Native American communities have suffered the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally. this is especially true in Dinétah, the Navajo lands. In May of 2020 the rate of COVID infection in Dinétah surpassed that of New York state. Moreover, access to food and water is a challenge. Covering 27,000 square miles, Dinétah has only 13 grocery stores. the average resident must drive 3 hours to go grocery shopping. And 40% of the people lack access to clean drinking water. Thousands must make the daily journey, often on foot, to obtain water.
Realizing that the situation demanded attention, Ethel Branch took a leave from her Flagstaff law firm in order to serve the needs of her Navajo community. She launched a GoFundMe campaign and founded Navajo Hopi Solidarity, an organization providing relief to the elderly, single parents and struggling families. With hundreds of volunteers in both the Navajo and Hopi nations the organization has provided food and water to over 46,000 households (each roughly averaging 4 persons per household, and amounting to over 186,000 people served).
As with other Native American communities, the Navajo Nation struggles with a shortage of human capital. Most of the young people who leave to pursue a higher education do not return. Recognizing the problem, Branch returned to the reservation after completing her law degree at Harvard. She served as Attorney general for the Navajo Nation from 2015-2019, and advocated for voting rights, promoted legislation to facilitate economic development, launched a Public Integrity Task Force to combat corruption, and much more.