Through all of this, we have heard of your struggles through the organization, Cultural Survival, which has informed us of what has been happening in your communities. We are a small group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous mental health workers, clinicians, cultural specialists, human rights advocates and university professors. Several of us are members of different Indigenous Peoples in North America. Each of us has specialized training, knowledge, and experience that we hope may be helpful to you and your communities. We are your Indigenous relatives and allies from the North who have assembled to respectfully send you our greetings and words of hope as we all struggle with the harms brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When this current pandemic passes it will be a time for people to celebrate and go back to living a normal life. But we must be ever on alert for the next epidemic or pandemic. Scientists are already warning us that there will be more diseases like this in the future and we must be prepared. The rise in epidemics and pandemics have been traced to human encroachment and destruction of wildland habitats which increases contact between humans and wild animals; an increasing human population which makes the transmission of disease between humans much easier; the growth of global domestic livestock (animals) that are raised in unsanitary corporate animal factories that spawn disease, but are used for human consumption; and a rapidly changing climate, each in their own way a part of the colonial crucible which provides fuel for the next dangerous infectious outbreaks.
“Our children and we will be reborn by the Earth, and in this reborn, we will provide Soul-Words by the ground walking sounds will sing lives, each their own tone. After the fusion of space and the dawn of new time, I will make the Soul-Words circulate again in the bones of those who stand, and the souls become incarnate again, says our First Father, Tupã. When this happens, Matis, our first mother, will be born in the heart of the stranger, and the first adorned again will rise up in the Earthly dwelling for all its length.”
Memorable Acts of Resistance
The National Constituent Assembly was marked by the defense of the Popular Amendment of the Indigenous United Nations 27 years ago. On September 4, 1987, the spokesman for the emerging Indigenous Movement made a historic speech that managed to reverse the anti-indigenous political situation in that legislature of the Brazilian National Congress. The strong pronouncement by Ailton Krenak, with a spirit of mourning, was a decisive act for the approval of articles 231 and 232 of the 1988 Federal Constitution by the constituent parliamentarians.
If you can, grow a garden. Now is the perfect opportunity to grow traditional foods. Gardening is proven to be a therapeutic exercise, good for the body, mind, and spirit.
Create and nurture a relationship with the Earth you live upon, the sky and stars above you, the plants, waters and animals around you. They all have things to teach to those who know how to listen. Indigenous people have a deep knowledge of and connection to place.
Get plenty of exercise. Get outdoors, put your feet on the Earth, walk, run, breath in the fresh air, and absorb the healing rays of the sun which are restorative and helpful in combating depression. These are medicines as well. Research shows that Vitamin D may help prevent or lessen the effects of COVID-19. The sun helps our body manufacture Vitamin D. But it is important to not overexpose yourself to the sun.
There is an opportunity to change the course of history by surviving and thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now in position to envision a new Indigenous world, one that is even more resilient, courageous, and determined to survive. We envision and foresee a world where Indigenous Peoples join the ancient and contemporary practices to meet and overcome the challenges that lay ahead. We have done it before and we can do it again.
Indigenous Peoples survived for much longer than the colonized world has existed. We know how to meet hardship and adjust to what is needed to survive. Indigenous People survive against all odds. We have always endured because of our great resilience. The things we use to survive are contemplative practices, arts-- singing, dancing, painting, drawing, ceremony. These things are all connected to community.
We find that the Indigenous communities that have fared the best during the COVID-19 pandemic have closed off their communities to outsiders and engaged in public health protocols that have proven to prevent the spread of the virus: (1) Indigenous Peoples who wear protective facial masks are much less likely to contract the virus; (2) Those that thoroughly wash their hands when they go outside of their homes and when they return home; (3) Those that practice physically distancing from one another at least six feet had less chance of being infected. However, we now know that the droplets from a person who is infected with COVID-19 can travel as far as 26 feet if an individual has a strong cough or sneeze, which is why facial masks are so important to wear all of the time; (4) Those that are avoiding gatherings with others are less likely to get COVID-19, since person-to-person contact is a main way that the disease spread; (5) Those that clean and disinfect their living spaces are more protected from the virus. It is very important to be vigilant about cleaning. This must be done whenever one goes outside the home to a new space or if someone drops by to visit; and finally (6), although it is very difficult on our emotions and well-being, it is very important that everyone stays home unless it is absolutely necessary to leave.
At this time, we wish you the best of health, abundance, happiness, and a fierceness to survive this pandemic and those that may follow. We will keep you in our thoughts as we struggle through these challenging times, remembering that we are all in this together, and that will do whatever we can to be of service and be supportive to you.