Hogans are used for prayer by traditionalists on the Navajo Nation. Native News Online photograph by Levi Rickert

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The leadership of the Navajo Nation issued a proclamation declaring this Easter weekend, April 10-13, 2020, as "Navajo Nation Family Prayer Weekend” to pray for the Navajo Nation as it faces harsh realities of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) impact on the country’s largest Indian reservation.

Navajo families are encouraged to pray together for family members, neighbors, health care workers, governing officials, and those who are sick, and the families who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation.

"It has been a heartbreaking and challenging month for our Navajo people as Dikos Nstaaígíí-19, COVID-19, has spread among our communities. As we approach the 57-hour weekend curfew, we ask all of our Diné people to join us in prayer for the victims of the virus and their families, and the health of our communities," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. 

The Navajo Indian Reservation, which is home to more than 150,000 tribal citizens, has become the hotspot for COVID-19 in Indian Country. With the number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 at 488 and 20 deaths as of Wednesday night, the Navajo Nation has more confirmed cases and deaths related to COVID-19 than these seven states: Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii or West Virginia.

The Navajo Nation has more deaths than the entire state of New Mexico, which has a population 13 times larger, according to an article in today’s New York Times.

The proclamation also recognizes “the adversities and sacrifices our people make serving their families and their Nation; those who are researching the COVID-19 coronavirus, the law enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders, the military, and all who dedicate their service for our safety.”

"For many of us, prayer is an important expression of faith, love, and hope. It is an act of worship, and it offers healing, guidance, and comfort. Through prayer, we find the strength to overcome challenges and heartache. Prayers reminds us that we are not alone and that we are all children of God," Navajo Nation Vice President Lizer said.

The proclamation also states, "the religious faith of the Navajo People is strong and guided us through many adversities as a Nation and as individuals."

Not all Navajo Nation citizens are Christian. Many Navajo Nation citizens practice the traditional ceremonial practices of their ancestors.

“I am thankful to the Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez for designating by proclamation a Navajo Nation Prayer Weekend amid this pandemic we are fighting. All Navajos should take to prayer in whatever faith they practice,” says Joshua Lavar Butler, a Navajo tribal citizen living in Flagstaff, Ariz.

“As Navajo people, our traditional practices involve praying with tádídíín, corn pollen, to the east where the sun rises before dawn and several times throughout the day. Our nation also adopted the practice of the Native American Church and they pray with cedar on hot charcoals or a heated area sending their prayers with the smoke to the creator. Our ancestors practiced our traditional ceremonies and songs since time immemorial long before the introduction of Christianity to our homelands. It is our ancestors’ prayers with tádídíín that ensured our continued existence today,” Butler told Native News Online on Thursday morning.

"The Navajo people have endured many hardships and sacrifices throughout history, but we continue to stand strong with our faith, prayers, and teachings of our elders. As resilient people, we know our prayers are heard and answered. This weekend, may our beliefs and values bring us together and plant the seeds of hope and restoration," added President Nez.

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Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online Staff