Chan and Zuckerberg battle Native American vaccine hesitancy


Dallas Goldtooth, known for his role on the hit FX TV series “Reservation Dogs,” slowly swivels in his chair to face the camera in a recent TikTok video. As he looks at the audience, a commentator says: “When people refuse to get vaccinated but also talk about protecting future generations, that’s stupid.

The Dakota and Navajo actor joins other influencers — people who have earned the community’s trust — in a two-phase public awareness effort by nonprofits IllumiNative, the Urban Indian Health Institute and 13 indigenous groups in states like Alaska, Minnesota and California. The goal is to overcome COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

The latest phase of the For the Sake of Our People campaign is using $900,000 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to focus on family and generational pride to encourage vaccinations. Grassroots organizations in COVID hotspot states each received $30,0000 as part of outreach.

“We celebrate the strength and resilience of Indigenous communities, while urging us to get vaccinated: for our families, our culture and our people,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, Founder and Executive Director of IllumiNative, which strives to increase the visibility of Native Americans.

The effort comes as COVID continues to hit Native Americans harder than other groups. A November report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Native Americans are nearly twice as likely to test positive, three times more likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. .

More than 1,000 Native Americans have been vaccinated at sponsored events, and more are expressing confidence in vaccine safety, but leaders and others say more work is needed. In September, the National Indian Council on Aging reported that 43% of Native Americans who have not been vaccinated said they were not considering getting one.

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg are distributing $15 million to a range of nonprofits working to build confidence in vaccines among those hardest hit by the pandemic, according to Chan Initiative program manager Kishore Hari. Zuckerberg.

“This is not about a one-time investment in this community, but about ensuring they are set up to succeed for years to come,” he said.

Echo Hawk said a major reason for COVID hesitation is that many Native Americans distrust the government because of the discrimination and racism that Native people have faced throughout American history.

A 2020 study by IllumiNative, Native Organizers Alliance, Center for Native American Youth, University of Michigan and University of California, shows that 95% of 6,460 Native participants said they do not trust the federal government.

Work to build confidence in government-provided vaccines, overcome hesitation, and get more Native Americans vaccinated began a year ago when the Urban Indian Health Institute contacted IllumiNative.

The two groups have joined forces, each pouring around $100,000 into the first phase of the awareness campaign. One of the tasks was to determine, through a focus group, what was needed to motivate Native Americans to get vaccinated. “The main motivator was to protect the community,” Echo Hawk said.

Next, IllumiNative used social media, such as the TikTok video featuring Goldtooth, to combat COVID misinformation. So far, #ForTheLoveOfOurPeople videos have gotten over 100,000 views on TikTok and over 100 posts on Instagram.

The groups’ work caught the attention of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which was eager to expand the effort.

IllumiNative used a portion of the institute’s funds to create more informative content with Native Americans in mind. He posted videos of doctors, health experts and elected officials explaining why they received COVID vaccines and encouraging others to stay protected. Grassroots organizations that received money have followed suit, working to reach out to the people they serve.

The Navajo Nation is made up of approximately 27,000 square miles of land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, home to 175,000 people. Protect the Sacred, a nonprofit aimed at empowering the next generation, worried that too many Navajo Nation members weren’t taking COVID seriously, so it launched an education and vaccination effort.

With $30,000 provided by IllumiNative, the Navajo Group held a number of vaccination clinics, including an event in New Mexico in December where 900 people were vaccinated. Much of the success of raising awareness is due to the participation of young people.

“A lot of (grassroots organizations) really try to work a lot with their youth to create content that they think will resonate with their peers,” Echo Hawk said.

The Native American Community Development Institute of Minnesota works with the Native American Community Clinic and the Native American youth nonprofit Migizi, which means “bald eagle” in the Ojibwe language.

“When we spoke to IllumiNative, we realized that it’s young adults and young people who need to hear the message about vaccines,” said John Williams, director of development at the development institute.

So 12 Migizi students are working with the community clinic to understand the myths surrounding the virus and the vaccine. Then they’ll create a TikTok video to help dispel misconceptions.

The institute also distributed more than 200 flyers door-to-door and was able to attract 125 people to an immunization clinic.

In Alaska, Native Peoples Action has also used IllumiNative money to help vaccinate people and spread information about the virus in different languages ​​and dialects used in Alaska, according to Kelsey Ciugun Wallace, director of communications for Native Peoples Action.

The Alaskan nonprofit has created public service announcements on social media and on the radio about the virus. Several tribal leaders responded to messages and agreed to get vaccinated, motivating others to do the same and helping build greater confidence in the vaccine, Ciugun Wallace said.

Vaccination rates in Oakland, Calif., and surrounding Alameda County are high, even among Native Americans, compared to the rest of the state, so the American Indian Child Resource Center has focused its efforts about vaccinating teenagers so they can attend school in person, said Mary Trimble Norris, the center’s executive director.

In particular, the center encouraged local students to get vaccinated by offering them the opportunity to attend a Golden State Warriors basketball game. To see the team face the Atlanta Hawks in November, students had to be vaccinated.

The icing on the cake was when the young fans got to punch the Golden State Warriors players as they ran through the tunnel and onto the field.

“We were able to provide a unique opportunity as a reward for vaccinations,” Trimble Norris said.

The resource center’s work to vaccinate people also went beyond young people. In December, hundreds of people gathered for a powwow featuring traditional Native American music and dancing as well as the opportunity to get vaccinated and tested for COVID-19.

Echo Hawk said IllumiNative will continue to work to vaccinate as many people as possible and will evaluate its efforts in the spring, but said the fact that the messages are coming from Native Americans is already connecting with those who need the information the most. .

“We feel really good about the pull and the campaign and how it’s being received,” she said.


This article was provided to The Associated Press by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Kristen Griffith is a staff writer at The Chronicle. Email: [email protected] The AP and the Chronicle are supported by the Lilly Endowment for coverage of philanthropy and nonprofit organizations. The AP and the Chronicle are solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit


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