Native American says ‘we’re a forgotten people’ during pandemic

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
David Rahahetih Webb of the Meherrin Indian Nation. Credit: WINK News.

For cultures that depend on elders to carry on traditions, the pandemic is leaving a lasting and devastating impact. It’s those elders being hit hardest by the coronavirus.

We spoke to a Native American community member about the threat of losing pieces of history.

At FGCU’s instillation of 10,000 ceramic flowers, each piece represents a life lost to COVID-19, and each flower is unique like the soul it represents.

“I know that everyone’s been affected in the same way,” said David Rahahetih Webb, a member of the Meherrin Indian Nation. “Family is important to people. Culture is important to people.”

At the memorial and every day, Webb spends a lot of time thinking about his family and his culture.

“COVID has exponentially impacted us, hasn’t really been covered or talked about so much,” Webb said. “We’re a forgotten people.”

Many people don’t have running water in the most remote native communities. Many reservation lands have woefully inadequate housing stocks. You have multiple generations in one place. If one person gets sick there is nowhere to go to isolate.

Seven of Webb’s tribe members have died of COVID-19, taking sacred knowledge and tradition with them.

“A lot of the people who died are elders, so we lost those people who speak the language fluently,” Webb said. “We lost people who understand our ways and ceremonies.”

Webb and his family worry they’ll lose more tribe members, lose their indigenous languages, their traditions, all the things that make them who they are.

“We’re humans. We live on this earth,” Webb said. “Everyone has the same cares and have a lot of lost loved ones.”

According to the CDC, for every 100,000 people, more than 1,000 Native Americans were hospitalized with the virus between March 2020 and February 2021.

That compares to 866 Hispanics, 796 non-Hispanic Blacks, 290 Asians and 278 non-Hispanic whites.

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