AIS Provides COVID Relief On the Navajo Nation


AIS Provides COVID Relief On the Navajo Nation

COVID-19 Hits the Navajo Nation

COVID-19 was comparatively slow to come to the Navajo Nation. The first case was recorded over two months after the virus first appeared in the United States. But after it arrived the disease traveled with the speed and destruction of a forest fire. On May 27th it was announced that the Navajo Nation had surpassed New York to become the area with the highest per-capita infection rate in the U.S. The rapidity of the spread and the high rate of death were due mainly to a lack of infrastructure in this remote part of the country. There are also high rates of pre-existing conditions among citizens and lack of access to healthcare. About 40% of homes lack the running water necessary to follow the basic guidelines set forth by the CDC, and many homes are multigenerational. Both are factors that are believed to contribute to spread.

Curfews Contain Spread but Contribute to Difficulty

To combat the rising total of cases, this great nation initiated a mandatory weekend curfew. It was initially active for 8 weeks and has been recently reinstated due to a sharp increase in cases. Residents are required to stay at home starting Friday evening through Monday morning. There is also a strict weekday curfew between 8pm and 5am.

Many living within the Navajo Nation are hours away from the closest grocery store, something most people take for granted. We have been informed that cleaning supplies are nearly impossible to find at grocery stores on the reservation. This means that people have to travel even farther to find what they need in order to keep their families safe. These curfews and long distance to stores have made it extremely difficult for citizens to get supplies. It is especially difficult for elders who are dependent on family to get essentials. And for the households in quarantine – which number in the hundreds on any given day – getting what they need is made that much harder.

The reports we are hearing from those living on the Navajo Nation are dire. In a community where 1 in 3 children live in poverty, many children depend on school attendance in order to receive regular meals. As schools have been shut down for months, the food insecurity of low income families on the reservation has only deepened. Many low income children are only getting 1 meal a day. Many workers are losing their jobs after being exposed and going into quarantine, or as a result of the recession. Elders who live on roads only accessible by four wheel drive are close to starving because they aren’t able to get supplies.

AIS Provides

Our main focus at AIS is providing educational scholarships and programs to Native American students. However, we often create special projects to meet the needs of our constituents. Due to the extreme challenges the Navajo Nation is facing, we opened up a project to provide food and supplies. On May 4th, 6th and 7th four semitruck trailers delivered 160,000 pounds of nonperishable goods to a meeting house. With the help of 45 missionaries from The Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints, Tribal Agencies, and surrounding communities, the goods were unloaded and divided into approximately 1,200 family boxes.

Each of these family boxes had enough provisions to provide for a family of 5 for four weeks. Once the boxes were ready, they were loaded into volunteer’s trucks and taken to cities throughout the Navajo Nation. These cities included Kayenta-New Mexico, Chinle-Arizona, Fort Defiance-Arizona, Tuba City-Arizona, and Monument Valley-Utah. Our goal was for the boxes to be delivered to the families most in need of them. We have made more deliveries since then, and will continue to provide supplies as the crisis persists.

How You Can Help

To help us in these efforts, please consider sponsoring a family box to be delivered this month by donating here. $15 will feed an individual for 1 week. $50 will feed an individual for 4 weeks. $250 will feed a family of 5 for a month. We appreciate your support as we work to provide relief to our constituents.




Student Highlight May 2020

My name is Kaitlynn Lynch and I am an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe located in Eagle Butte, SD. At age 6, I was adopted into a loving family and grew up off the reservation in Rapid City, SD. Although my adopted dad is an enrolled member of the Chippewa Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, I was not raised traditionally and lacked exposure to my culture as a child. As a result, I sought out my heritage and biological family in my early teens and eventually moved to live with an aunt on the reservation. During the year that I lived there, I learned about my culture, history, traditions, language, and the hardships and struggles of the people. I was born into a beautiful culture and was blessed with the gift of opportunity to build a life off the reservation. I believe there is a reason I’ve been given the life I was given and I know that the blessings I’ve had were always meant for more than just myself. I have the knowledge, passion, and ability to help people reach their full potential and live their best life and it’s in my plan to do that.

