COVID-19 and the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island

Unusual and familiar times

  • Hilary Weaver School of Social Work, University at Buffalo, State University of New York.
Keywords: resilience, COVID-19, social determinants of health


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant societal disruptions throughout the world. While the virus can affect anyone, the lack of health infrastructure and significant social and health disparities found in many Indigenous communities, coupled with federal paternalism and on-going neglect of settler governments’ legal responsibilities to First Nations Peoples, creates a context of substantial vulnerability.  In spite of multiple, on-going challenges, many Indigenous people have responded with resilience and creativity in these difficult times. Focusing on the North American context of Turtle Island, this article describes the role of disease in colonization and the impact of past pandemics on Indigenous Peoples. The article reviews contemporary circumstances of Native people including health disparities and social determinants of health, followed by a description of the impact of COVID-19 on Native America, and how Indigenous Peoples are responding. This article, written in the midst of the pandemic, chronicles these times.



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