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High Country News

How Portland’s mutual aid supports local Indigenous communities

In a time of crisis, communities come together to engineer their own response.

Since the pandemic started, Jason Umtuch, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indians, has been hauling truckloads of water and supplies to his tribe’s community. But he isn’t putting in these eight-to-12-hour days just because he wants to. Umtuch has to.

COVID-19 hit the Warm Springs community hard; out of the 3,400 members living on the reservation, at least 330 tested positive. To further complicate matters, in June, a pipe burst in the community’s water system, leaving 60% of residents without water for almost two months. A temporary fix restored water for most, but during those weeks without it, many tribal members faced an increased risk for spreading the coronavirus disease. This dire situation was repeated throughout Indian Country, including on the Navajo Nation.

Umtuch began hauling about 1,000 gallons of water, plus hundreds of dollars’ worth of personal protection equipment and emergency supplies, from Portland, Oregon, to the Warm Springs Reservation. His weekly trip was made possible through the unique partnerships he formed with several mutual aid groups in Portland, most notably a Black-led human rights nonprofit called Don’t Shoot Portland.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/indigenous-affairs-communities-how-portlands-mutual-aid-supports-local-indigenous-communities



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High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.