In a new story from NPR, Native American tribes across the country are coming together to protect loved ones and embrace community ties during the continued COVID-19 pandemic. The stress of the pandemic is taking a toll; according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 74% of American Indian and Alaska Natives said someone in their household is struggling with depression, anxiety, stress and sleeping problems.

From the story: “COVID exacerbated long standing stresses created by historic inequities, says Spero Manson, who’s Pembina Chippewa from North Dakota, and directs the University of Colorado’s Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health.

Native communities in the United States have had higher rates of infection, are 3.3 times more likely to be hospitalized and more than twice as likely to die from the disease than whites. And half of Native Americans in NPR’s poll said they’re facing serious financial problems.

“As we struggle to address the sudden and precipitous added stresses posed by the hour by the pandemic, it heightens that sense of pain, suffering of helplessness and hopelessness,” says Manson. And it’s manifesting in higher rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, he adds.”

But its not all gloom and doom. Virtual community gatherings and powwows have kept tribal connections alive, and led to American Indians and Alaska Natives having the highest vaccination rates in the country.

“Native communities are also connecting and supporting each other online, with projects like the Social Distance Powwow Facebook group, founded in March 2020 to “foster a space for community and cultural preservation.” People from many different tribes share songs, dance videos, conversations, stories, and fundraisers and sell arts and crafts. It now has over 278,000 members.

The sense of community and respect for elders were also behind American Indian and Alaska Native people being more willing to get vaccinated to protect their communities, says Jennifer Wolf, founder of Project Mosaic, a consulting group for indigenous communities.

“We have so many reasons to be mistrustful of a government that has taken land away from us and broken so many promises,” says Wolf, “and yet we have the highest (Covid-19) vaccination rates in the country.”

To read the rest of the story on NPR, click here.