As we move into a new phase of the pandemic and into a new world of public health, we take time to reflect on the grief, joy, fear, confusion, and resilience experienced since the emergence of COVID-19. The changes experienced in these last two years have been sudden and, many times, frightening. But, again and again, we saw Indian Country rise to the occasion. In the spirit of community and love, we saw Indian Country assist Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike- without the expectation of anything in return. By offering services to tribal and non-tribal members, healthier communities were and are being built.
As we saw our warrior relatives on the front lines, we heard stories of what was happening at home. While families were facing the challenges of mental health crisis and economic hardship, others were becoming closer with new opportunities of togetherness. While some experienced grief and loss, others were celebrating the joys of new life. At times, many of us experienced the burnout of information sharing, as well as dealing with the health crisis. During these times, we were encouraged to find our support system and practice self-care. Our relatives showed up for us, shared our grief, shared their experiences, and shared in laughter and love. We began to feel a settling into the “new normal.” We found community, love, and laughter to be medicine as we became more resilient day by day. Our community grew stronger, and so did we.
Community, as expressed by our ancestors and our contemporary thought leaders, extends beyond the doors of our federally recognized tribes and enrolled tribal members. Community is acceptance and inclusion of those who are a part of and affected by our work. Unfortunately, there remains gaps in our reach because of identity conflicts and lack of recognized intersections of indigeneity. We see intersectional and multi-cultural indigenous peoples struggle to find their place and find their community within a changing public health climate. While policing Indigenous identities is at the root of colonialism, it is our responsibility to ensure our community is rooted in inclusion, love, and understanding of all. Like our personal support systems, our community must be, at the core, rooted in trust and understanding. How do we create a culture of community?
We show up. We take what works for our people and leave the rest. We challenge ourselves to be better. We become the healing communities we need by showing up for ourselves and those around us. We rise to the occasion.
At our 2022 Tribal Public Health Conference, we implore you to challenge yourself and show up for your community and the ones you serve. We encourage you to ask how you can be a better relative, how you can be a better ancestor, and how you can build a community on foundations of healing, through understanding and love, how together with your community, you can rise to a changing public health climate.