It is rare these days to find a political message cutting across the usual red-blue partisan divide—but I saw one this weekend. Looking out at me from the back of a pickup truck was a small bumper sticker, featuring an image of a Native American in full headdress, looking stoic and sad. The message read, “Trust the Government.” I took the message as sarcastic, telling us “the Government” is not trustworthy due to this country’s sad history of mistreating Native American peoples. The message is a little different from others we hear these days. More often we hear someone condemning critical race theory and vaccines together. Instead, this one relies on our country’s tough history regarding race as a reason to distrust all things related to government. This is an interesting twist, but still terrible advice. In fact, Native Americans need to get vaccinated for COVID right away.

A new report from the Brookings Institution shows the cost of non-vaccination. Titled “American Indians and Alaska Natives are dying of COVID-19 at shocking rates,” the report points out that among Native Americans, more of the deaths are among the young than among other races. Yet many celebrated elders have died too. These statistics are often hidden because in many states, the American Indian-Alaskan Native population is replaced with an asterisk due to its small size. Brookings researchers dug out the terrible truth: of all ethnicities, the first Americans are the hardest-hit by COVID deaths, as a percentage of population.

The Brookings paper notes many states in which the Native American COVID deaths are much higher than those of whites as a percentage of population — 10 times higher in New Mexico, for example. The news is better in Kansas. A Sept. 23 article in the Topeka Capital-Journal concluded that Native American vaccination rates in Kansas are about the same as for the population as a whole. Still, author Andrew Bahl found that this population has a “traditional mistrust of government,” and that bureaucratic red tape makes vaccination more complicated. This is exactly why conspiracy theories about “the government” miss the mark. Ours is a complex, overlapping system of federal, state and local authority, plus for-profit and nonprofit entities working on government contracts, and so on and so forth. What we have here is not the government at all, but governments—and their interrelationships sure can make things complicated.

From the Bureau of Indian Affairs to state and local authorities, not enough is being done to address this crisis, and the problem appears worse in other states than it is here. Yet as Bahl noted, American Indians—for very good reason—are still very distrustful of anything related to government, and may refuse vaccination for this reason. Yet today’s U.S. Center for Disease Control, state and local public health authorities have little to do with this country’s horrible history regarding Native Americans. To refuse vaccination or promulgate conspiracy theories that say otherwise is to cause more preventable deaths. We must face our country’s history honestly, but today, the culpability of our governments for Native Americans’ COVID deaths are happening because we are doing too little, not too much.

(5) comments

MWS

The Native Americans are probably skeptical of the vaccine. I wonder why? An avalanche of lies from Fauci? Lies about how great the vaccine is? How we can flatten the curve and get back to normal if we all get vaccinated? How you can get Covid and spread it after you are vaccinated? 40% of all Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans & 30% of all medical workers are not vaccinated? Excluding Congress, the USPO & 2 Million illegal immigrants from being vaccinated? Major side effects hidden by NIH & CDC? Huummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I can't think of any reason they would not wan the vax. They must be crazy.

Rationa1

Or, perhaps, MWS, it is nothing that you have listed, but the misinformation you and others are spreading. Or perhaps it is the historical treatment our indigenous friends have received at the hands of persons of European descent. Most likely it's a combination.

burn'n daylight

Rational 1. Change TV stations, and go ahead, say it, Trump's fault....

Rationa1

Not what I said, Daylight. Learn to read words before you try to read minds.

Smkiefer

There you go MWS trying to use facts to make a point! They won't listen to facts!!!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.