Reads: Homeless Native Americans and the coronavirus; The census and shifting definitions of race; and more

In this blog:

  • Homelessness, Native Americans, and the coronavirus
  • The census and shifting definitions of race
  • Tar sands oil price tanks

Homelessness, Native Americans, and the coronavirus

Hiawatha encampment 2018. (Photo: Hennepin County)

During the homeless encampment along Hiawatha Avenue in the fall of 2018, health officials’ big concern was the tight living quarters and the threat that diseases could spread quickly. This year’s coronavirus is raising similar worries about people who are homeless.

Indian Country Today ran a story Friday headlined: Homeless. Vulnerable. And no option for ‘self isolation’. A reporter interviewed Abigail Echo-Hawk, Pawnee, chief research officer at the Seattle Indian Health Board, one of the communities that saw an early spike in coronavirus cases.

In King County, where Seattle is located, American Indians and Alaska Natives are seven times more likely to be homeless than whites. Ideally, Echo-Hawk said, officials would figure out housing for everyone and the homeless could isolate in their own spaces. “If that’s not a possibility, then how do we keep continuing to mitigate the harm and the risk that can come to our homeless relatives?” Echo-Hawk said. …

Echo-Hawk said she wants to see American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as all homeless people, given top priority for placement in any quarantine and isolation facilities that may open.

The Minnesota Reformer reported Saturday that Hennepin County moved 130 homeless people into hotels for COVID-19 protection.

One hundred thirty people experiencing homelessness in Hennepin County have voluntarily moved into separate living quarters in hotels just four days after the county board unanimously approved spending $3 million on isolation and quarantine spaces.

So far, the county has contracts with two area hotels and is working on securing more spaces as the need increases.

Click on the links above for more details.

The census and shifting definitions of race

Science News posted an important read: To fight discrimination, the U.S. census needs a different race question. It’s a good read and here are a couple of things that jumped out to me.

For one, The Census’s race data changed when people were able to select their own race on the census instead of have a census enumerator choose it.

With the power to check their own race box, many people previously identified as white have embraced a nonwhite or mixed-race identity. That’s evident in the American Indian numbers. From 1890 to 1960, the American Indian population grew from 248,000 to 524,000, with an average annual growth rate of just 1.1 percent. But over the next several decades, and coinciding with the shift to self-identification, that population grew to almost 2 million by 1990 — with an average annual growth rate of 4.3 percent. That meteoric growth extends well beyond what is possible through births alone, [University of Minnesota sociologist Carolyn] Liebler says.

Here’s another eye opener: Genetic ancestry tests “may be contributing to white people adopting American Indian and other minority identities.” From 2009 to 2010, University of Pennsylvania sociologist Wendy Roth interviewed 100 individuals who purchased genetic tests and then re-interviewed 89 of those respondents after the 2010 census.

Reporting in the July 2018 American Journal of Sociology,  Roth showed that 14 percent of participants changed their race in 2010 from that used in 2000 based on the test results. Though the study is small, the exploding popularity of such tests over the last decade … means such tests could dramatically alter how people respond to the census race question.

Click on the link above for more details.

Price of Canadian tar sands oil tanks

The Canadian Globe and Mail reported that last Wednesday that Western Canadian oil prices hit an “historic low,” $9 a barrel. It cited as causes both the drop in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic and the oil price war between Russia and Saudi trade.

This should give Minnesota regulators a pause about approving Enbridge Line 3. The project simply isn’t needed.

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