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How have Native American communities fared during the pandemic?

Gwendolyn Glenn/ WFAE

Over the past year and a half, we have all been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic one way or another. Today, we look at how Native American communities have fared during the pandemic.

Despite North Carolina having the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi River, many leaders and advocates among the state's eight tribes have said they feel invisible and unheard, especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robeson County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in North Carolina. As of Nov. 11, only 37.46% of residents of Robeson County are fully vaccinated. Members of the Lumbee Tribe in the region have an even lower vaccination rate.

According to Robeson County Health Director Bill Smith, the death toll most recently has been "fueled by American Indian deaths."

Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. told WUNC that, "We can't afford to keep going to funerals like we're going. We can't afford for our people to get sick. And we don't know what their lifelong side effects are going to be from having COVID."

In addition to talking about the pandemic, we'll discuss other current events such as the controversial mascot of Gaston County's South Point High School, the Red Raider, and how its image has impacted Native Americans who live within that community.

This will be a continued conversation.

Rebecca LeClaire, president of The Metrolina Native American Association
Kerry Bird, board president for the Triangle Native American Society
Linda Oxendine, regional director of North Carolina for CORE

Dante Miller is a community engagement producer for WFAE and a Report for America (RFA) Corps members. Dante first joined WFAE in 2020 through RFA to work as part of a unique partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Digital Public Library of America. Her work in that project allowed her to use radio, online stories, Wikipedia entries and events to meet the community's news and information needs.