Rachel Lynne Cushman is used to getting calls from Chinook Nation members worried about losing housing or having their power shut off. Since COVID-19 hit, they come in daily.
Cushman is secretary-treasurer for the group of tribes whose rural, ancestral lands are based in one of Washington state’s poorest counties. While they mostly have been spared from the health effects of the coronavirus, the pandemic has taken a significant economic toll.
“We’re doing the best we can,” Cushman said. “But the reality is we don’t have the resources to help.”
Unlike federally recognized tribes, the Chinook Nation doesn’t have a political relationship with the United States, which would make it eligible for federal coronavirus relief funding for state, local and tribal governments. Hundreds of tribes lack the designation, which they say leaves them struggling to help their members and less equipped to combat a pandemic that’s disproportionately affected Native Americans and other people of color.