By Lulani Arquette, President/CEO –
I hope you are staying safe and healthy and are able to find moments of connection with your loved ones throughout your day.
As spring settles in and summer nears, we have been enjoying some beautiful days of sunshine, although we still get our fair share of rain here in the Pacific Northwest where I’m living. In my original homeland of Hawai`i, we experience spring also, but not necessarily in a change of weather and seasons. The spring fever effect occurs in the islands with a heavy explosion of flower blooms that perfume the air and adorn mother earth in significant ways. Plumeria, jasmine, and ylang-ylang are my favorites. We experience spring by stringing flower lei and honoring the bounty of papa and wakea (mother earth and sky father). We wear beautiful garlands and give these fragrant flower lei to our loved ones and celebrate with song and dance.
Hopefully springtime helps brighten our lives – I find that if I stay positive I have many more good days and really gain clarity on what matters most. That is knowing that Ke Akua (the creator, the higher source) and Na Aumakua (our ancestors) are always with us.
People have very different experiences related to the pandemic depending on where they live in the United States. Many cities and states have suffered severe consequences from COVID-19, and other communities and towns have no confirmed cases and loss of physical life. For example, some of my friends in New York have experienced devastation from the virus, including the tragic loss of loved ones. In many rural communities in Oregon and Washington, there haven’t even been any confirmed cases of the virus at all; and in Hawai’i, there have been challenges with preventing visitors from traveling to the islands, and keeping any visitors that arrive to stay in their rooms. Some Native tribes have had no confirmed cases of the virus while others have high numbers who have tested positive.
The truth, however, is that Native people in every community, town and state across America have been affected by the pandemic due to the complete shutdown of life as we were accustomed to. It is crucial that we deepen our understanding and empathy for those that are most affected by the virus regardless of their geography or ethnicity; this includes people who have suffered the loss of loved ones, who are sick themselves, who are struggling with loss of income and work, or who are the most vulnerable. And in many cases that just happens to be ALAANA (African American, Latino/a, Asian, Arab, and Native American) groups and those that are most economically disadvantaged.
These are not times to act out in ways that are irresponsible, self-righteous and dangerous as we’ve seen recently with people who are protesting on the steps of state capitol buildings. Follow the guidelines and think of others. Continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face, and wear masks when you go to grocery stores and places with lots of people. I’m including a link to a resource for wellbeing during the pandemic. It was developed from a Native Hawaiian perspective, but it may have relevance for anyone. You can click here to read more about it.
I want to also take a moment to thank NACF staff for all of their hard work during these times, and express my appreciation for all of the non-profits and other organizations working diligently on behalf of their communities. I’m hoping we come out on the other side of this pandemic caring for ourselves in better ways, appreciating family and friends more, and being better stewards of our planet. These times are challenging and it’s easy to spiral down or have bad days, and that’s okay because we’re human. But we all can be vessels of strength, compassion, and integrity. What better time than spring turning into summer to activate rebirth and renewal for ourselves, families, and communities.
In solidarity and aloha,
T.Lulani Arquette (Native Hawaiian), President & CEO