Until recently, I have always struggled with schoolwork. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a young child and my parents did their best to help me. Whether it was with medication, private tutoring sessions, extra time on tests; I was always a C/D student. Life got more difficult for me as I transferred from a private middle school to a public high school. I struggled to fit in and I felt I had no place within my peers. Growing up with a lack of knowledge of my culture hit me especially hard when I transferred from a mostly white school, to a culturally diverse high school. I desperately wanted to fit in with my native peers and be accepted, but I was still seen as an outcast. At the time, I lacked the maturity to find my own path and the guidance needed to bridge the gap between the two worlds I lived in. Eventually, I dropped out of high school and moved to the reservation to discover myself, and find my identity. With the support of my family, I earned my high school diploma at Eagle Butte High School and experienced life on the reservation. I have seen the hurt and the anger, the lack of opportunity for the people from my small community. I have also felt the anguish and the silence of those who do not have the capability or the guiding hand to help themselves change their destiny. I want to be that guiding hand and be an inspiration for anyone who has struggled with life and finding where they belong. I have overcome many obstacles to get where I am today, and I’m proud of my accomplishments.

I am currently a student at Central New Mexico Community College. I plan on graduating the summer of 2020 with an AA in Sociology. It’s my personal goal to make the Dean’s List at the end of this term and the following 2 semesters I have left at CNM Community College. I was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society this fall and I plan on maintaining my high GPA. After obtaining my Associates Degree, I want to transfer to the University of New Mexico and pursue my education by earning a Bachelor’s Degree and eventually attending the UNM law program. It is my intent to become a lawyer, so I can have the knowledge to legally advise or help people. I know that my community is in need of tribal attorneys and I want to fulfill that need with my communication skills and continued education.

Being a full-time mother and a full-time student can be difficult at times. I’ve struggled in the past with time management and the motivation to pursue my education. Today, I am proud of myself for the hard work I’ve put into my higher education, especially during this past year. In April of 2018, my family became homeless when we moved to Albuquerque, NM. We lived in our car and then a homeless shelter. With the support and help from community resources, I was able to secure housing for my family and enroll in college. I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA and have been able to provide my family with the stability we need to live our best lives. I dedicate my extra time to my academic studies, volunteering in my community, and being an actively involved parent in my children’s lives. Receiving this scholarship has been a blessing to my family because it gave us financial security during the semester. I used the money to add to my emergency savings and to pay ahead on my rent. This scholarship has relieved my financial stress and allows me to focus on classes, family, and giving back to my community.



April 2020 Newsletter Student Highlights

Jade Goodwill
Navajo, Hunkpapa Lakota, and Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota
Science, Technology, and Society – Stanford

Jade comes from Window Rock, Arizona, and is minoring in Medical Anthropology on the Pre-Med track. She is the Co-Chair for the Stanford Powwow and is the Vice President of the Stanford AISES Chapter. Jade is also a research assistant in the OB/GYN Department at the Stanford Hospital under the Winn Research Lab. Recently she did a service trip to Nepal and is a trained EMT. After she obtains her OBGYN or Family Medicine license, Jade wants to go back and work on Native reservations in order to help her community.

Andrew Cayaditto
Biology – University of New Mexico

Andrew grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is minoring in sociology and chemistry. He maintains a high GPA and is on the Dean’s List. He is pursuing a biology degree with the hopes of applying to and entering medical school sometime in the near future in order study and practice neurosurgery. He knows this is a lofty goal because so few Native Americans attend medical school, but he is confident that his academic abilities and work ethic will carry him toward his goal, as are we.

Life In the Wake of a Pandemic – Shandiin’s Story

I’m a student here at Brigham Young University Hawaii. This was my last semester and on April 18th, I finally graduated with my Business Management – Finance Bachelor’s.

