We may never know how many American Indians or Alaska Natives died of COVID-19. The Indian Health Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is not keeping track. The Centers for Disease Control cannot tell us. And some state health authorities will not disclose that data, despite multiple public records requests, even though it would shed light on the pandemic’s death toll in Indian Country.
Earlier this year, the Indigenous Investigative Collective, a network of reporters from multiple outlets working collaboratively to investigate stories in Indigenous communities, attempted to report and analyze COVID-19 death numbers in and around the Navajo Nation.