ANADARKO, Okla. — As COVID-19 sweeps across Indian Country, tribes rally to protect their vulnerable members and ensure tribal government proceeds as normal. Newly elected Apache Business Committee member Dustin Cozad has been working on that since his first day in office in June, he said.
“The unpredictable nature of the virus has certainly affected tribal operations. There were times when we were forced to close departments due to COVID-19 exposure,” Cozad said. “Despite that we're still able to serve our people.”
A quick review of the Apache Tribe’s website reveals a litany of office closures and accommodations made in the wake of the pandemic’s spread. The disease temporarily shut down the Apache’s food distribution program in early August after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 (the program has since resumed). Even the general election was moved from April 4 to June 27.
Since then, the Apache have moved to protect both their employees and tribal members as much as possible, Cozad said.
“The Apache tribe is working to provide personal protective equipment to tribal members, as well as other necessities and sanitation supplies,” Cozad said. “The tribe is also setting policies in the workplace to help keep employees safe from contracting and spreading the virus. Renovations will be done on tribal buildings to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, the tribe is working to allocate funds awarded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to those most in need, Cozad said. The CARES Act was a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law March 27. A portion of those funds went to Indian Country to help tribes in their response to COVID-19.
“The tribe is providing aid for all adult tribal members who have been affected by the pandemic. We also have Distance Learning assistance for all school-aged tribal kids ages 5 to 17 to purchase the technology needed to attend class from home,” Cozad said.
That assistance, according to a public release from the tribe, amounts to a $600 Visa card.
“We created the Direct Impact Assistance Program for tribal members who have tested positive for COVID-19 and need financial assistance to offset costs incurred by COVID-19. The Apache tribe continues to work diligently to find ways to provide relief for all tribal members during this difficult time,” the statement from the tribe said.
COVID-19 presents a rapidly changing, unprecedented challenge for both Native Americans and the wider country—a challenge that the Apache continually work to understand and overcome, Cozad said.
“The pandemic is something we are constantly adapting to,” he said.
More Stories Like ThisChickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby named OKCityan of Year
Native Farm Bill Coalition Leaders Critical of USDA Equity Commission Final Report
Native Bidaské with Jenna Kunze on the Modern-day Warriors Highlighted in "Nine Little Girls" Story
Nex Benedict's Death Being Investigated as a Crime; Vigils Across the Nation Mourn Native, Non-Binary Teen
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Hoskin Addresses Impact of Federal Government Shutdown to Speaker of the House
Native Perspective. Native Voices. Native News.
We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.