A Native American health center located in the Seattle area requested medical equipment in order to handle the COVID-19 outbreak that hit the area. What they received, however, was body bags.
Tribal officials have since described the act as a “metaphor” for how the Indigenous population is treated by state and federal governments around the country during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Seattle Indian Health Board chief research officer Abigail Echo-Hawk said:
“My question is: Are we going to keep getting body bags or are we going to get what we actually need?”
It was reported by NBC News that the health center had requested testing equipment, but what they received came as a shock.
“My team turned ghost white. We asked for tests, and they sent us a box of body bags.” – said Esther Lucero, chief executive officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board.
Even though the body bags ‘were a mistake by a King County’s Public Health Department distributor’, Echo-Hawk says that it was indicative of the treatment of Native Americans in Seattle and around the United States.
According to Native American attorney Brett Chapman, the crisis is the result of years of inaction on the part of the government, and the vulnerability to the coronavirus did not occur out of the blue, but it came due to decades of neglect by leaders of both parties to move Native nations forward. Chapman added that Native American’s health care providers have historically been woefully underfunded and undersupplied, and this is nothing new.