Plan C Live: Organizing within Native American Communities for COVID-19

Maker News
Plan C Live: Organizing within Native American Communities for COVID-19

According to a CDC report in August, COVID-19 is impacting Native American communities disproportionately with a 2.8x higher rate in the number of cases, a 5.3x higher rate of hospitalization, and 1.4x higher rate in the number of deaths. Because of incomplete data reporting, “it’s impossible to know COVID-19’s true toll on the Native American community,” according to a story in US News & World Report. Access to health care and lack of PPE have intensified the problems.

Protect Native Elders is a grassroots effort organizing to provide a rapid response to indigenous communities. It is a combination of people from Silicon Valley and Native American community activists who work with suppliers, manufacturers, and DIY maker collaboratives to ship masks, face-shields, hand sanitizer, food, water, and other essential elements directly to distribution hubs throughout Indian Country. You can hear more about their work here.

In the spring, just before COVID-19 locked down much of the country, the Diné Maker Faire was organized and held by Navajo Technical University. See our story about a Maker Faire for the Navajo Nation.  In its second year, the event celebrated the making traditions and community within the Navajo Nation. We’ll also learn more about how makers within and outside the Navajo Nation have been involved in responding to COVID-19 in collaboration with community members.

In this edition of Plan C Live, we’re talking to members of several groups within the Native American community as well as those who have come together to provide resources from outside. We seek to listen and learn as much as we can about the impact from COVID-19 and the rapid response needed to fight it in Native American communities.

Date recorded: October 22, 2020 @ 1pm PT / 4pm ET

In July, at GownTown in SF, a fabrication crew organized by Something Labs posed for a photo before sending 8,200 gowns to Apache, Chilene, Cheyenne, Navajo, and Yakima regions.

Joining Dale Dougherty of Make: Community and Dorothy Jones-Davis of Nation of Makers along with the following panelists:

  • Marian Reynov is co-organizer of Protect Native Elders a 100% volunteer run, grassroots organization that rallies community resources to address PPE shortages for front-line workers and first responders in the marginalized communities. She is a seasoned software industry professional with 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley and is also co-founder of our partner organization Crowdsourced Covid Response Project, on the board of directors for Afghan Friends Network, and has years of community volunteering experience with Meals on Wheels.
  • Jo Overton is a co-founder of Protect Native Elders and a proud member of the Sicangu Lakota located in South Dakota (The federal name for our tribe is the Rosebud Sioux). She has a degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Medical Social work. Jo’s family has a long history of serving the Native people, and campaigning for change to improve our peoples lives and she has worked as an advocate and an activist for Native people in the community where she has lived for many years. “It seems as though the Creator and my ancestors have equipped me, and set my feet to this path during the pandemic. I will not stand by, and do nothing, when I can do sonething for the benefit of my Native sisters and brothers ‘Hecel Oyate Kin Nipi Kte-So’ (That the People May Live).”
  • Daniel Vandever is the communications director for Navajo Technical University where he heads the university’s strategic communication efforts. Prior to working with NTU, Vandever served as the public information officer for Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation and as a copywriter for an advertising agency in St. Louis, MO, where he won state and regional ADDY awards. Vandever obtained his master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico and his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. Vandever, who comes from a long line of educators, released a children’s book, Fall in Line, Holden, in 2017, and plans on publishing his second, titled Herizon, in 2021. Daniel will also discuss a recent community making and resiliency project to develop trails in Crownpoint to help toward improving health outcomes: MesaTrailMaps20.
Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Jennifer Blakeslee keeps the Global Maker Faire program running smoothly and has been a maker at Maker Faire since 2011. Among other things, she really likes to travel, write, cook, hike, make big art, and swim in the ocean.

View more articles by Jennifer Blakeslee