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Guest Column: We are simply five-fingered human beings

By Ethel Branch

This Earth Day we stand on the brink of emergence into a new, post-pandemic world.

We will emerge badly battered as we look to continue our lives in the absence of over a thousand dearly beloved family members and friends.

Submitted | Mark Peterman
Ethel Branch

Yet let us remain hopeful because while the pandemic has imposed physical separation upon us, it has also introduced a strong sense of the collective, and the deep interrelationship between ourselves and others.

This has manifested in some truly incredible and unprecedented teamwork across institutional divides as Navajo governmental officials and staff joined hands with nongovernmental organizations, mutual aid groups, and families to mobilize the swift delivery of food, water, PPE, and other essential items to our elders, immunocompromised, and vulnerable community members.

Indeed, this time and this challenge underscored for us how we are all each vulnerable community members, especially in the absence of a tightly interwoven support network.

At no other time in recent memory has it been so clear that we are—all across this globe—simply five-fingered human beings, all capable of contracting and spreading this horrible virus.

Hopefully this realization led us to reflect more on how interconnected we all are, and how our individual actions impact others.

Even now as we begin to emerge from this crisis, we remain mindful of the fact that the virus can only move and mutate if we human beings move and carry it into new environments that facilitate its adaptation—possibly beyond the control of existing vaccines.

Hopefully you are helping us humans win this critical race against the virus and its variants by getting your own vaccine.

As we consider our interrelatedness as humans, let us also remember that all life is interrelated, and that the most critical life comes from our collective mother, Nihimá Nahasdzáán.

Our beautiful mother had some unexpected reprieves from the constant assault against life on this planet when for a brief few weeks last year many jurisdictions closed commerce as we all took a pause to try to stop COVID in its tracks. Unfortunately the broader community did not have the resolve or the mettle to endure this shutdown for long, and so COVID remains a strong threat for all Americans with the rise and spread of variants even a year later.

However, the momentary pause we all took was so beautiful. You could stand on a mountain and see clearly for miles upon miles, with a view unimpeded by the usual fog of particulate matter that prevents us from seeing the full beauty of creation.

This time gave me hope that through our collective human action, we can truly make a difference in helping Nihimá Nahasdzáán rest and heal, and thereby help all life on this planet restore itself to a stronger balance.

Unfortunately many have returned to their normal and unsustainable ways of life, but let us not forget that this dream of rebalance is possible, and is indeed necessary to preserve all life on this planet. And so let us all commit to working towards this balance in our own individual day-to-day lives.

Our actions make a difference, no matter how small, especially when coupled with that of our collective. COVID reminds us of this on a daily basis as we closely watch the number of new daily cases and the spread of the variants.

Just as our individual actions in staying home, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated can help heal our community from this pandemic, by taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle, our individual actions can also heal our beloved mother.

Ethel Branch, a former attorney general for the Navajo Nation, is founder and interim executive director of the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund dba Yee Ha;ólníi Doo.


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