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In Shiprock, N.M., Northern Navajo Medical Center staff were among the first in the Navajo Nation to receive Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations. Photo: Micah Garen/Getty Images

Native American tribes are pulling off many of the most successful coronavirus vaccination campaigns in the U.S., bucking stereotypes about tribal governments.

The big picture: Despite severe technological barriers, some tribes are vaccinating their members so efficiently, and at such high rates, that they've been able to branch out and offer coronavirus vaccines to people outside of their tribes.

Why it matters: Native Americans are one of the most at-risk groups for contracting and dying from the coronavirus. But tribal nations have rallied to get members vaccinated and helped nearby communities while major cities have struggled with rollouts.

Details: Tribes, which are sovereign nations that can set their own eligibility criteria, immediately got doses and launched vigorous campaigns on vaccines.

  • The White Earth Nation in Minnesota was so successful in early vaccinations that it immediately began vaccinating non-tribal members, Minnesota Public Radio reports.
  • The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Colorado last week said after it has vaccinated 1,900 of its tribal members and staff it will offer 2,000 doses to the general public.
  • Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, the tribe of Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland, also started offering doses to nearby residents after tribal members received theirs. Several tribes in Oklahoma have, too.
  • An AP analysis of federal data showed Native Americans were getting vaccinated at a rate higher than all but five states by February's end.

What they're saying: "White Earth has done a phenomenal job, vaccinating nearly 90% of elders in Mahnomen County, extending eligibility to Native and non-Native adults in the community ... I am proud to be a White Earth member," Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan tweeted after getting her vaccine.

  • "This shows when we state and federal governments trust tribal governments to take care of their communities, they go above and beyond for their members and neighbors," Flanagan, who lost her brother to the coronavirus, told Axios.

Between the lines: The early success is even more impressive when taking into account the dismal state of internet access on tribal lands.

  • 2019 FCC report shows that 36% of housing units on tribal land have no access to broadband — compared to 8% on non-tribal land.
  • In 2019, the American Indian Policy Institute found that 18% of tribal reservation residents have no internet access at home, wireless or land-based.

Three Indigenous principles have helped provide the impetus to get vaccinated, according to activist Allie Young, a citizen of the Navajo Nation:

  • Recognize how Native Americans' actions will impact the next seven generations.
  • Act in honor of ancestors who fought to ensure their survival and elders who carry on their traditions and cultures.
  • Hold on to ancestral knowledge in the ongoing fight to protect Mother Earth.

The bottom line: The vaccination campaign worked largely through word of mouth and tribal outreach.

  • But chronic underfunding, mismanagement at the federally run Indian Health Service and poor technological infrastructure still mean that Native Americans often can't access telemedicine and other important services.

"We knew how to reach our population, despite these obstacles, because we've been having to overcome these obstacles for some time already," said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Seattle Indian Health Board's chief research officer and member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. "That doesn't mean you let it continue."

Go deeper

Wall Street's wobble disrupts record stock market boom

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Monday interrupted a stretch of calm amid the historic stock market boom underway since March 2020.

Driving the news: Jitters were apparent nearly everywhere.

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A San Antonio physician is facing a lawsuit after he admitted performing an abortion considered illegal under Texas' new law.

Why it matters: The civil suit, filed by a convicted felon in Arkansas, against Alan Braid is the first such suit under the law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a pregnant person obtain an abortion after six weeks.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats propose raising debt ceiling through midterms

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House and Senate leadership announced on Monday that they plan to attach a proposal to raise the debt ceiling through Dec. 2022 to a short-term, government funding bill. The bill must pass before the end of the month or Congress risks a shutdown.

Why it matters: Democrats are taking a huge risk by trying to force through an increase of the debt limit in its must-pass funding bill. The move is wishful thinking on behalf of Democrats who are hoping they can get at least 10 centrist Republicans to balk, as well as an effort to put Republicans on record opposing it.