SEATTLE, Washington — When Fiona Apple released her album “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” to high critical acclaim earlier this year, she decided to name the places in Los Angeles and Texas where it was recorded by naming the states’ original tribal territory names. The back of the album says “made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache and Suma territories.” The acclaimed singer wanted to show her support for Seeding Sovereignty’s COVID-19 Efforts for indigenous tribes in America.
Supporting Indigenous Populations
The only interview she did to promote the album was an appearance on Democracy Now with Seeding Sovereignty’s digital communications director Eryn Wise. The two women explained that Apple had originally planned to acknowledge the original names of the territories in cities where she toured. After the virus outbreak, Wise presented the idea to put the names of the places she recorded on the album to show solidarity to indigenous communities that the U.S. government is dispossessing and disproportionately harming. The places she recorded were Los Angeles (Tongva) and Texas (Mescalero Apache, Suma).
In addition to being more susceptible to COVID-19 because of their living conditions and the lack of infrastructure on reservations, native and indigenous tribes were completely left out of the federal government’s first stimulus packages. This left indigenous people with limited resources to combat the virus as their unique living conditions and underlying health crises continue to be ignored by the American government and the healthcare system.
According to the UCSF’s Health, Equity, Action, Leadership (HEAL) around one-third of the Navajo population does not have access to basic amenities such as running water or electricity, and 44% of the population is living below the poverty line.
Seeding Sovereignty’s COVID-19 Efforts
Seeding Sovereignty has launched a rapid response fund in order to combat the virus for community members living in poverty who don’t have access to basic testing and treatment. Here are three ways that the organization has worked to combat COVID-19 in Apache, Pueblo and Navajo communities in New Mexico.
- Rapid Response Initiative & Community Care Fund – The Indigenous Impact Rapid Rapid Response Initiative is a mutual aid fund Seeding Sovereignty launched in partnership with the Pueblo Action Alliance. It is meant to continue to provide personal protection equipment, food and medical personnel for essential workers and elder community members. It also provides books for students in lockdown. As of June, the organizations have provided 20,000 KN95 surgical masks, 39,000 reusable masks and 10,000 gloves.
- Mask Drives – In addition to fundraising, Seeding Sovereignty is also accepting donations of homemade cotton-cloth masks that will be distributed to underserved Navajo, Pueblo and Apache communities in New Mexico. The organization is directing donors to send their masks to the Pueblo Action Alliance, the Jicarilla Child and Family Education Center and other indigenous organizations.
- Petitions – The Federal Government has historically ignored the crises faced by Native Americans because of systemic racism. When the government sent out the first stimulus packages, it excluded Native American communities from these relief programs altogether. The petition is aiming for 100,00 signatures. In the second stimulus package, tribes were initially supposed to get $8 billion in relief, but the government never paid. In June, after litigation, federal judge Steven Mnuchin ordered the government to make good on the payment. So far, the tribes have not received any money.
“Acknowledgement is the first step in a series of a lot of steps towards healing, whether it’s personal or global, so the best thing I can do right now is to [recognize]that I’ve got time, I’ve got space, I’ve got money, and I’m a blank slate,” Apple told Democracy Now of her support for the fight for expeditious resources for indigenous communities across the country. Proceeds from the royalties from the song Heavy Balloon on her album will be donated to Seeding Sovereignty’s COVID-19 Efforts and community care funds.
– Isabel Corp