Navajo Nation Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sean McCabe family.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. –  As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew to more than 4,200 last week on the Navajo Nation, Navajo Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie reached out to longtime ally and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for help.

“We’re getting hit very hard right now and Thoreau is a hot spot, so we really need help for our people,” said Delegate Yazzie, who hauled a large trailer from the Navajo Nation to Albuquerque to collect donations. “We called on Governor Richardson and are grateful that he responded so quickly.”

Yazzie, who was McKinley County Deputy Sheriff for 16 years and serves on the Navajo Nation Council’s Law and Order Committee, represents six communities on the Eastern portion of the Nation, including Thoreau, Iyanbito, Smith Lake, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, and Churchrock, NM.  

“It was my respect for the Navajo people that made me want to help,” Gov. Richardson said in an interview. “When I first ran for Congressional office, I reached out to the Navajo people to help me get elected and they were there for me, time and time again. We’ve worked together for many years and I always want to help the Navajo Nation whenever I can.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson discussing the needs of Navajo people with Navajo Nation Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie

In early April, Richardson’s COVID-19 Navajo Families Relief Fund was established to help provide medical supplies and equipment to the Navajo Nation. The fund has provided gloves, face shields, 3-ply masks, gowns, PPE and hand sanitizers for clinics on the reservation. Richardson’s fund also contributed $10,000 to the salary of a new Intensive Care specialty doctor for the Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital in Gallup, NM which is seeing a heavy influx of COVID-19 patients.

Targeting the needs of young families, Richardson’s team purchased more than 10,000 diapers and 500 protective masks to donate to Navajo families in Yazzie’s chapters. 

“A lot of people are donating food and water, and while our families are locked down in quarantine, supplies like diapers and masks are hard to get,” said Yazzie. “Our chapters appreciate the help.”

On the morning of the delivery, two large trucks pulled up to the Northeast Heights home of Navajo businessman Sean McCabe, former Navajo Nation Economic Development director, who was asked to host the exchange. With masks, gloves and plenty of space for social distancing, Richardson presented the donations to Yazzie while McCabe and a team of volunteers unloaded and reloaded the trucks bound for Eastern Navajo families.

“This coronavirus has hurt people all over the world. I’m standing with the people who have perhaps been hurt the most, the Navajo people,” said Richardson. “I hope we all recognize that we need to work together and help each other through this. I’m asking that we all support the Navajo people.”

McCabe, who owns a CPA firm serving Tribes throughout the nation, said he was honored to host the exchange and contribute. His firm is also fundraising for Native college students whose educations have been disrupted by the pandemic. “We want our Native students to continue their education and not give up because of the virus. We’re directing our efforts to support them and contributing to other fundraising as well,” he said.

As the last box of diapers was loaded for the long journey home, Yazzie shared a few words of encouragement.

“I want to say to everyone that we need your prayers and support for our Navajo people. We continue to tell our people to take care, be safe and stay home. We are going to beat this virus because Navajo people are very strong, but it takes all of us. Please pray for healing for our Navajo people,” he said.

“I also have a  special message to our Navajo Nation law enforcement officers and first responders. You have our full support and utmost respect. We are continuing to pray for you, for your safety and your families. We ask that you keep safe during this emergency and know that we are all behind you.”

The public can make donations to the fund by visiting the New Mexico Children’s Foundation website or by mailing a check to New Mexico Children’s Foundation, PO Box 8182, Santa Fe, NM 87504. For check donations, indicate on the memo line that it is for the Richardson Navajo Fund.

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