In the middle of the semester classes were canceled on campus. The following week we resumed with all of our classes being online. For myself it was it was extremely hard to focus on assignments the rest of that week. BYU Hawaii was one of the first colleges to cancel classes and cancel graduation in the same day. My family had already planned to fly out to Hawaii to celebrate my graduation. It was extremely hard for me to continue to stay focused in my last semester. I was able to get through it and finish out this past semester strong.

But it’s been difficult not to worry about my family. All I can do is watch from afar. Even if I could go home, I wouldn’t be able to visit them because they have a lot of underlying health conditions or they are much older. Distancing right now is really important so that our people are not spreading the virus. Many are being sent to the hospital and others lose their lives. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of my family and when I can see them again.

Also being here at BYU Hawaii, I was seeing how it was affecting students from so many other countries. I had a lot of friends who had to leave within a week to get home to their countries before they closed. Many of them didn’t make it home because their countries had already closed for entry. It was affecting their ability to be able to finish school at the same time. Many are stuck here still in Hawaii until further notice.

Looking back on this last semester, if I did not receive the American Indian services scholarship it would have been hard for me to sustain myself till the end of the semester. This one scholarship was able to give me peace of mind that I would have a roof over my head until graduation. I think that it is important to know that this scholarship program has helped me this semester. That going into the next semester I want others to continue on with their education and graduate from college. It is the best feeling knowing that you accomplished your goals and nothing can stand in the way of our educational pursuits.

– Shandiin White, Navajo



Life In the Wake of a Pandemic – Manuel’s Advice

I am Manuel Felix and I was awarded the AIS Scholarship for my 2016 fall school year at Arizona State University. After graduation with my degree in communication and technical writing, I secured a job with Desert Diamond Casino where I work in the surveillance department. I utilize my education received from ASU on a daily basis. I write and edit surveillance training manuals. I oversee the surveillance department and edit surveillance officers’ incident reports. American Indian Services, thank you again for believing in me while I pursued my dreams of higher education.

I want to share my thoughts with you about the mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional healing that can be achieved though riding your bicycle. These are all things that we need during this COVID-19 crisis. Throughout the four year journey while attending ASU, I rode my bicycle around town. Everywhere I needed to go was traveled by bike in the blistering heat, rain, sunshine, and high winds. I commuted through it all. Navigating through the city on my bicycle proved to be rewarding. After graduation in 2017 I still continue to get everywhere I need to go by bicycle.

I know what you’re thinking? Ride a bicycle? No way! It’s dangerous, it’s too far, it’s not for me. People have become car dependent. “For a lot of people a car means freedom and social status, but if a city provides you no choice but to drive, a car isn’t freedom, it’s dependence. If you have no choice but to drive for every trip, it’s not your fault. Your city has failed.” says Janette Sadik-Khan. Khan, Director for New York City’s Department of Transporting who is also an avid cyclist.

Riding your bicycle everywhere you need to go will give you a sense of freedom. Riding your bicycle for short trips will save on gas money, and wear and tear on your vehicle. While implementing new riding habits, you will work on the physical benefits of cardio. You will also gain a sense of self-pride, knowing that you are getting the exercise that your body needs.

Not only will this prove beneficial to personal needs, riding your bicycle helps worldwide.  Our carbon footprint is greatly reduced by not commuting by vehicle. No carbon emissions are released while riding your bicycle. Just power, imagination, and sweat are needed to power the bicycle.

Mental, spiritual, physical and emotional healing is obtainable while replacing the vehicle to navigate the area you live in by bicycle. Mental healing in the sense of receiving a quiet mind from riding, nothing but you and the open air to gather your thoughts, explore ideas, and obtain inner peace. We all need time for ourselves and to decompress in our own ways as we’re cooped up at home right now. I have found that when I feel blue or on edge, taking that bicycle ride helps out. Alone time develops incredible knowledge of self in these hard times that we all must face. Remember that mental, spiritual, physical and emotional healing can all be obtained by riding your bicycle during this Covid-19 crisis.



