When Lindison Webb first delivered about 1,500 pounds of supplies to the Navajo Nation in May, it was the volunteers’ reactions that told him he needed to do more.
“There was a shock and awe for the contribution,” said Webb, himself a member of the Navajo Nation. “Someone said it was the largest contribution anybody had made, which for me, was bothering.”
Webb has traveled hundreds of miles gathering essential supplies for the tribe because of his family: their experiences seeing the worst of the coronavirus and their tradition of giving back.
The Navajo Nation has experienced one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks so far, and the tribal government has responded by imposing curfews and shutting down daily life. Tribal members struggled to get necessary supplies, prompting widespread relief efforts. Webb’s travels brought him to Southwest Colorado last week for a special delivery of Bluebird flour, a favorite for making fry bread.
“The need is huge, given the amount of impact there has been both personally and to the tribe at large,” Webb said. “It’s a compelling drive for me to do it. There’s also a tribal piece for me – to help my lineage, my people.”
About 400 Navajo tribal members had died from the virus as of Thursday. Because some residents do not have running water, electricity or a nearby grocery store, supplies have been both needed and difficult to access.
The reservation, about the size of West Virginia, spans three states, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Webb has traveled from Utah to Colorado, Arizona and back to Utah to gather supplies. He has delivered 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of essential materials, such as water, nonperishable food items, cleaning supplies and hygiene products, to Kaibeto and Page, Arizona. He raised about $7,600 through a GoFundMe to support the effort.
He decided to make an 800-mile trip to get Bluebird Flour, made by Cortez Milling Co., after hearing “Grandma doesn’t like this flour. Grandma only likes Bluebird Flour,” from community members, Webb said.
Bluebird Flour is popular among Navajo customers because its unique elasticity makes it perfect for fry bread. Webb contacted Cortez Milling, which offered a wholesale price, and last week, Webb delivered 1,000 pounds to the Kaibeto COVID Relief Group.
“It’s hard to find donors like Mr. Webb to drive hundreds and hundreds of miles to find something to donate, and actually come out and deliver it,” said Nelson Dayzie, a Navajo Nation member and Kaibeto distribution volunteer. “We would not be doing what we’re doing ... without any of those donations, including Mr. Webb’s.”
In honor of familySome people in his community in Cedar City, Utah, still doubt the virus is real, Webb said. But for his community, the virus’ impact has been pervasive.
“My teacher wanted to hug me, but she said, ‘I don’t want to hug you because I don’t want to kill you,’” Webb said, after seeing his former teacher volunteering at a distribution point.
Webb’s aunt died from the COVID-19, as did his cousins, the Thinn sisters, two public servants who died days apart from the disease.
His sister was treated for COVID-19 at Mercy Regional Medical Center. She later told Webb that 10 days into her treatment, the doctors considered stopping her ventilator treatment, Webb said.
“The psychological impact has been heavy for her and for me, as I continue to piece more and more of what happened together,” Webb said.
Webb wanted to help support community members in need, motivated by family members who set an example of giving back, like his father, Sam Webb, a councilman for the Ts’a Bii Kin Chapter, and his great-grandfather, Preston Scott, a former vice chairman of the Navajo Nation. That legacy might continue with Webb’s daughter, who often joins him on supply runs.
“All this terrible stuff that’s happening ... maybe a good outcome is that we go back to that structure of spending that time with family that sometimes we neglect,” Webb said.