Indigenous Environmental Network Organizes Partnership to Supply PPE to Indian Country

Navajo & Hopi Families COVID 19 Relief Fund volunteers unload water donated by Jason Mamoa. (Courtesy IEN / Deidra Peaches)

The Indigenous Environmental Network has partnered with eight progressive and Indigenous justice-focused peer organizations to launch Protecting the Peoples Emergency Partnership Fund to respond to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous communities across the United States.

The combined fundraising and mask donation effort has collected and organized the donation of 38,000 masks to Indigenous communities, and aims to secure $200,000 in funding in order to donate more masks.

“Indigenous People are dying of COVID-19 at unprecedented rates. Once it became clear that federal agencies were putting Native American communities and Tribal medical facilities in competition with states, hospitals and corporations for purchasing PPE, the Partnership came together quickly to take action,” said Shannon Biggs, director and co-founder of Movement Rights, in a release. “We are not a large relief organization. Many of us work directly with Indigenous communities. As allies we came together humbly to raise grassroots donations through the website, directly source masks and quickly distribute to those most in need during this crisis.”

The Protecting the Peoples Emergency Partnership Fund is comprised of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Eaton Workshop, Movement Rights, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Idle No More-SF Bay, Amazon Watch, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), and Global Exchange, organizations uniting to launch the Protecting the Peoples Emergency Partnership Fund to supply Indian Country with Personal Protection Equipment.

“Our Indigenous network consists of many frontline and community-based groups that are working on environmental and climate justice issues and who are members of their respective Indigenous nations. This novel coronavirus pandemic has come uninvited to the homelands of many of our Indigenous Peoples — north and south. It is a shared teaching of our peoples that during times of life and death emergencies, that we must come together to take action to protect and defend our families, children and elders,” said Tom BK Goldtooth, executive director of IEN, in a release. “Our Indigenous network has taken action towards forming this partnership of allies, to raise funding to supply pandemic hotspots in Indigenous communities with personal protective equipment such as medical and non-medical masks. This initiative has found many Tribes and grassroots members taking action at the local level that amplifies the strength and resilience of Indigenous Peoples.”

This effort is historic in nature given the collective action of the environmental justice movement to come to the aid of Indigenous communities across America, partnering with the IEN and with Tribal leadership to ensure that these masks are delivered to where they are needed most. These partner organizations have long valued the twin importance of climate justice and Indigenous rights, but never before has a campaign of this magnitude with organizations of this caliber from the environmental justice movement sought to respond to an emergency in the Indigenous community.

“The coronavirus crisis that humanity is facing reveals the deep inequities in our socioeconomic and health systems. Eaton Workshop is dedicated to our mission of using our privilege and our platform to be there for those who are most in need. When we heard from my friend Bryan Parras about the Covid-19 outbreaks in Indigenous communities around the world, first from the Navajo Nation to communities along the Amazon river, my family and I immediately joined together to source and fund the delivery of PPE from Asia and the US towards our sisters and brothers in the Americas who are in need,” said Katherine Lo, founder of Eaton Workshop, in a release. “This cross-continental effort brought my family from Hong Kong and Eaton to join forces with a North American coalition of Indigenous environmental justice organizations in a time of great need, when stakes are high and our choices will shape the future we create.” 

The support which celebrities like Jason Momoa, Mark Ruffalo, Ellen DeGeneres, Danny Pino and Paul Rudd have given to the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe has been remarkable. However, there is still a concerted need for PPE and funding in these communities and elsewhere in Indigenous communities across the United States. From Arizona and New Mexico to Oklahoma, South Dakota, California, Texas and Alaska, the Protecting the Peoples Emergency Partnership Fund is delivering supplies across America to where they are needed most.

“t.e.j.a.s. is well aware of the importance of personal protective equipment as N95 masks have been in high demand after every Gulf Coast hurricane. They are part of a well established re-entry toolkit that has been used  to protect communities from mold and other airborne contaminants post-disaster. They serve as a first line of defense and help ensure that communities are able to protect themselves as they begin to rebuild their lives. In this pandemic, PPE will help to slow the spread of Covid-19 and provide communities with protection so that they can continue to serve the needs of their families with confidence,” said Bryan Parras, t.e.j.a.s. co-founder, in a release. “Communities will continue to need support with food, water, cleaning supplies and housing but PPE has been in short supply and in high demand across the globe. We are honored to join Protect the People’s Emergency Project Fund to provide these essential needs to at risk communities.. We look forward to continuing our support for Indian County and all our relatives across Turtle Island.”

This coalition represents the belief that the intersectional causes of climate justice and Indigenous justice are inseparable, and it will continue to be a leading force in the campaign to deliver much-needed PPE and funding to Indigenous communities. Donations can be made through ActBlue.

“Navajo Nation currently has the third highest COVID-19 cases in the U.S. after New York and New Jersey, yet the community and frontline medics serving Indigenous communities have little to no access to medical resources. This is completely unacceptable — there could not be a more important time to ensure those on the frontlines of the most-affected Tribal Nations are protected and safe,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, executive director of Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, in a release.




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