Poverty Awareness Month

January is Poverty Awareness Month, a time when individuals, charities, and large organizations can reexamine their commitment to helping those in need.

There are roughly 40.6 million people living in poverty in the United States, and Native Americans tend to be over-represented within this population. In fact, 35 percent of Native American children live in impoverishment. Additionally, 40 percent of Native Americans live in sub-standard or overcrowded housing, and 23 percent of Native families live with food insecurity.

Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA) is committed on a year-round basis to respecting and supporting the self-determined goals set by Native American tribes, and one of the ways they do this is by partnering with reservation-based programs that are tackling the issues that stem from poverty, such as food shortages, healthy diets to improve quality of life, education and even the lack of emergency response such as fire and EMT services.

Poverty doesn’t only disrupt lives but creates inter-generational issues that perpetuate through families, which makes this work incredibly important.

Food insecurity linked to poverty contributes to health issues such as diabetes and obesity, as many of the most readily available and affordable foods tend to be lacking in nutritional value. This is especially true in remote reservation communities where convenience stores are more prevalent than grocers.

Poverty among children can contribute to missing school, or under-performing in the classroom due to hunger and stress. These educational impacts are multiplied across Native communities, eroding quality of life and healthy futures.

PWNA’s long-term vision focuses on eradicating poverty and its attendant issues by providing aid for over 250,000 Native Americans each year. By supporting immediate impact through meals for Elders and families, school supplies for children, support for health partners and emergency needs, as well as resources for long-term solutions such as community gardens, garden training, scholarships and professional development, PWNA is fueling sustainable gains for generations to come.

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National Soup Month & A Native American Recipe

January is National Soup Month and a reminder that winter is the perfect time for delicious soups to warm the body and soothe the soul. Many nutritious soups are available from local grocers and specialty groups such as our friends at Soup Box Love. The Healthy Meals Resource System of the USDA is featuring many soups this month, as part of their effort to promote healthy meals.

Did you know there are many delicious Native American soups like green chili stew, dried corn soup and dry meat soup? Or that soups were part of the ancestral diets of indigenous peoples inhabiting North America?

Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D., is a Native American Chef and Owner of Red Mesa Cuisine. In the PBS segment on the Native American Food Movement that is now airing (check your local listings), Chef Frank reminds us that traditional Native American foods are nutritious and delicious, and that a return to an ancestral, plant-based diet is a way to reclaim health and wellness in Native communities.

Chef Frank is from the Kiowa Nation on her mother’s side, and has spent the past 25 years documenting the way of life and food habits of Native American tribes. She immersed herself in Native American communities, allowing her to accumulate traditional and contemporary recipes that speak to the simple ingredients Native Americans had access to from the beginning.

Three foods that many Native communities ate in the past include corn, beans, and squash, known as “the three sisters,” and Three Sisters Stew is one of the many recipes Chef Frank recommends and utilizes in her nutrition training. Here’s the recipe, which goes great with tortillas:

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Olive oil cooking spray to coat cast iron pot
2 cups chopped fresh Roma tomatoes or
(1) 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with basil
3 cups cooked tepary beans (brown or white) (1.5 cups uncooked)
2 cups cooked corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
2 cups green zucchini squash, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons dried red mild chile powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the cast iron or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, sauté for 2 minutes until translucent, then add green bell peppers and sauté another 2 to minutes. Cut each of the whole tomatoes from the can into 8 pieces (a large dice) and add them to the onions and green bell peppers. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the zucchini squash and sauté for another several minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the beans and the cooked corn and stir well. Bring the chile beans to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Stir in the dried red chile powder and salt. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Serve hot with No fry bread, or homemade corn or flour tortillas.
Serves 8 to 12

PWNA is pleased to collaborate with Chef Frank and other Native food experts, to support gardening and training on healthy cooking and eating in Native communities, and to support the national effort to promote healthy meals during National Soup Month.

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Fueling Support for Elders Through Severe Winter Weather

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) serves many Native communities dispersed throughout the country, and none experience a harsher winter than those on the Northern Plains. For these communities, winter brings with it not only frigid temperatures, but severe wind chills and storms that can damage power lines and lead to outages, contaminate water sources, and leave many families displaced from their homes.

Amplifying the hardship, winter in the Northern Plains can last up to seven months — with the first snow often seen in October and the last in early May. In the later months of winter, many Native American Elders living on fixed incomes struggle to stay warm. When money for fuel has run out, some Elders may have to make the difficult choice of buying winter fuel or food.

PWNA’s Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) and Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) programs work diligently to ensure a safer winter for Elders who require additional assistance for heating. Donations to the NPRA winter fuel program help provide firewood and winter fuel vouchers. Bulk donations of basic winter essentials like blankets, coats, hats, gloves and socks can also help, as these are often in short supply in the most remote and geographically isolated reservations of the Northern Plains.

In recent years, PWNA and NPRA delivered winter warmth to Elders of the Crow Creek, Lower Brule and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota. For 2018, PWNA is providing firewood and winter fuel vouchers to Elders on the Rosebud Reservation. Although most of the Elders in this community use electricity, propane and firewood use is increasing as more residents seek ways to warm their homes.

If you want to help Native American Elders stay safe and warm, join PWNA and NPRA by donating or sharing on social as we spread the warmth this winter.

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A Native Perspective on New Year’s

It’s New Year’s once again – the more recognized one, that is. Throughout 2017, various cultures, tribes, and countries marked New Year’s in their own ways. For me, I was taught that our tribe’s Sundance marks the new year. Praying for those around you, giving thanks for the past year, and grounding myself to my values, these traditions make sense to me for the holiday.

