A conversation about COVID’s impact on Native American communities

Johns Hopkins, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has been conducting community conversations with Native American, African American and Latinx community members to understand vaccination decision-making. Through this work, we know that cultural and historical factors are influencing decisions about whether or not to take the vaccine and their view of the developers and purveyors of the vaccine.  

 

Nadine Tafoya facilitated a recent conversation between three Native American health professionals to share their insights into and experiences with COVID in their Tribal communities.

 

Alicia Tsosie of Navajo and Mexican descent talked about Indigenous people’s ability to overcome difficulties, saying, “I think we're really resilient. I can just think back on so many things that happened to not only the Navajo people, but just Indigenous people across the world. We've been able to overcome so many things and I think just, highlighting the Navajo Nation, we were the hardest hit for a while, we were like the epicenter for cases, and we're still resilient. We're able to overcome anything that comes within our path.”

 

When it comes to the pandemic being over, Sophie Neuner, a Karuk physician and public health practitioner from Panamnik (Orleans) in rural Northern California, says we’re not there yet, explaining, “I think nationally, we are seeing an increase in cases, particularly in Native communities. And that is something that people don't like to talk about because all of us are so sick of this pandemic, all of us are so ready for the pandemic to be over when in fact, you know, we just aren't out of the woods yet. But I think that's really something that I'd like to highlight and emphasize, and vaccines are the way that we will get out of the woods.”

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Alicia R. Tsosie is of Navajo and Mexican descent from Tuba City, AZ. She is a Senior Research Program Coordinator with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health Tuba City site. She helps to coordinate behavior health and infectious disease prevention programming.

 

Sophie E. Neuner is a Karuk physician and public health practitioner from Panamnik (Orleans) in rural Northern California, and a Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. As a future obstetrician-gynecologist, Sophie is passionate about promoting Indigenous Womxn’s Health and well-being through approaches that are culturally congruent and honor Indigenous sovereignty. 

 

Deionna E. Vigil is Tewa from Nanbé Ówîngeh, NM. She is a Research Program Coordinator with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health Infectious Disease Prevention Programs and leads the Center's Bioethics Interest Group. 

 

Nadine Tafoya is a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe of New Mexico. She is an elder, a mother, and a grandmother. Nadine has spent her career as a clinical social worker addressing health disparities among Native Americans and other communities of color.