There but for the grace of God go I!

There but for the grace of God go I!

Covid-19 on Indian Reservations

I watched a broadcast on MSNBC. It was an interview with a South Dakota state representative who happens to be a native American Indian. The discussion was about the impact of COVID-19 on Indians on the Pine Ridge South Dakota Indian reservation. And it is ugly.

The broadcast’s main emphasis was the dilemmas and rights of the native American Indians to protect themselves. But I have also seen reports of other native American tribes presented from the perspective of hospitals overwhelmed with patients, patients that are family and friends of the healthcare workers treating them. Also ugly.

Take note. There is actually nothing happening among those tribes that couldn’t be happening where you live.

Everything that can go wrong !

The striking thing in all of the cases is that the living circumstances of these Indians set up the whole population for everything to go wrong.

They have very high rates of diabetes and obesity. The reservations are “food deserts” where healthy food may only be miles away. Twenty percent of the homes don’t have running water, multi-generation families live together in one house.

The Pine Ridge reservation Covid-19 infections and deaths represent 14% of South Dakota infections and 15% percent of deaths. Being old may well be a death sentence.

Unhealthy people, often in unsanitary conditions, living together in congregate groups. All it takes is one infected person to set off a firestorm.

Pack up unhealthy people in close proximity to each other, making no attempt to protect ourselves and others from some sort of infection and you have an accident looking for a place to happen.

The difference !

In the broad population of the US and even the state of Arkansas, we certainly have our share of people with diabetes and obesity and other “underlying conditions”. But we are not normally packed together in congregate settings of unhealthy people. We only find those circumstances in nursing homes and prisons. Almost half the deaths in Arkansas come from just these settings.

Obese, diabetic people with other underlying conditions including advanced age congregating together for any reason are the most susceptible people. The people in nursing homes, prisons, and native American Indian reservations may have little control of their “congregate settings.”

But we who are creating our own “congregate settings’” be they in bars, social events, churches, holiday celebrations with little thought of consequences, do have control. Our God is indeed ready to extend grace for our trespasses, but his fervent hope is always that it won’t be necessary.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is She can be contacted at, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is