Paddling Upstream

Alvin Josephy passed away almost two decades ago, but time and again, during this coronavirus/Black Lives crisis, I have heard him shout in my ear that when our history books don’t lie about Indians, they ignore them.

When the NYT sends a reporter to the Navajo Nation to document the terrible impact of Covid-19 on the people, the world reads and sighs—and then the story goes to the back pages or to no page at all. When George Floyd is killed by police in Minneapolis, and Indigenous singers and jingle dancers from many tribes go to the site of the killing to pay homage and honor the man, a video from Indian participants sneaks out on Facebook. Indians and their tribute are barely visible in the national press.

When people come into the Josephy Center where I work and get the first pages of the Nez Perce story—the one about Wallowa lands left to the Joseph Band of the Nez Read The Article

Indians Matter

Of course “Black Lives Matter”! And bringing attention to the large numbers of deaths by police and the cases and deaths by COVID-19 among African-Americans is the right thing to do. The press has gone some way towards reporting the heavy impact of the disease on the Latinx population as well. In both cases, reporting has brought out the disproportionate number of black and brown people working as house cleaners, health care aides, and in food processing plants, public transportation, and other occupations that put them at greater risk of contagion. Poor neighborhoods, poor water, and crowded living conditions have also been examined.

But what about the Indians?

The New York Times has had a few pieces on the Navajo Nation, and they are now a separate item on worldometers continuing graphic updates (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/). With a population of just 173,667, the Nation has 6,611 confirmed cases and 311 deaths attributed to the virus as of June 16. That is more Read The Article

Genetics & COVID-19: An Update

In my last post I told a story about Native Alaskan firefighters, who had come south to fight fires, getting sick on MRIs (“meals ready to eat”) and being fed suet to right their stomachs. A long-time Alaska firefighter tells me that this is mostly “urban legend,” that she has seen Native crews in Alaska consume MRIs “with gusto.”

Nevertheless, I think most of us Euro-Americans would not do well on a diet of seal and fish. Human digestive systems have adapted to different physical worlds in amazing ways. Yet that means that putting any of us into alien worlds—or bringing alien diets and physical circumstances to us—can cause distress. I don’t know why many South Asians are lactose intolerant, but they are. And many Indians do fine with a lifetime of vegetarian diets, but we are warned to make sure that we have the right mixes of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts to make our Euro-American bodies work vegetarian. Read The Article