Life In the Wake of a Pandemic – Haley’s Story

My name is Haley Jordan Begay, and I am a senior at Indiana University studying sports broadcast journalism and Spanish. My goal is to become a sideline reporter for ESPN or Fox Sports.

I am extremely dedicated. I often wake up early at my Bloomington apartment, walk two miles to school (I use this as exercise), and sit in class all day until my writing internship begins later in the afternoon. I sign up for every project that I’m offered whether that be covering a Little 500 bike team planning for their big race, starting my own women’s media organization on campus or participating in worship with a student-run church group called FCA.

My days were often stressful and filled with anxiety because I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to succeed. I never said no or took a break from school and media-related activities. Then, the corona virus hit.

At first, I thought the virus replicated the swine flu and was just unpleasant and only deadly for a small portion of people. However, I was still cautious and carried tons of hand sanitizer. I canceled my spring break trip. All of my activities were getting canceled left and right including sideline reporting for the Big Ten Network.

Everything that made me happy was disappearing. Then school was officially moved to e-learning. At first, I wasn’t too mad about this change because my life was so fast paced that I actually wanted a break from my jam-packed days. But then boredom quickly settled in. I missed my professors, friends, sideline reporting and making a difference on campus through Jesus Christ’s love.

After all of this hit, I truly realized that being busy is a great thing, and I shouldn’t have taken it for granted. All those activities I was involved in did make me happy even though I worried I wouldn’t be able to get them all done. However, I always did, and now I miss that feeling of having too much to do.

I haven’t seen another human face in person (other than my family) in over a month. I am taking social distancing very seriously so that everyone can get back to their normal lives. As I have been sitting home doing my online classes and job, another nightmare struck; my mother’s brain cancer returned.

My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer almost three years ago and beat it pretty quick! She made chemo and radiation seem easy, and her MRI scans always came back clear. But now, it’s back, and I am truly scared. If corona were to hit the world at any time, I’m glad it’s now because I am able to be home with my mom.

She is with her whole family under one roof where she is being kept busy doing her regular momma duties and spending time with us. She and I have been binge watching our favorite reality TV shows, staying up until 1 a.m. laughing and taking time to appreciate life.

I am certain my momma will beat this cancer again. I am also certain that this deadly virus will make everyone better in the long run. We will appreciate the stress, the crazy and the time we get to spend seeing friends face to face when we return to “real life.”

I’d like to thank my Native American and AIS community for the continuous financial support that has propelled my broadcasting career and for keeping in touch with their students. I pray for your safety, health and to enjoy the boredom a little more today.

– Haley Jordan Begay, Cherokee



An influx of students need funding, AIS is providing it

In times of crisis, the vulnerable are always the hardest hit. Unfortunately, the remote parts of our country where many Native Americans live aren’t immune to the reach of COVID-19. As of this writing on April 20th, the Navajo Nation has an infection rate per capita that is higher than all but 2 U.S. states. Tribal elders, who serve as community knowledge keepers, are more likely to die of the virus because of high rates of heart disease and diabetes among elderly Native Americans. Only 51.3% of Native American households have health insurance, and on remote tribal lands adequate health care is hard to find. On some reservations it’s estimated that only 40% of homes have running water, making the necessary hygiene to combat the virus difficult.

This is a bleak picture but the Native people are doing everything they can to protect their communities. The Lummi Tribe acted quickly and opened up a pioneering field hospital to help treat the sick in their area, and they called for social distancing measures well before the rest of the nation. The Navajo Nation has ordered rapid test kits to help contain the virus. The Yurok Tribe created an Incident Command Team to navigate the needs of their people. Many tribes declared a state of emergency early on in order to secure funding and prepare their healthcare facilities, and health clinics have devoted extra resources to COVID-19 patients.

Most helpful of all, the tribes negotiated $10 billion in aid from the CARES stimulus package, $8 billion of which will go toward reimbursing tribes for coronavirus expenses already incurred. The remainder will go toward better equipping tribal health services, improving emergency response times on tribal lands, providing economic relief for tribal members, and food delivery to the elderly and low-income families. But this leaves our scholarship recipients who are facing unique challenges to navigate the social effects of this virus themselves.

