Contact: Rachael Lorenzo
Guwaadtzii ho’baa (hello, everyone!)!
We know that these are uncertain times and we are concerned for the health and wellbeing of everyone in the world, especially those who have contracted COVID-19, their loved ones, and those who have passed on as a result of COVID-19. At the New Mexico State Land Office, we are following the Center For Disease Control’s guidelines for social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces often. As many of you know, many other state agencies in New Mexico are following these same guidelines and 95% of our staff are working remotely from home to follow Governor Lujan Grishams recent “stay at home” order for the entire state.
On March 21, 2020, the All Pueblo Council of Governors released a statement, requesting for the public to temporarily refrain from entering Pueblo reservations and nearby recreational areas. As the Tribal Liaison, I want to urge the public to heed the sovereign Tribes’ and Nations’ ask to not seek refuge on reservations or nearby recreational areas. There are seemingly healthy people who may be carriers of COVID-19 and may unintentionally pass it to tribal community members.
Our Indigenous elders are holders of traditional and cultural knowledge and more than ever, it is of the utmost importance to protect them the best we can, given these circumstances. Tribes across the country, not just in New Mexico, do not have all the supplies needed to address this pandemic and the increase of visitors poses additional health risks to Indigenous peoples when there are severe health disparities that are unique to Indigenous peoples, both on and off reservations. More than 70% of Indigenous peoples live away from their respective reservations or tribal land base and many of these people still rely in Indian Health Services (IHS) for healthcare.
“In Cochiti Pueblo, we have seen an overcrowding of recreationalists from outside our communities coming here and to surrounding areas to hike, and while we would otherwise welcome visitors to our lands, we are worried for the more vulnerable demographics of our community and the lack of resources to address this national health emergency. Our elders, who are invaluable traditional knowledge keepers and beloved members of our community, are particularly susceptible to this virus and we must fulfill our responsibility to ensure their safety and well-being.” – Governor Charles Naranjo, Cochiti Pueblo (from the All Pueblo Council of Governors statement)
Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard affirms the position of New Mexico’s tribal leaders, “Now, more than ever, it is vital that we respect the sovereignty of the tribal nations within our borders and support our tribal leaders as they implement distancing measures to keep members of their communities safe and healthy.”
-Rachael Lorenzo (Mescalero Apache, Laguna Pueblo)