Amnesty International: Indigenous Covid-19 Rights


Yulia Gu '21, Campus News Editor

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Native American populations, especially those living on tribal lands (about twenty-two percent of the Native population according to the US Census Bureau), have been disproportionately impacted by the virus (American Medical Association). Chronic disease and underfunding of Indigenous healthcare is putting Indigenous folx at higher risk of poor outcomes.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) is responsible for providing direct medical and public health services to members of federally-recognized Native American Tribes and Alaska Native people. However, the IHS is the most chronically underfunded federal healthcare delivery system, with per capita expenditures at only forty percent of national health spending in 2018 (National Indian Health Board). Additionally, economic adversity and poor social conditions put Native Americans at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, cancer, obesity and asthma, pre existing conditions which put them at increased risk of illness from Covid-19 (American Medical Association). 

Economic issues are also present in housing conditions. Nine percent of native populations live with overcrowding, compared with the national average of three percent (Housing Assistance Council). Additionally, approximately six percent of Indigenous households lack running water and sewage, compared to less than one percent of households nationwide (US Water Alliance), making social distancing and handwashing (methods of preventing covid transmission) in these households nearly impossible. 

To combat these issues, Peddie Amnesty suggests more funding be allocated by the US government to Indigenous communities, programs, and systems. 

For more information about this issue, here are some resources Peddie Amnesty encourages you to look at.

If you would like to take action in support of this issue, Peddie Amnesty encourages you to contact your local and/or state representatives, whether through mail, email, or phone call. 

Here is a template you can follow and modify to send to your representatives.

Dear _____,

My name is _____ and I am writing in support of the National Indian Health Board’s Tribal COVID-19 health policy priorities and proposal for COVID relief for American Indigenous and Alaska Native Tribal organizations. Native Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and the situation is exacerbated by long-standing issues caused by the US government, including a freeze on housing funding, causing overcrowded homes on Native American reservations. I ask that the money from the CARES Act is distributed to tribes and proof is released, and want a formal response to the letter from the National Indian Health Board.

Thank you,

[name, state/country]

*The proposal outlined in this template can be found here: