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SHEEP SPRINGS — Personnel from the Navajo Community Health Representatives program stood near the Tooh Haltsooí Chapter house and watched as members of the New Mexico National Guard delivered food provided by the State of New Mexico.

The state provided more than 80,000 pounds of rice, beans, potatoes, watermelons, apples and onions, as well as 9,720 boxes of food, to the Navajo Nation as part of COVID-19 relief efforts to tribes and pueblos in the state.

The New Mexico Indian Affairs Department coordinated the multi-agency effort on April 15. Deliveries were made by members of the New Mexico Army National Guard and the New Mexico Air National Guard to designated staging areas on the reservation.

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Sheep Springs was the designated location for the 20 chapters in the Northern Agency.

The Navajo Health Command Operations Center organized strike teams, community health representatives, public health nurses, chapter officials and others to prepare food boxes and deliver them to elderly and high-risk individuals.

"The State of New Mexico will do everything in its power to support the sovereign tribes and pueblos of this state during this pandemic. My administration has been in constant contact with tribal leaders and partners – we will continue deliveries of food, water and other necessary resources in addition to the work the department of health has done in testing and providing for medical needs," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

New Mexico Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo said the department is working with the tribal liaisons at the state's emergency operations center, the National Guard and sister agencies to receive requisitions and respond to tribes and pueblos as soon as possible.

"We will continue to work to ensure our communities are taken care of and have access to the resources they need," Trujillo said.

The delivery on April 15 was the latest action by the state. Examples of the state's response to the Navajo Nation includes the Office of Indian Elder Affairs delivering 2,000 boxes of food to senior centers and the Public Education Department and the Child, Youth and Families Department providing meals to children, according to the Indian Affairs Department.

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"This food delivery, however, was the largest and most comprehensive delivery we have done to each chapter in New Mexico," the department stated.

A press release from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President stated that food deliveries were made to Sheep Springs, Thoreau, Standing Rock and other communities.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez thanked the governor and the Indian Affairs Department for the donation.

"The coronavirus pandemic is affecting thousands of our Navajo people in profound ways, including the loss of work, lack of medical care, and the need for food and household supplies. The outbreak has significantly impacted families and elders that live in isolated areas of the Navajo Nation, especially those who do not have transportation," he said.

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The tribe received 2,000 food boxes from St. Mary's Food Bank in Arizona on April 14, the release states.

The boxes were distributed to residents in Tuba City, Arizona and from surrounding communities.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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