately Allow Diné Relief Efforts During COVID-19 Curfews

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Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund and Effort started this petition to Navajo Nation President Johnathan Nez and

Please Uphold the Principles of Ké’: Immediately Allow Diné Relief & Aid Efforts
During Weekend COVID-19 Curfews

TO:     Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez

CC:      Speaker Seth Damon and Members of the 24th Navajo Nation Council
            Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission

Date:    April 17, 2020

Yá'át'ééh President Nez,

We urge you to immediately and unconditionally lift any and all restrictions for Diné non-governmental organizations that have safety protocols in place to provide COVID-19 humanitarian relief and aid efforts during imposed curfews on the Navajo Nation. We welcome you to support our effort and uphold the guiding principle of Ké’ to ensure the wellbeing of our people during this time of crisis.

You recently denied a request for exemption from curfew restrictions for Diné volunteer workers with the Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund and provided no reason other than that a previous waiver you issued for religious services received public backlash.

The unqualified prohibition of independent Diné humanitarian relief efforts only places our people at greater risk. Our purpose and priorities -- from governmental, civil, and public sectors --  should be to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and effectively meet the direct needs of those most vulnerable in our communities. Placing restrictions, even if they are temporary, on independent Diné humanitarian relief and aid work in this time of crisis does not move this purpose forward. Any government sanction on relief efforts during a curfew that includes threats of fines and imprisonment, effectively criminalizes essential relief work.

The Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund has rapidly and proactively responded to the COVID-19 crisis since March 15th. To that end, we have provided relief for over 1500 families in almost 40 communities all across dinetah. 

Our organization maintains the highest standard of safety following WHO and CDC guidelines. We have detailed health and safety protocols that our volunteers are trained in before they can assist with our distribution effort, and our distribution volunteers are required to comply with these protocols on an ongoing basis.  

Our coordinators and volunteer workers do not represent or constitute an outside or foreign entity.  Instead, our overwhelmingly Diné relief volunteers are based both on and off the reservation and have families heavily impacted by this crisis. Our familiarity with the region and the specific needs of our people distinguishes us from state-led and other relief efforts. We not only provide essential relief but reinforce and provide awareness to community members of CDC and WHO health and safety protocols to safeguard their families. Our efforts extend to communities that are still only learning about best practices to safeguard themselves against COVID-19. 

Not only is independent Diné humanitarian relief work an essential and necessary service, our organization believes that we have a cultural and moral imperative to aid our relatives in their time of greatest need. Like you, we believe in the power of volunteerism, and as volunteers we seek to help in a collaborative manner while acknowledging and acting upon our own individual agency to make a difference and help our people. We do this in the spirit of t’áá hwó’ ají t’éego. To deny our request for exemptions from the curfew requirements is not an “inconvenience”; it is an unnecessary obstruction of vital volunteer Diné support that can help save lives and flatten the curve. We ask that you lift this barrier.

We additionally call upon the Navajo Nation Tribal Council and Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to support our call to ensure that independent Diné humanitarian relief and aid can continue without interruption. We cannot risk families and elders in remote communities falling through the gaps as this crisis escalates. Denial of this request sends the wrong message about how serious this crisis is and the value of our own people taking agency to provide for our communities where federal, state, and other aid is falling short. We can and we must be allowed to take care of our own people as long as we follow health and safety protocols necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.  

Again, we implore you to work in the spirit of Ké’ and dignity for our people and immediately provide long-term permission for the Diné humanitarian relief and aid efforts of the Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund and Effort.

Ethel Branch, Founder and Arizona Co-Lead
Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund and Effort

Signed in support:

