by Christine Trudeau
The White Mountain Apache Tribe reached 1,259 reported positive COVID-19 cases. The sudden surge, according to Tribal Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, is likely due an increase in testing and contact tracing. The tribe is on stay-at-home orders, with an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, and is closed to non-tribal citizens and tribal members not living on the reservation.
Recently the council passed a measure that anyone found in violation of safety restrictions would be ineligible for a $1,200
emergency relief payment from the tribe.
“You know what, if you’re not abiding by the protocols and the laws that have been established to protect you, then you won’t
get paid.” Lee-Gatewood said.
Safety restriction measures are crucial to protect elders, Lee-Gatewood said, as they are the most vulnerable to the virus and have a lot to teach others.
“We will never in our lifetime hear an actual oral history of, ‘I lived in a wickiup. I had to ride a horse to town because we had no car. We traveled in a wagon. We hiked on foot,’ those types of stories. We’re not gonna hear that anymore. And the language. They know tradition, culture heritage. The importance of who we are.”
The tribe will use one of their hotels for a quarantine isolation site and plan to purchase additional modular units for quarantine housing. The Whiteriver Indian Hospital is running low on sterile gowns, says Lee-Gatewood, and that they are in need of donations like face masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies for quarantined homes.
This story is a collaboration with National Native News and the Solutions Journalism Network