Universities have closed campuses and moved their courses online. Many students have been forced out of their dorms, where computers and high speed internet access were readily available, to go back to their family homes on remote tribal lands where 47% of homes lack these essential resources to finish their courses. This means that students who can’t afford to buy a computer and an internet connection will have to either attempt to complete their coursework on their smart phones, or drop out.

In order to prevent students from dropping out and to address the larger than usual amount of applications we are receiving, we have extended our spring and summer scholarship deadlines to May 1st. When students have tuition funding it frees them up to purchase necessary things like books and computers in order to be successful in their studies – not to mention the basics like food, clothing, and housing. American Indian Services is well situated to weather this storm and we will do everything in our power to continue providing this aid to Native American students.

We have been able to transition our office staff to working from home without any interruption in our scholarship distribution schedule. Our gala gave us a highly successful start to our fundraising this year. We raised $880,362, which is 31% of our scholarship program’s expenses for the year, and we have secured several other grants and donations. This means that the scholarship program will be able to stay robust in the face of these trying times. We are resilient and we will continue to adapt as needed. You can count on us to keep serving Native Americans at a time when they need us most.




Student Highlight April 2020

Being born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and participating in my Pueblo traditions in Cochiti, New Mexico, I am thankful that I am apart of these two very distinct communities. I am pursuing an education that will create positive change in both communities. As an American Indian, I am a part of the Pueblo of Cochiti, Pueblo of Jemez, and Diné. As a first-generation student I call the University of New Mexico my home in earning a Bachelor of Science in Population Health and a minor in Psychology. I am proud to be a part of the 2nd of its kind, College of Population Health in the United States.

I first became interested in Population Health my sophomore year of college when I discovered that a majority of healthcare is reactive, and I wanted to learn how to take a more proactive approach to prevent illnesses and diseases. Population Health consists of the multidisciplinary study of health, illness, and disability. We learn about the societal, behavioral, and organizational causes of health and disease and explore the ways to reduce health disparities. In my classes I examine policies, health systems, and public health practices that can curb health risks in communities and large populations.

My motivations to earn an undergraduate degree in Population Health began with my professional aspirations to better my American Indian community. I intend to conduct research and help develop preventive programs to reduce diabetes with the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (AASTEC) as my senior capstone project in the Spring of 2020. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to earn an MPH and/or Master of Social Work with an American Indian Concentration. Schools I am interested in applying to are the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis which develops the knowledge and skills to serve Native American communities by understanding the extent, effects, and causes of issues facing Native peoples then evaluating and implementing the best practices with cultural competencies in mind. Other schools I intend on applying to are North Dakota State University with the American Indian Concentration and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.

In the future, I am eager to develop a healthcare system that increases the access of healthcare services on Southwestern reservations. According to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NAIHS), the department delivers health services to over 244,000 American Indians on the largest Indian reservation in the U.S. The Navajo Nation covers more than 25,000 contiguous square miles where NAIHS has a total of 222 inpatient hospital beds at only four hospitals. The issue of lack of healthcare access for Native Americans has geared me towards an educational plan to pursue a career in public community health. The societal problem I am planning to address is the health disparities of American Indians by first working with the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board by becoming a project director after I finish my graduate program. Then, I intend pursing a more significant role in regional planning and public service. I believe in advocating and serving disadvantaged Indigenous people using a holistic framework consisting of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Working in public service I would be the voice representing our people on director boards and on large scale government committees.

