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COVID-19 Kills Native American Leader Marshall McKay

Native American leader Marshall McKay. (Courtesy the Autry Museum of the American West)
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Native American leader Marshall McKay has died in Los Angeles at the age of 68 after contracting COVID-19.

McKay developed severe symptoms and died at Hollywood Presbyterian on Dec. 29 at 68 years old. His wife was also hospitalized with COVID-19 in December, but has since recovered and been released.

McKay was the first Indigenous board chairman for the Autry Museum of the American West. He was a member of the tribal council of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation for more than 30 years and is credited with building the tribe's economic independence.

"He combined this wonderful set of tangibles and skills and knowledge," said Autry president/chief executive Rick West, "but Marshall was characterized almost as much by his immense capacity for intangibles like human empathy, human connection."

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McKay was also an advocate in the Change the Mascot campaign, which calls on sports teams to do away with racist images and slurs against native peoples.

His mother was a renowned Pomo basket weaver, and he dedicated himself to the preservation and promotion of Native American arts and culture. To that end, McKay also served on the board of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

The Yocha Dehe Tribal Council said this of his death:

“We know our pain is shared by so many families facing the devastating effects of this pandemic. We know also the pain of Marshall’s loss is shared by the many who loved him and learned from him. We will miss his strength and wisdom. He was a resolute protector of Native American heritage here, within our own homeland, but also throughout California and Indian Country.”

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