Navajo Nation marks two years of the pandemic with prayers, proclamation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

WINDOW ROCK, Arizona — As daylight hit the Window Rock formation, leaders of the Navajo Nation gathered below the sandstone arch to observe the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic in a somber event.

"We pray today for those of us that have lost families, friends, neighbors and relatives," Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne said. "We pray, however, for a life which is abundant in happiness because that is what our ancestors and that is what we are charged to do at this time – we have to move forward and be grateful for everything that we have."

In the two years since the first confirmed case was reported in Chilchinbeto, Arizona, there have been 52,754 cases, and 1,657 people have died from COVID-19 on the tribal land.

The three branch chiefs as well as Vice President Myron Lizer and first lady Phefelia Nez spoke about the adversity caused by pandemic but also the hope and resiliency of the Navajo people.

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Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne talks about how COVID-19 impacted tribal members over the last two years as tribal leaders remember those who died from the virus on March 17 during a day of prayer service in Window Rock, Arizona.

Speaker Seth Damon in his remarks acknowledged the struggles people have experienced since March 2020.

"Whether you are an individual from LeChee, Arizona or from Chichiltah, New Mexico or from Leupp, Arizona all the way up to Nenahnezad, New Mexico, I think the most important thing is that we have so much grace and honor and hope and glory that we continue to thrive forward," Damon said.

The leaders also signed a proclamation to honor and remember lives lost to the virus. The statement also recognized March 17 as "Navajo Nation Day of Prayer."

At left, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and first lady Phefelia Nez attend on March 17 in Window Rock, Arizona the day of prayer service to remember lives lost to COVID-19 over the last two years.

"Resilience and overcoming tough times is the message that we reiterate," tribal President Jonathan Nez said.

Rex Lee Jim, traditional practitioner and former vice president, delivered a traditional prayer in the Navajo language while Ron Harvey, pastor at the Window Rock Christian Center, reflected on the work by first responders in the early days of the pandemic.

Harvey said he can relate to tribal members who worried about loved ones afflicted by COVID-19 because his wife and father contracted the virus.

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At left, Speaker Seth Damon, Miss Navajo Nation Niagara Rockbridge and Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne attend the day of prayer service to remember lives lost to COVID-19 on March 17 in Window Rock, Arizona.

"It was hard, and I know it because I lost my dad in October 2020 and I almost lost my wife, Tyda, to COVID. She spent one month in the hospital," Harvey said.

He said that he found strength in his faith, including shedding tears to God, because it was painful to not see his wife when she was in the hospital because of restrictions and precautionary measures that were in place to protect medical staff.

After reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 and saying a prayer, he said, "our land needs healing. Our people need healing. Our own selves need healing. As we stand on this cold morning, we pray to God that God will hear our prayers."

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

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