Mask Making – The Fight Against COVID-19 in Native American Communities

  COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the Native American communities across the United States. The Arizona Health Department has reported that Native Americans made up over 16% of the state’s coronavirus deaths, despite only constituting 6% of the population. In New Mexico, Native Americans represent less than a tenth of the population, but represents more than a third of the cases. 

Upon realizing these staggering statistics, makers across the United States were once again called to arms but this time to support an under-resourced community in its’ fight against COVID-19. With many Native American communities lacking access to public health infrastructure or necessities – makers were tasked with finding creative solutions to help these communities address their needs. 

Sewing for Navajo Nation – 

From the golden state to the eastern coastline of North Carolina, local groups are sending masks, face shields, and other critically needed supplies to the Navajo Nation. Sewing for Navajo Nation, a collective of sewers from across the United States, donated an impressive 90,866 masks in 79 days. One volunteer, Marisa Um, has personally sent 847 cloth masks, 98 scrub caps and hand sanitizer to the Navajo Nation and other tribes in the Four Corners. “Having traveled through the Southwest United States including on various Native American reservations, I’ve learned the importance of helping to protect the people and the elders” shared Um. “It means a lot for me to be able to give back”

Another group Auntie Sewing Squad, combined forces to send 4 relief vans loaded with medical supplies, sanitization equipment, and sewing machines to the Navajo Nation.

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🎉 Our FOURTH RELIEF VAN has landed in the Navajo Nation and it’s filled to the brim with sewing and hygiene supplies! 🧵🧼 🧷 Thanks everyone who donated to it! ✨🤜🏾🤛🏼✨ 💌You can still order direct off their Amazon wishlist–> https://tinyurl.com/navajowishlist 🎁 Among all the soap, diapers, and buckets… we got 11 tents, 2 sewing machines, 4 inflatable beds, 225 cones of thread, 2000+ yards of fabric, one box of elastic, an entire box of N95s, assorted spices in industrial sizes, 4 new coolers, 5 hand trucks, and 300 or so face shields. And more! 😷🛏⛺️ Special thanks to Supply and Protect Health Care Workers, Homemade Face Masks LA, @farmboy91423 , @maskcrusaders , and @3dppeartistnetwork . 💜💜💜 (Let us know if we forgot someone 😬) You can support the #auntiesewingsquad at the link in our bio!

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Protect Native Elders (PNE), an indigenous-founded charitable organization, connects makers and organizers from across the country with indigenous groups and helps direct PPE and other supplies to where they need to go.  PNE maintains a database tracking COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation, and also the targeted needs for PPE and sanitary equipment. The group distributed over $300,000 in supplies to over 60 indigenous communities throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada.  And in the long term, the group aspires “to generate long-term solutions that serve to preserve indigenous peoples and culture.” 

Maker Fran Atkins worked with a friend to send vitally important face masks to the front lines of the medical response in indigenous communities.  “We are not part of a group, we are just two people with the ability to help out,” Atkins said.  Like many of the groups that sent PPE, Atkins first learned about the crisis from the OSMS Facebook page. She soon found herself fielding requests for help from numerous indigenous health care workers.    She sent 12 face shields in response. Soon the Hopi and Comanche Nations were also requesting help.  Atkins sent nearly 70 face shields out to doctors and nurses battling the pandemic with very few resources.  

The contribution of individuals like Atkins and other people and groups in the OSMS and larger maker community has provided critical tools to health care providers, enabling them to carry on the fight against COVID-19 in their hard-hit indigenous communities.  The COVID-19 pandemic is still a grave threat to the Navajo Nation and many other indigenous communities. “We continue to let the First Nations People know that we are available to make and donate the face shields if and when they are needed,” Atkins said. The battle of communities against this disease continues.

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