Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Ohkay Owingeh (New Mexico)
Posted: May 24, 2020
ohkay owing

A scene from a feast day at Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico. Photo: Larry Lamsa

Leaders of Ohkay Owingeh have canceled two upcoming cultural events in order to protect their community from the coronavirus.

The tribe, based in northern New Mexico, celebrates feast days on June 13 and on June 24 every year. Hundreds of citizens participate in dances on both days, and their families welcome thousands of relatives, friends and members of the public to watch and to enjoy meals at homes on the reservation.

But the feasts won’t be happening this year, Pueblo leaders announced on May 21, 2020. The cancellation marks the first time in recorded history that neither event will be happening.

“Please know that this was a difficult decision and a multitude of options were considered, however in the end the concern for the health and well-being of you and yours was the deciding factor,” a memo from the tribal administration read.

The tribe engaged in widespread testing in April. About 10-12 percent of citizens living in the community were tested. None of the results from this initial round returned positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

A second community testing event took place at the Ohkay Hotel Casino on May 21 and May 22. Results are expected in the coming days.

tribal citizen who lives off the reservation, though, contracted COVID-19. The person has recovered, according to the tribe.

Additionally, a client of the substance abuse center on the reservation tested positive. Employees and other people who may have come into contact with the person were also tested. None were positive for COVID-19.

Ohkay Owingeh is located in Rio Arriba County. Despite being home to a large city of more than 10,000 people, the county has recorded just 36 COVID-19 cases as of May 24, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. No deaths from the coronavirus have been reported in the county.

Overall, tribal citizens in the state are being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. According to the data, 58 percent of COVID-19 cases are of American Indians and Alaska Natives even though they only account for 9.5 percent of the overall population.

“Pray for all of us, pray for our valley, our state, our country and our world,” Ohkay leaders said in the memo.

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