PNE Stories: Co-Founder, Jo Overton

Jo Overton, Sicangu Lakota (Rosebud Sioux)A founding member of Protect Native Elders, Sicangu Lakota tribe member Jo Overton jokes her title could be “Patron Saint of Hand Sanitizer.” Her actual working title is “Indigenous Outreach Coordinator,” which only hints at what a powerful connector she is. Jo works with unstoppable persistence connecting volunteers together, and connecting Native Americans at severe risk of COVID-19 to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), water, and other critical supplies.

Despite health issues which keep her homebound for the pandemic, in March 2020 Jo responded to news of the coming crisis with fierce determination to help. She explains, “I’m not Navajo but have Navajo friends. My reservation was fine but I’m not going to let my Native American brothers and sisters die, so I did something.” (more…)

PNE Co-Founder Tyrone Whitehorse on NPR On Point Radio

PNE co-founder, Tyrone Whitehorse, was heard on NPR stations in over 300 cities via On Point Radio.  Because Tyrone is a Diné man with a degree in public health, his background primed him to be on alert to the risk of COVID-19 long before federal or tribal governments began taking action.

Last year I was actively watching the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, and it dawned on me that if this viral epidemic ever became a pandemic across the world, it would hit my people especially hard. So given that situation, I started to let people know … that we needed to start getting prepared for this and that we needed to do what we [could] to try to curb our risk.


The Navajo Nation’s Lack of Clean Water Has Fueled a COVID-19 Crisis []

Because of its unique legal status and decades of neglect from the federal government, the Navajo Nation has often been excluded from water infrastructure projects, according to NPR. To make matters worse, groundwater in the region has been heavily contaminated by mining and other extractive industries, which has left many Navajo people with pre-existing conditions that further expose them to the virus.

As lockdown and curfew measures continue, families are having a harder time getting water, according to Bleu Adams (Mandan/Hidatsa, Diné), a Navajo activist, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Protect Native Elders.

She said that many families are beginning to ration water.

Read the complete article here.



Personal story from PNE Co-founder Tyrone Whitehorse on

  • Tyrone Whitehorse, of the Navajo Nation, writes that the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on his community.
  • Navajo Nation currently has the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate in the United States.
  • The reservation, which has a population of 173,000 people, has had 4,434 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 147 deaths, making an infection rate of 2.5%.
  • Whitehorse writes that it’s hard to follow public health guidelines when the reservation is facing “systemic disparities,” like limited access to healthcare, minimal running water, and a lack of protective supplies.

Read the complete story here.

Gratitude from the Tohono O’Odham Nation

Read this inspiring letter written to Protect Native Elders from Verlon Jose, Governor of the Traditional O’odham Leaders, President of PPEP First American Resources and Services, Former Vice Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation and Former Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council.

An excerpt:

Nothing was reaching us until we found Protect Native Elders who offered rapid support. They delivered multiple shipments of masks and face shields helping to diminish the concerns of those working on the front lines. … One life is too many to lose. If we can protect and save one life at a time and many more by providing the basic need of Personal Protective Equipment and Food, we would have a better society in this world.


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