I am passionate that I will be able to take what I learn in my degree now, capstone project and graduate program in the future, and apply it in regional Indigenous and American Indian communities to reduce health disparities and increase access to healthcare services. I am proud to state that I am a 2019 Udall Scholar for Native American Heath care. I have taken the initiative to prepare for my future educational plans and career goals by taking on two internships currently to begin addressing issues that face American Indians and public health. I am the first intern for the College Horizons Scholars Program to develop student success programming for Native students on campus and help retention rates and set them up for their future and lead them to graduate programs. Secondly, I have become a Future Community Leader for the Center for Social Sustainable Systems Leadership Institute. I have currently taken a proactive role in my community to prepare and execute an action plan aimed at addressing and understanding water, land, health disparities, and social justice issues affecting New Mexican Communities. As part of my project publication I am focusing on legislation and policy development to sustain our local farmers, acequias, and to ensure that water is available to our Pueblos south of Albuquerque.

Receiving financial aid has equipped me to focus on my plans and goals for graduate school and my career which I am eager to begin. I have a focused plan to assist Indigenous communities in the future, and I am determined to reduce health disparities and increase access on reservations while preserving our cultural traditions. This funding is helping provide me the education to support my community and pave the way for me to give back to future generations, so they have the same amazing opportunities as me.

Student Highlight March 2020

My name is Shyh Saenz and I am anything but shy. I am an urban Indian from Hayward, California and I am an enrolled tribal member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. I am currently a freshman at Gonzaga University studying Communication Studies with a minor in Broadcasting & Electronic Media Studies.

My goal is to become a sportscaster because there are not very many Indigenous women that look like me on television. I love sports and I am passionate about using my voice. Being a sportscaster will give me a platform to speak up on issues our Indigenous community is facing and give me the opportunity to bring awareness to the injustices facing our community and help make change. I play Division 1 soccer at Gonzaga and I take a lot of pride in being the only Indigenous person on the team. It is empowering to represent my tribe and all indigenous communities by giving hope to other girls like me to not give up.

Living in the Bay Area and moving to Spokane, Washington was a cultural shock. It’s been challenging as I was accustomed to a diverse city and school and now I am in a predominantly white and affluent school. However, I have learned to push through it by finding a community and support on campus in UMEC, the Unity Multicultural Education Center where I have made friends with other Indigenous students and students of color on campus.

The American Indian Services Scholarship is helping me get one step closer to achieving my goals as I continue to learn and grow as a student. Gonzaga is an expensive private school and my funds are limited because I come from a working middle class family. I do not have any spare money and Spokane is much colder than Hayward. I do not have any winter clothes and a good warm snow jacket and boots. What seems like basic things like clothes, food, transportation are not cheap. Books are expensive and I will need new books for the spring semester. During the winter break they will close the dorm so I have to fly back to California. I have not been back home since school started in July. I hope not to get into loan debt when I graduate from college but I also want to survive and graduate from Gonzaga by June 2020.

Although being a student-athlete is a neat experience it is extremely difficult to have a job because of the time commitment. Receiving this scholarship is allowing me to focus on my education and fully thrive as a student.

Student Highlight February 2020

My name is Terra Goss and I’m an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of New Town, North Dakota.  I was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana, but was raised in Killeen, Texas.  I currently reside in Great Falls, Montana where I attend the Great Falls College Montana State University.

I’m majoring in License Addiction Counseling, because there is such a high job demand in this field on Native American Reservations.  I’d like to work on different reservations as a Chemical Dependency Counselor and try to educate as many people as possible about drugs and alcohol.

Since, I have started school in the fall semester 2018 I have involved myself in The Native American group on campus and was voted the president of the group late August 2018. I will not say that my credentials will blow the competition out of the water or that I have some exceptionally rare skill that makes me the best candidate, but I do have a decent GPA, I have done some volunteer work at the local shelter, and I’m currently looking for an on-campus job.

What sets me apart, and what I think is unique and special about me, is my combination of work ethic and my drive to succeed. Doing the Native group, volunteer work and getting my studies done have led me to develop a strong work ethic and strong ability to prioritize, manage my time, and make sure that I always get my school work done on time. I’m always willing to go above and beyond to do a better job. I believe what I am accomplishing now will help me in the future, when a difficult situation arises I will be prepared to excel and work hard for success. College is a tough road and my drive and perseverance to continue accomplishing have, and will lead me to success.

– Terra Goss