Building Immunity in Community

Indigenous communities are working to ensure the safety of their members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Different communities face different threats and challenges and they are developing effective solutions based on the needs of the people and the resources at hand. Many are in need of better healthcare equipment and services, many have concerns about over-crowded housing, while people are checking-in with elders, sharing food and traditional medicines, and creating emergency plans. 

Amnesty is featuring different communities, their worries, and the solutions they have developed in the face of COVID-19. We are also connecting activists with opportunities to advocate for Indigenous rights to ensure that everyone gets the help they need during the pandemic. 

Learn about the communities

Click on points on the map to learn the stories

Historical Context

The right of indigenous peoples to well-being is essentially the same as the right to self-determination and sovereignty. These rights, in fact, all Indigenous rights, are grounded and derive from territory: the relationships that a nation holds with the lands and waters and other entities, the teachings that territory instills, and the connection and self-identity that connect with being of a place.

Indigenous Peoples enjoyed good health in pre-contact times because of active lifestyles and safe, traditional diets. Elders and community histories tell us that people lived long lives and remained in good health. This good health included elements that were ceremonial, nutritional, social, and physical. Important healthcare providers included elders, midwives, medicine people, and ceremonial leaders.

Traditional laws about food and hygiene kept nations healthy. Pre-contact lifestyles often had many other “health-protecting” characteristics, including small settlements, relatively low population density, ongoing mobility on land and water, seasonal relocations to different sites, intimate knowledge of the local climate, environmentally sustainable economies and the availability of a variety of foods. Holistic approaches to preventive health care were taught as core cultural values and highly appreciated by communities and families. When a community member fell ill, the family and community would provide support and comfort, a practice that continues today.

So in a time of crisis and pandemic, recognition of and respect for the sovereignty of an Indigenous nation is paramount to ensuring the well-being of a people. The ability of indigenous peoples to be culturally well is reliant on the freedom they have to make decisions for the community, as a community.

Throughout this pandemic, the impacts of decades of neglect and discriminatory policies impact community and State responses and affect Indigenous peoples in an extreme and serious way.  Chronic problems like assimilation, institutionalised discrimination, land dispossession, language and cultural loss, criminalization of Indigenous people, and violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people are being neglected or set aside while the focus shifts to responding to the pandemic.  

Communities themselves are under extra pressures from their members and State governments to ensure the security of the entire community. However, due to factors already mentioned, these communities may lack measures to enforce physical distancing directives; lack resources or capacity that would provide communities with the ability to rise to the challenge of responding to this pandemic;  and may experience problems convincing community members to respect the rights of other community members to safety, health, and wellbeing.

Take Action

Advocate for the federal government to respect Indigenous rights and ensure every community has the resources they need. 

Click here to take action>>


To find out more about the artists who made the masks in our banner click here