NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – The Navajo Nation has been making national headlines all year as a place devastated by great loss and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The elderly who live on the Navajo Nation are talking about the hardships they have faced and what has kept them going. 

On the reservation, 1,184 people have died due to COVID-19. As the pandemic continued, the older generation worried. Not only did they fear losing tribal members but also their traditions. “That we have to start teaching our youth in our traditions and our Bible way,” said Michael Etcitty.

The Navajo Nation is one of the hardest-hit areas in the United States during the pandemic. Michael Etcitty, who will not say the word “coronavirus” explains some of the challenges they face. As an elderly, he doesn’t have running water. Stella Valdez who also lives on the reservation says a nearby windmill has been broken going on for five months now. She says they haven’t been able to fix it and have to haul water instead.

Many elderly also have to drive to find cell service. They travel back and forth looking for WIFI for their grandchildren.

During the pandemic, they also have been counting on others for help. A group from Albuquerque has brought more than 35 tons of supplies since May of 2020. Mark Freeland, a member of the 24th Navajo National Council has been working with volunteers from Kirtland Air Force Base, The Rotary Club and Women 2 Be. They have been making the long two-hour trek from Albuquerque to homes in remote areas of the Navajo Nation near Chaco Canyon. “I just want to say thank you to all of those in the Albuquerque metro area and throughout the state who have been helping our people at this time,” said Freeland.

A KRQE News 13 photographer also joined the recent trip to deliver supplies. As he visited homes, everyone shared the same story of loneliness. “People have to be isolated. They have to be separated, to me that’s the hardest part,” said David Russell, who lives on the Navajo Nation.

Stella Valdez misses her grandchildren who are staying away at this time to keep her safe. “It’s been sad, I can’t go nowhere. I have kids they tell me, ‘don’t go to town, don’t go to Walmart, don’t go to the grocery store’,” said Valdez. She also says her livestock keeps her company during daily curfews.

Cases are declining drastically on the Navajo Nation and no recent deaths were reported Wednesday.