COVID-19, SHIFT and FCNL

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create havoc all over the world. Its significant stresses expose the cracks in our societies worldwide that have been growing for decades, centuries. Like cracks in glass that suddenly shatter with the faintest touch. Economies that have forced the vast majority of people to struggle to meet their daily needs with nothing left to save for emergencies. Now these people no longer have even those subsistence monies. Yet the unconscionable wealth gap sees the small number of ultra-rich getting richer even now.

People in the thousands now depend on food banks for survival. Are forced to continue to work in public places at the risk of death to themselves and bringing the disease home to their loved ones. In the United States our local and Federal governments have left so many behind, to such an extent that there simply aren’t mechanisms to get help to those who need it most. Trillion dollar legislation sees billions going to corporations, a mere $1,200 to those who are fortunate to have an address or bank account to send the money to. We are rightly enraged to see trillions of dollars suddenly appear when politicians have for decades cut mere millions of dollars from social safety nets.

There are many moral questions. How can we not care for those in nursing homes with horrendous numbers of infections and deaths? How can we leave those imprisoned trapped and exposed to the virus? Prison sentences become death sentences.

Now the government is preparing to unleash the virus again, to stop mitigation in order to get the capitalist, corporate economy running again. So the rich can get richer. Of course that will help some who have become unemployed, but that comes with the certainty of spreading the disease and death. And ultimately leading to shutting things down, again.

Following is information about online interviews today from Seeding Sovereignty and SHIFT, Seeding the Hill with Indigenous Free Thinkers. That will included discussion about legislation for aid to native communities needed because of COVID-19. REGISTER for today’s event here.

Following that is information from the Quaker lobbying organization, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) on various ways to help those affected by the coronavirus.

This photo shows the intersection between the work of Indigenous people and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). The photo was taken the day we talked with Senator Grassley’s staff in Des Moines about two bills related to native concerns. Shazi, Fox and I are Quakers who have been supported by FCNL in our lobbying efforts. Christine Nobiss is one of the founders of Seeding Sovereignty and SHIFT (Seeding the Hill with Indigenous Free Thinkers) which is providing the online discussion below, SHIFT the Narrative.


See this blog post for more information about that meeting: https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2018/11/20/coalition-to-work-with-senator-grassley/


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SHIFT the Narrative

SHIFT the Narrative is a live, online interview series produced by Seeding Sovereignty that covers different aspects of Indigenous political engagement and current issues in Indian Country through interviews with expert guest speakers.

Join us for our debut episode as we welcome our first guest, Mellor Willie, Navajo, Co-founder and President of 7Gen Leaders PAC. With COVID-19 greatly affecting the Navajo Nation, we are asking political experts like Mellor their thoughts on GOTV efforts and legislation for aid during this crisis.

Stay ahead of the curve! Join Sikowis and S.A. as we interview expert guests every second Thursday! Conversations will surround work in Indian Country such as getting out the vote, organizing to change policy, issues of sovereignty, running for office, and much more.

REGISTER for today’s event here

Seeding the Hill with Indigenous FreeThinkers

SHIFT stands for Seeding the Hill with Indigenous FreeThinkers and is Seeding Sovereignty’s political engagement program focused on empowering Indigenous voices, values, and leadership; Particularly womxn, youth, LGBTQIA+, and Two-Spirit folx during this critical 2020 presidential election and beyond. We increase Indigenous voter turnout and respond to key issues within Indian Country by uplifting community concerns and initiatives both on and off the reservation. We support those who seek to Indigenize Congress as well as those that question our relationship with the US political system.

Above all else, we rally behind Indigenous-led environmental and climate justice movements as the fight for land sovereignty is at the center of every issue we face. Land defense is a force that has a long history of inciting political engagement–a force that Seeding Sovereignty believes catalyzes real, lasting change.


The following is from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

The profound crisis our nation faces as a result of COVID-19 may seem like good reason to focus on what is closest to home. It’s painful enough to witness and share the suffering of those immediately around us without looking any further afield.

But we at FCNL, in keeping with the Quaker history of opening our hearts to those beyond our borders, recognize that it is not just Americans who are impacted by the pandemic. Those who lack the resources to cope with the spread of the virus – nutritious food and clean water, adequate sanitation and housing, access to medical care and health facilities, financial safety nets – will bear the heaviest burden.

That’s why we are hard at work lobbying on behalf of those whose voices might not otherwise be heard on Capitol Hill, to ensure our foreign assistance helps ease their burden. Our COVID-19 efforts in the international sphere include:

1. Lobbying to lift sanctions that are impeding the delivery of medical equipment and supplies.

Even in normal times, FCNL opposes broad economic sanctions that harm innocent civilians. But with the spread of COVID-19, the lifting of these sanctions becomes a humanitarian imperative. FCNL joined 32 other NGOs in urging the administration to lift sanctions against Iran and endorsed a letter to the Trump administration signed by 34 members of Congress. We have been working to include sanctions waivers in the next coronavirus stimulus and relief package.

2. Urging the resumption of aid frozen for political reasons.

The administration has suspended humanitarian funds for northern Yemen due to concerns about Houthi taxes on and obstruction of aid. And it has refused to distribute aid that has already been appropriated by Congress to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza over governance and policy disputes. But with the specter of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people becoming infected in these already unlivable areas, the need to provide lifesaving aid is paramount. FCNL supported letters from Congress to the State Department and USAID urging the resumption of this aid. FCNL also issued a statement welcoming the news that Saudi Arabia declared a two-week ceasefire to stop the spread of coronavirus in Yemen.

3. Seeking additional resources to address global needs.

FCNL’s lobbyists have been calling on key House and Senate offices to include significantly increased funding in the next coronavirus package not just for global health and humanitarian assistance, but also for peacebuilding programs. We are concerned that the disease pandemic could easily spiral into a violence epidemic if we do not invest in the peaceful prevention of violent conflict.

4. Using the opportunity to end wars, build up diplomacy, and international cooperation.

FCNL joined the call for a global ceasefire and is working to end U.S. complicity in the Saudi and UAE-led war in Yemen. We have endorsed specific recommendations for international cooperation in the Sahel region of Africa to save lives from disease and violence. And we are working on a set of recommendations to help turn the exit agreement in Afghanistan into a comprehensive peace agreement.

5. Changing the paradigm.

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the extreme mismatch between the Pentagon budget and the true challenges to domestic national security. Spending another $740 billion next year on preparing for and conducting wars while Americans are dying for lack of test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment is a moral outrage. We are strengthening our public messaging to encourage our broad network to contact their legislators to express their desire for transformational change in the way national priorities are set and budgeted.

COVID-19: We’re All in This Together. The coronavirus pandemic is a global challenge that requires a compassionate foreign policy response. By Diana Ohlbaum, Friends Committee on National Legislation, (FCNL) April 15, 2020


Not long ago, former U.S. president Barack Obama declared that to win the global struggle for basic freedoms “we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.” As we now face what UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls the worst global crisis since the Second World War, where do we point our moral compass during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Knee-jerk responses are often narrowly utilitarian. When U.S. President Donald Trump declared “we can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” he was implying that the economic costs of self-isolation may outweigh the benefits of preventing a few deaths. Or when Dominic Cummings, Britain’s chief adviser to the prime minister, apparently advocated in favour of “herd immunity” in order to protect the economy, even if “some pensioners die,” he, too, was applying a narrow utilitarian lens that says our moral priority must be to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, even if lives are lost in the process.

Keeping our moral compass through the COVID-19 pandemic by Ingrid Stefanovic, National Observer, April 16th 2020

This entry was posted in decolonize, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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