“If I’ve ever made you laugh, ever helped you in any way, been a shoulder for you to lean on, I’m asking you please to help me now.  Because this is personal.  Everything I am, comes from the Navajo Nation. I’m asking you to reach down and donate big. Please help me save my family, my language, my traditions, my art forms and my history.  We hope you’ll join us in amplifying this message of love and support.” – Sierra Ornelas, pictured above. PHOTO: COURTESY OF REGINALD CUNNINGHAM.

All eyes are on Indian Country, specifically the Navajo (Diné) Nation. Navajo member, and GGA Friend, Sierra Ornelas started a campaign to raise money for the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation has the third highest infection rate per capita in the country, behind New York and New Jersey, with practically no federal help. Sierra is challenging her friends in, out and around Hollywood to help her home community, and they are coming through for her.

About the reservation Sierra says: ”It’s a beautiful community filled with all types of people. In my family, there are artists, teachers, nurses, small business owners, and one of those guys that can do any home repair. We think of reservations as desolate, and they can be, but there are also pre-schools teaching Navajo language immersion, Tribal colleges filled with eager students, and street vendors who have found a way to put NFL logos on literally anything. The people who live and work there are funny, smart, and inquisitive. They have hopes and goals and cheat days and they splurge on payday. And a lot of them are getting sick.”  

RELATED: GGA Indigenerd Wire: Sierra Teller Ornelas Talks Authenticity and Humor in Native Storytelling


You’ve met Sierra before. She was my first GGA Indigenerd interview and recently made news by becoming the first Indigenous showrunner of an NBC series. Sierra is Navajo and Mexican American, born of the Edge Water Clan, from Tucson, Arizona. She’s been writing for television for some time now. Her credits include Superstore, Happy Endings and Splitting Up Together. Now she’s taking on a new venture as co-creator, showrunner, writer and producer for Rutherford Falls, starring Ed Helms, set to debut on the Peacock streaming service.

Helms was one of the first to donate to the campaign that began on Friday, May 8. The campaign really took life on Twitter as Helms began challenging his famous friends to donate. Mindy Kaling, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ash, James Cromwell, Kaliko Kauahi, Kristen Bell, Sterlin Harjo and many more made donations and challenged their friends to donate as well. As of Friday night, the campaign had raised $100K! And it’s still going.  

Sierra joined forces with the NDN Collective and Illuminative to start the Donation 4 Navajo Nation Challenge. Both organizations are working to provide access to food, PPE, clean water, other essential items and medical supplies to the Navajo Nation.  

Proceeds benefit organizations directly serving the Navajo Nation:The Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund provides communities with access to food, water and other essential items like masks or diapers; and the Dr. Michelle Tom Fund is raising funds for medical supplies to deliver to Navajo citizens. Funds will also support impacted areas that currently have fewer resources.


Sierra sent the following facts about the Navajo Nation.  

  • The Navajo (Diné) Nation straddles the three states of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The reservation is home to about 175,000 people, all of whom are endangered by the staggering spread of COVID-19 across their homeland.
  • The Navajo Nation has more cases of COVID-19 than eight different states, and the death toll on the reservation is higher than that of 14 states. 
  • While the Navajo Nation has a low population density, it’s not uncommon for three generations to live in one household.
  • There is no public transportation in the Navajo Nation. To access grocery stores and other locales, many depend on hitchhiking and carpooling, making social distancing difficult.
  • An estimated 30% of Navajo Nation citizens do not have running water and are unable to heed basic CDC guidelines for handwashing.
  • The Nation has only 12 health care facilities across 27,000 square miles. The largest ICU unit on the reservation has only six rooms. One health care facility has only two ventilators. Critically ill patients are being transported to Albuquerque and other cities for treatment due to lack of ICU capacity, ventilators and nursing staff.  
  • Navajo citizens, and especially elders, suffer from high rates of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health issues that increase the risk of severe illness from the novel Coronavirus.
  • Navajo Nation businesses, which provide revenue for critical tribal programs, have had to close due to the pandemic, increasing unemployment and depleting tribal revenue.
  • Cases are anticipated to rise over the coming weeks, as the peak is not expected until mid-May.

Now, Indigenerds! I challenge you to donate. It’s easy for us to wash our hands, drive down the road for food and isolate ourselves in our homes. The Navajo Nation doesn’t have that privilege. You can donate directly to the NDN Collective at  https://ndncollective.org/navajo-nation-relief-fund/. Any amount will do.  After donating, post a pic/video of yourself holding a sign with #Donation4NNC or #Donation4NavajoNationChallenge to your social media accounts. Or post one of the pictures below to your preferred social media platform and challenge your friends to donate. Be sure to add the donation link in your post.

Thank you to Sierra for providing so much information about the impact on the Navajo Nation. And thank you to everyone who has donated so far. It is great to see so many people willing to help those in need.  


RELATED: GGA Indigenerd Wire: Sierra Teller Ornelas Leads Native Writing Team on RUTHERFORD FALLS

Indigenerd Wire: Sierra Ornelas organizes donations for the Navajo Nation


Indigenerd Wire: Sierra Ornelas organizes donations for the Navajo Nation


Indigenerd Wire: Sierra Ornelas organizes donations for the Navajo Nation





This article was originally posted on 5/9/20

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