The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is ravaging much of the world, and in early April, the infections began to enter Fourth World communities across the globe. The world’s 1.9 billion people who make up the more than 5000 Fourth World peoples are both the beneficiaries of the global economic slowdown and, at the same time, the victims of the coronavirus introduced by COVID-19 carriers entering their communities.
Many nations are directly in the path of coronavirus. Some of these include the Ezidikhan Nation located in the Mesopotamia pastures of northern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the territories of the 300 tribes of the rainforest in Brazil, the eighteen tribes of the Orang Asli in Malaysia, the Hopi Nation in the southwest United States, the Igbo in southern Nigeria and the Sami Nation of northern Scandinavia. In many instances, the exploitation of Fourth World resources and damage to their environments has come to an abrupt halt. While the damaging fossil fuel, mineral, and forest extraction by industries thirsting for money and power have pretty much ceased in the world, there are still greedy ones who ignore the deadly coronavirus and try to take advantage of the global economic pause.
Some Fourth World nations have taken to returning to territories in isolation. “We are going back into the forest, to isolate ourselves and find food for ourselves,” villager and activist Bedul Chemai told Reuters by phone from Jemeri, in Malaysia’s Pahang State. Yet many other nations are barricading the roads leading into their communities to prevent outsiders who may carry the infectious COVID-19 from entering. But some nations have nevertheless begun to contract the viral disease through indirect pathways.
A Kokama Tribe woman in northern Brazil 800 miles up the Amazon river who serves as a nurse in this tribe contracted COVID-19 from the outside doctor with whom she worked to serve the tribe. Now there are four more people in the tribe who have the disease.
The Navajo Nation in the southwestern United States recently reported that it now has 700 and more cases of positively diagnosed community members and multiple deaths.
In the United States where the viral disease has now spread to virtually all parts of the country after being ignored by the federal government for three months, the coronavirus has entered tribal and urban Indian communities with a vengeance. American Indian tribal communities began experiencing cases of infection in early March 2020.
According to the initial trial results of an ongoing tracking study the Center for World Indigenous Studies is conducting, there are at least 82 Fourth World nations that have the greatest or a high probability of exposure to COVID-19. There are 3.2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives who identify with one or more “federally recognized tribes,” but there are 5.2 million people overall that identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native and 400 thousand more Native Hawaiians. No public data is available to document COVID-19 infections and deaths among the 60 thousand Purépeche (Indians from Michoacán Mexico). Nearly 1 million Maya-speaking Indians who sought refuge in the United States from Guatemala’s genocidal attacks and Honduras and El Salvador gangland and cartel attacks further complicated by the draughts from climate change. Many Fourth World nations in Australia, United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, China, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey are also suffering from “stay home” state policies without adequate water, food, or access to medical services.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Fourth World peoples are experiencing safety in the forest or the mountains—seeking out their isolation to join the Earth’s Healing. As we see the urban centers of the world experiencing deadly outbreaks, the lockdowns have slowed the production of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. In polluted countries like India, China, and Japan, they are beginning to see the blue sky again.
When the surviving Fourth World peoples open their territories or return from the forests where they have sought isolation, they may find that Earth began to heal. With a positive turn of events, they may be released from the burdens of pollution, unrestrained development, constant wars of destruction, and maybe even the elimination or at best control of COVID-19.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here