- By Mikayla Steele
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — The memory of a Navajo elder lost to COVID-19 has spurred a member of Michigan’s Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe to launch a relief effort for Navajo Nation.
Tribal Member Kelly Benally will be collecting donations today in Mount Pleasant as part of “Operation Sadie Benally-Sheii Ma- Navajo Nation” — named for her Navajo mother-in-law Sadie Benally, 90, who died from COVID-19 complications on May 10.
The elder Benally was a respected Navajo medicine woman and a fluent Navajo speaker who fell ill with the virus just six days prior to her passing.
Drop-off for Operation Sadie will take place Thursday, May 28, 2020 from 10am until 1pm at the Soaring Eagle Waterpark & Hotel, 5665 E Pickard Road in Mount Pleasant.
Donations of Lysol, Bleach, Clorox wipes, gloves, masks, sanitizers, Tylenol, paper towels, diapers, bottled water and working washers and dryers in working condition are requested. Cash donations will also be accepted. All boxes and crates that get loaded into trucks will also be decorated with words of encouragement written in Navajo to let the Navajo community members know that they are in the thoughts and prayers of their Michigan relatives.
The donations will be labeled with encouraging words written in Navajo language.
With 300,000 members, the Navajo Nation is the largest tribal community in the U.S., spreading across Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The Navajo Nation has been especially hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, losing more citizens per capita to the virus than any state in the country.
Navajo Nation has recorded 4,842 positive cases of COVID-19 and 158 confirmed deaths as of May 27, 2020. It is considered the hot spot for COVID-19 in the United States and their infection rate is among the highest in the world. The reservation’s lack of running water, medical infrastructure, Internet access, information and adequate housing have made it difficult for the tribe to handle the pandemic.
Kelly Benally, 49, told Native News Online she hopes Navajo Nation is “really feeling the love that is coming from Michigan.”
She set up a Facebook fundraiser to help fund Operation Sadie Sheii Ma- Navajo Nation. The fundraiser met its goal of raising $4,200 to go towards the efforts being made to help the Navajo Nation.