I read pretty much constantly, but over the last several years, my reading has mostly been non-fiction. Our current circumstance made me long for an absorbing novel, so I started Spider Woman’s Daughter (2013), the first of the Navajo mysteries Anne Hillerman wrote after the passing of her father, Tony Hillerman, (1925-2008). Over the years, I’ve savored Tony’s 18 novels centering on Navajo Tribal police officers, Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette Manuelito. A review I posted in 2011 serves as a summary of the pleasure I’ve taken in his stories. Now, I can happily say his talented daughter’s work is equally satisfying.
Even as I was savoring the story and vivid descriptions of places I love in the Four Corners, I was saddened to hear how devastated the Navajo nation has been by Covid-19, lagging only New York and New Jersey in per-capita infection rate. The 27,000 square mile reservation, stretching across parts of three states, has only 12 healthcare facilities, problems of chronic health issues, and a shortage of medical staff. And as Loretta Christensen, chief medical officer for the Navajo Nation, said:
“You’re telling people, ‘Wash your hands for 20 seconds multiple times a day,’ and they don’t have running water. Or you’re saying, ‘Go buy groceries for two or three weeks and shelter in place and don’t come out,’ but people can’t afford groceries for two or three weeks.”
Navajo Stone House, Public Domain.
In addition, Federal Assistance has been delayed due to red tape. All these difficulties make the following story, unfolding today, so gratifying to hear.
In 1847, shortly after 60,000 Native Americans had endured the Trail of Tears, on which thousands died, members of the Choctaw nation, relocated to Oklahoma, heard of starvation in Ireland due to the potato famine. Though poor themselves, they managed to raise $170 – about $5000 today – which they sent to help the Irish.
Since word of the Navajo and Hopi Indian’s plight got out on Twitter, the Irish have made significant contributions to a GoFundMe account that has so far raised $1.8 million to help purchase food, bottled water, and other supplies for the Navajo and Hopi people. ( stories in the New York Times and IrishCentral News ).
Vanessa Tulles, who helped set up the GoFundMe account, said:
“In moments like these, we are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all around the world.
“Acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness. Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us.”
Most of us can recognize and appreciate the compassion and generosity of spirit that make such kindness and spirit of kinship possible.
It may well be the most important factor in determining who will survive and thrive on the far side of this crisis, and who will not.