Bedoni knows too many people who have contracted the virus: her sister-in-law got really ill, her nephew was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, and her husband’s cousin-brother and some of Bedoni’s patients have died. “It does affect me,” Bedoni said. “If it’s your patient and you visit them every month or twice a month, you get close to them.”The community healthcare worker said she’s tired of the U.S. government’s neglect.“It seems like we have to practically bend over backwards or beg Congress and the president for help and to show them these are our needs,” Bedoni said. “Whereas if it was somewhere else in the state, I feel like they (non-Indigenous communities) would get help right away.”
"We have to practically bend over backwards or beg Congress and the president for help."
Brazil has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases, behind the United States. And again, Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected. According to Emergência Indígena, there were 13,801 confirmed cases of the virus and 493 deaths among Indigenous peoples, including prominent leaders, as of Monday morning. A 2010 census reported that about 900,000 of the country’s 209.5 million people are Indigenous.The country has garnered international attention for its response (or lack thereof) to COVID-19 after President Jair Bolsonaro initially equated the virus to a “little flu.” (He has since tested positive himself.)News reports have found that COVID-19 is spreading throughout remote regions of the Amazon, with outsiders, including illegal miners and government healthcare workers, making up the bulk of people exposing Indigenous tribes to the virus. A Brazilian federal court has even ordered the eviction of 20,000 illegal gold prospectors from the Yanomami reservation in the Amazon to protect the tribe from coronavirus.And with the loss of Indigenous lives, comes the loss of Indigenous culture. Statistics reported by National Geographic , estimate that a staggering 9.1 percent of Indigenous people who have contracted the virus are dying—a figure almost double the rate of the general Brazilian population, which hovers just above five percent. The National Observer reported Indigenous peoples in Brazil have had to share and distribute supplies and spread awareness online.In Australia, Indigenous communities sprung into action as soon as the pandemic started and limited who was allowed in, because they knew COVID-19 had the potential to devastate them—during the H1N1 pandemic, Indigenous peoples in Australia had a death rate six times higher than the general population. Even with measures in place, a new study from the University of Western Australia, found that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the mental health of Indigenous peoples in Australia.“The pandemic has put many Indigenous Australians at risk of severe psychological distress,” the study notes. The “Australian government’s response to COVID-19 must address the existing social inequities that make Indigenous peoples more vulnerable to and heavily impacted by pandemics.”As the Washington Post reported, Indigenous peoples are no strangers to rampant disease: when settlers first started colonizing regions known today as Canada, the U.S., Brazil, and Australia, they brought over smallpox, which killed up to 80 percent of Indigenous peoples. The 1918 flu pandemic also decimated entire villages. That’s why it makes sense that communities—from the Brazilian Amazon, Nunavut, Sioux tribes in South Dakota, and beyond—have taken it upon themselves to protect their people as COVID-19 continues to pose a global health threat.“You see Indigenous people dying in Brazil, Australia, Hawaii, everything. Not just with the pandemic—you never see statistics of white people dying like we are,” Dundon said.“The one thing I can say is Indigenous peoples are strong, we’re resilient, and we take care of each other,” Dundon added. “So many people are helping and doing local, grassroots, boots-on-the-ground work to help our communities.”Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.The story has been updated to reflect comment from Indigenous Services Canada at 11 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
"You never see statistics of white people dying like we are."