As the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading throughout the world, Graham Beyale, in the beginning, figured he’d be safe inside his home along the dusty crimson dust roads of the Navajo Nation reservation.
But as an increasing amount of information got here out about how the virus spread— and how quickly— Beyale got nervous. At the time, he was living in a conventional one-room home known as a hogan with 11 other people. No running water. No toilet.
About 400,000 fellow Diné, most of whom stay on the 27,000-square-mile reservation sprawling throughout northern New Mexico, Arizona and a small part of southern Utah, Beyale, 31, knew medical care might be a long drive away. And the Navajo, who be afflicted by high rates of diabetes and obesity, have traditionally been vulnerable to viral infections, including the 2009 H1N1 swine flu epidemic.
Worried about shielding each of his health and those around him, Beyale moved right into a tent, powering his cellphone via solar panels. He still lives there today, wearing a mask on the rare instances he’s around others, even though he and most other Navajo have been vaccinated.
A year after experiencing one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation, the Navajo Nation unexpectedly draws close herd immunity via a competitive vaccination campaign. Still, tribal leaders said they might continue to require curfews, collecting limits and masks, even though federal health recommendations state those restrictions are commonly pointless amongst vaccinated people.
Health professionals and Navajo alike said generations of instructions about how susceptible Native Americans are to outside diseases and infections had taught them to be more cautious about public health.
“On the Navajo Nation, you have a collective mentality it is there: ‘What I do influences the people around me, my family, and therefore I want to be more responsible.