Commemorating one year of COVID-19
A Message from NAYA Executive Director Paul Lumley
This past month marked one year since the COVID-19 pandemic required us to quarantine for the safety and protection of our communities. Across social media, you may have noticed friends and family posting different ways they’ve commemorated these “Quar-Anniversaries.” We at NAYA thought it a good idea to do the same.
Reflecting on the past year means we revisit the many events and activities that were canceled because it was simply too unsafe to gather. School, powwows, celebrations, and other NAYA programming all transitioned into virtual events.
One year into the pandemic, we also take pause to pray for those we lost to the virus and to pray for the families still grieving. Loss, isolation, and living through tremendously tumultuous times for our country has indeed taken a toll on everyone. More than ever, we have needed one another for healing and support. And even though we have been distanced from one another physically, NAYA spent this year building our virtual community.
There’s no doubt that such an adjustment was difficult, even painful, at times. People need people, and Indigenous culture is rooted in community.
However, it’s clear now looking back, that there is much to celebrate from the past year. The speed and seamlessness with which NAYA’s dedicated staff raced to move programming online was remarkable. NAYA’s Many Nations Academy’s classes continue online, and we look forward to another successful graduation in June. Twelve months into the pandemic and NAYA’s kitchen staff are feeding as many families as ever, with meal box delivery and our food pantry bustling each week.
Native youth continue to be championed by their advocates through one-on-one case management, college nights, spring break camps, virtual cultural activities, the launch of our Native Student Union, fitness activities, homeless services, and so much more. Knowing that youth are best served when their families are lifted up with them, NAYA offers family programming that ranges from mental health support during these challenging times to classes and workshops to help improve the social and economic well-being of our community.
In moving our core programs online, NAYA has made the best effort to continue our work with families with the least possible interruption. In response, you—our community—have shown up in droves, both as participants in the programming we offer and as supporters of our organization as a whole.
Also this year, NAYA heard your concerns and requests and—along with our partners—hosted health and wellness events such as information sessions, testing, and vaccination clinics led by our team of community health workers. They are truly the unsung heroes of the last year.
As this newsletter demonstrates, Portland’s Native community has not let the quarantine prevent it from striving to reach its potential. In just this last month, over 150 people showed up for NAYA’s virtual events as part of Legislative Week of Action—coming together to advocate for those policies that will positively impact our people. The Housing to Homeownership Fair (which was devastatingly canceled at the last minute in 2020 because of COVID), just completed a successful month-long series of well-attended workshops. And NAYA’s spring break camps were filled to capacity, as youth joined both virtual and socially distanced activities together.
For some, commemorating the COVID Quar-Anniversary may have been a somber event. For us, it is yet another cause to celebrate. YOU have demonstrated that Native people remain resilient and strong. In the face of historic challenges, you have shown us that our community is as committed to one another as ever. You have shown us that our work matters. For this we have tremendous gratitude.
Yes, it is a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and we still miss all of the in-person gatherings that usually come during this time of the year. But as more and more people are vaccinated, we know that the COVID-19 landscape is evolving. We hope you will join us in praying that we will be able to come together again soon again. Until then, NAYA will continue to work hard to make sure you know that “NAYA is here for you.”
Baptist Paul Lumley