Decolonizing Our Reaction to COVID-19

This is a letter to my Haskell People and my people across Indian Country . Those who know the tight knit community Haskell Indian Nations University is made of, who have called 155 Indian Avenue home, we truly are a family. Some refer to Haskell as “The Rez” with affection, for others it is a safe haven. ??

Many of you feel we are in a current state of survival. Perhaps we are, perhaps we have always been. But perhaps this is a return to the Indigenous Community as it was intended to be, those pre-contact social structures that worked so well for Indigenous Peoples.

For example, in Plain’s Culture a tribe survived and flourished by all members taking care of one another; from taking care of the children to tending to the elderly, making sure everyone was fed, and working together, the responsibility was shared by the collective. Each person or group had their task, yet it all went towards the benefit of the people. Each person had a purpose and value to the whole.

Applying that ideology into our situation now, the housing staff are doing more than their part in ensuring the safety of the students: those who are staying, those who are returning, and those who are moving. The elderly staff members are being protected. The HINU Administration is working to try and protect everyone.

Decolonizing our reaction to COVID-19 means we are choosing how to react to the present situation. HINU’s Administration recognized and took the danger seriously, then acted. As staff and students do the same, rather than spreading panic and fear, let’s educate ourselves and instill positivity.

Look out for one another: if you see someone without then share. The recent panic buying of supplies exemplifies the selfishness of the modern population. We do not behave in such a way traditionally; reciprocity, generosity and humility are statutes of Native societies. Act with the community in mind. Try not exposing yourself to potential danger thus endangering others.

Remaining respectful: despite heightened tensions, there is no reason to treat each other less than you would normally. In times such as this we should treat each other with more compassion. We are still human beings, do not allow fear to control your behavior.

Stay connected: despite social distancing, we can still build and strengthen our community. The live singing and dancing videos being shared on social media are making us all feel connected to one another which boosts morale. Check in on one another. Talk — if someone is scared try to reassure them.

Let’s take this time to exercise and learn from our cultures, like taking time to craft. Teach or learn to bead or sew, celebrating our traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).

Make use of traditional medicines like, cedar teas & elder berries as well as the different uses for bear root, or liquorice root. Perhaps just drinking Navajo tea or ceyaka brings you comfort. Learning the how to, yet also knowing the cultural significance as well as how these affect your health are all important.

Despite Social Distancing we are still standing strong together. At a personal level, keeping yourself centered is important; if smudging is your go to, do that. Whatever it is to keep your peace and remain calm. Doing so will help keep others calm. Remember, we are the descendants of ancestors who survived generations of genocide and disease. We are strong. We are Haskell Strong.

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