It has been more than six months since we all entered this era of COVID-19. As of today, we have lost more than 202,000 people in this country. Of this number, 1,749 were American Indians with half of them below the age of 40.
These were individuals and they had names. They were our grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. They were not just numbers streaming across our TV screens or numbers on the front page of newspapers. They had dreams, goals and they filled the lives of those around them and many made this world a better place because they lived. But it was unnecessary, and it shouldn’t have become the unwanted deadly stranger who came to our shores and claimed the lives of our loved ones.
Our elders are our living histories, our traditions and our language. In this era of uncertainty, we must do all we can to protect them and thereby ensure our continuity as American Indian and Alaska Native peoples. I am sure that among the 1,749 who succumbed to this virus, many were elders – we lost a piece of history with their passing. The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) mourns their passing and prays that their journey into the other world is serene and peaceful. We pray that their journey ends with a reunion with the loved ones who await them there. Those of us who remain must honor them and do what we can to serve our people.
In the next few weeks, we have the opportunity to do just that. NICOA urges all tribal communities to participate in the U.S. Census and be counted. By participating and filling out those forms, we help our grandchildren, children, and grandparents.
The other matter is to urge all American Indian and Alaska Native people to vote. This is your right and it is a hard fought right that our grandparents fought and died for. Our country needs your voice and your participation. If you haven’t registered, please do. Together as one Native American voice, we can affect national policies and point this country in the direction of our choosing.