Milton Tso, Cameron Chapter President 
Sarah Slim, Tonalea Chapter President
James Adakai, Oljato Chapter President 
Gabe Yazzie, Town Manager for Kayenta Township
Phillip Zahne, Vice President Coalmine Canyon Chapter
Calvin Johnson, Leupp Chapter Secretary/Treasurer 
Lee Jack, District I Navajo County Board of Supervisors
Jessie Thompson, District II Navajo County Board of Supervisors
Jamescita Peshlakai, Arizona State Senator, Cameron, AZ
Representative Arlando Teller, Arizona House of Representatives, District 7,
Dr. Shirley, Apache County Commission
James Edward Thomas, Jr., MD (aka Chip)/Inscription House Health Center
Lauren Breihan, M.D, Flagstaff
Bijiibaa Garrison, General Surgeon, M.D.
Freddie Bitsoie, Executive Chef at the National Museum of the American Indian
Dr. David H. Begay, Dine’ Hataalii Association
Radmilla Cody, For The People
Shonto Begay, Artist
Percy Deal, community advocate, Big Mountain
Anna Frazier, Founding Board Member, Diné CARE
Carol Davis, Executive Director, Diné CARE 
Adella Begaye, President, Diné CARE 
Lori Goodman, Volunteer & supporter of Navajo/Hopi Relief Fund and Treasurer, Diné CARE 
Wendy Atcitty, NM Energy Organizer, Diné CARE 
Cassandra Begay, Founder of Defend the Sacred Consulting
Mellor Willie, Co-Founder and President of 7Gen Leaders PAC
Vanessa Tullie, Ahehee’ Shidine’e Homecare LLC
Jackson Slim Brossy, Advocate, Lukachukai, AZ and Washington, DC
Verrin T. Kewenvoyouma, Esq., Chairman, Board of Directors, Moenkopi Developers Corporation
Marlon Footracer, Administrative Coordinator, Tribal Law and Policy Institute
Amanda Blackhorse, community advocate, Big Mountain
Krystal Curley, Director, Indigenous Lifeways, McKinley County
Hazel James, Coordinator, San Juan Collaborative for Health Equity
Indigenous Goddess Gang
Nick Tilsen, President & CEO, NDN Collective
Nicole Horseherder, Executive Director at To Nizhoni Ani
Janene Yazzie, Sixth World Solutions. NM NHCR team lead 
K’é Infoshop Collective, Tséghahoodzání
Brandon Benallie; For The People, K’é Infoshop; Dził Yizhiin,Tséghahoodzání, Tséhootsoí, Tsiitsosndeeshgizh, Dinétah
Dooda (No) Desert Rock, President, Elouise Brown, TseAlnaozti'i Grazing Officer,  TseAlnaozti'i Chapter
Michael Charles, SustainUS Indigenous Delegation Leader to the UNFCCC
Jessica Stago, Co-Founder and Director of Business Incubation, Change Labs
Nathaniel Etsitty, Bee Nahoogleełii Permaculture
Lynnette Adams, Infinity of Page Home Care
TJ Ellerbeck, Executive Director, Rural Utah Project 
Kim Smith , Tódich'ii'nii, Tsʼíhootso, AZ & Tsé daak'áán,  NHCR Northern Agency Team Lead 
Anna Rondon, McKinley NM Mutual Aid
Klee Benally, Protect the Peaks, Kinłani Mutual Aid, Clean Up the Mines, Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund
Joseph Hernandez, Vice-President, Navajo Nation Head Start Parent Policy Council
Parent President, Navajo Nation Head Start Shiprock Center 1 & 2
Diedra Peaches, Paper Rocket Productions
Marc Emerson, PhD, MPH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Tanisha M. Max-Bennett, Tuba City, Az, NHCR 
Marley Shebala, Dine’ Resources & Information Center
Earl Tulley, Tulley Attakai and Associates
Dr. Jennifer Denetdale
Shandiin Herrera, Monument Valley, UT (Lead for America)
Dr. Lula M. Stago, Teestoh Chapter
Natasha K. Hale, Twin Lakes, NM
Jolene Nenibah Yazzie
Jolene Holgate, Shonto, AZ
Angelee James, Tohatchi, NM
Dr. LeManuel Lee Bitsóí, Naschitti Chapter & Durango, CO
Jonathan Yazzie, Tolani Lake Chapter Community member
Ira M. Vandever, Baca/Prewitt/Haystack,NM
Esther Yazzie-Lewis, Edgewood, New Mexico
Tommy Rock, Ph.D. Oljato, Utah
Orion Nightwalker-Yazzie, Whitecone Chapter
Delphine James, Houck Chapter community member
Ted Nez, Houck Chapter community member
Laura Lee Yazzie, Houck Chapter Manager
Leona Morgan, Fort Defiance
Talia Boyd, Tonalea, AZ/ Church Rock,NM
Wahleah Johnson, Forest Lake, AZ
Geraldene Blackgoat, Houck Chapter Community Member
Rebecca Jones, Fort Defiance, AZ 
Theresa Hatathlie, Coalmine Mesa, Arizona - Diné College Western Representative
Melissa Clyde, Tohatchi, NM
Enei Begay
Missa Foy-Jen, Navajo County Dems and AZ Democratic Party

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