Indigenous Relationality is the Heartbeat of Indigenous Existence during COVID-19


  • Emma Elliott-Groves University of Washington
  • Dawn Hardison-Stevens University of Washington
  • Jessica Ullrich University of Alaska Anchorage


relationality, physical health, mental health, intellectual health, Indigenous Knowledge Systems


In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, this essay offers Indigenous knowledge systems that highlight strategies for survival. Indigenous peoples understand that human lives are interdependent with and contingent on living in ethical relations with other people, with our ancestors, with plants and animals, and with the natural world overall. Indigenous systems of relationality are the heartbeat of Indigenous existence. They help to illuminate approaches to physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual health. Using the Medicine Wheel framework as an analytical tool, we indicate how Indigenous people can survive and thrive during these times. To create a just democracy and ensure our ecological and sociological future, we must consider the multidimensional needs of all beings. While relational responsibilities are at the heart of many Indigenous worldviews, they extend to all of us. Responsible relations with the natural world sustain human livelihood everywhere, connecting us all in a vast web of life.


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