But, New Year’s can mean a lot of things. I find that its meaning changes over time, depending on what happens, who I’m with, or how I’m feeling. It marks a change in many things, most notably the calendar, but to me, New Year’s is always exactly what it needs to be: a change in goals or plans, a time to learn or refocus, and a time of new beginnings.

Personally, I recognize many opportunities to celebrate the start of a new year or resolution. Birthdays mark the beginning of a new year, as can a marriage anniversary and other milestone events. All of these focus on different parts of our lives, have their own merit and contribution, and deserve to be recognized.

Sometimes, the mainstream New Year’s celebrations do not make sense to me. (Why is kissing on New Year’s a thing?) I think New Year’s is kind of funny, as are all celebrations when you look at them too closely. Take the Sioux. We pass down our stories, traditions, and beliefs, and mark our New Year’s by self-reflection, prayer, thanksgiving, and good times. Perhaps more than most, we enjoy the company of our family and friends over a lot of things. Even playing games or watching a movie, one can become too stressed to enjoy oneself, and sometimes being able to do nothing is equally good.

No matter what New Year’s means to you, have a happy end of the year and celebrate safely. Don’t spread yourself too thin, and remember it’s a good time for looking back and looking forward. At the end, that’s all anyone tries for: reflection on the last year, and prayer for another good one. What will you do better this year?

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2017 Year in Review

2017 was an exciting year for Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), one where we continued our mission of supporting positive outcomes in Native communities throughout the country.

One of our better memories of last year came in December, when we partnered with Front Page Productions to create and release a short documentary on the return to healthy, traditional diets in Indian Country for PBS. This segment also highlighted the movement to promote health and food insecurity within Native communities.

We also explored topics such as the legend of Pocahontas, featured a moving story of a Native American veteran’s journey from war to earning his master’s degree, and celebrated Indian Heritage Month with a laptop giveaway to Native American students.

Finally, we wrapped the year with our annual holiday services, including providing holiday meals and present-filled stockings for children and Elders in our program partners’ reservation communities.

These were some of your favorite blog posts of 2017:


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Happy Holidays, and Thank You

On behalf of PWNA, we would like to wish our program partners, volunteers, donors, and organizations that support our work a happy holiday season. Our year-round efforts are made possible because we have all come together with the shared goal of serving others.

PWNA has been serving Indian country for 25+ years, primarily working on 60 reservations in 12 states through collaborative and cooperative community-based relationships. Through our on-reservation program partners, we are able to impact the lives of approximately 250,000 Native citizens each year.

I am grateful to be part of PWNA’s Programs team that oversees services out of Rapid City, SD and Phoenix, AZ. Out of the 40,000 square foot distribution facilities located at each site, PWNA serves approximately 1,000 reservation partners, focusing on health and nutrition, animal welfare, education, and emergency services, as well as holiday support. In order to fulfill our commitments to Native communities, our drivers, who we consider our ambassadors, drive about 300,000 miles annually and deliver more than 5 million pounds of goods to our partners. We are proud to be one of the largest Native American serving organizations in the United States.

PWNA is thankful for the opportunity to be of service, and in 2017 we most recently provided or plan to provide the following seasonal support:

  • Nearly 110 winter fuel vouchers
  • 600 winter emergency boxes for Elders in need
  • Community-wide Thanksgiving meals for 8,065 participants, and take-home meals with enough food for 30,564 people
  • Community-wide Christmas meals for 1,305 participants
  • 11,000+ stockings for children of all ages, plus 2,775 baby bags for those age 3 and younger
  • 5,865 holiday gift bags for Elders
  • Through our Hug-a-Bear service, gifts for approximately 826 children in crisis
  • 22,585 activity books included in 8,740 holiday stockings for children of all ages, plus stockings for 350 children at Santa Stops

Our goal is to improve the quality of life for Native citizens living in some of the most remote and resource-challenged reservations in this country. Through our program partners who provide direct services to their communities, we hear about Native citizens doing the best they can to build better lives for themselves and offer our support.

Although they do not consider themselves leaders, each year we learn about individuals making a difference in their community. Often they are the teacher, administrative assistant, parent, youth, elder, caseworker, tribal employee, healthcare provider, volunteer or student. Sometimes, these citizens who are contributing good things to the communities go unnoticed because their goal is to serve and not to get recognition. PWNA is honored to know many of these individuals and we look forward to continuing to work side by side with them to serve in more than 300 communities.

Our ability to provide resources and support to these vital workers is only possible through the generosity of people who care about others. PWNA is supported by the financial and time commitments of both donors and volunteers, and we are blessed to have your support.

In closing, “Nau Wepul Tu’i Hiapsi,” which translated means “Together with One Good Heart.” This reflects the people who work, support, and are served by PWNA.

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Volunteers Spread Holiday Cheer by Assembling Stockings for Annual “Santa Stops”

After working with Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) as their agency over the past few years, Allison+Partners has had the opportunity to learn a great deal about their mission and values, and has been lucky enough to lend a hand in some of those efforts.

We recently visited PWNA’s Phoenix Distribution Center to volunteer our time and help assemble gift-filled stockings, which are a part of PWNA’s annual holiday services provided to reservation partners around the country. The stockings are delivered to communities annually, including at “Santa Stops” where PWNA’s Native staff members attend in Santa attire to give out the stockings and toys.

Upon arrival, our group of 11 were directed to an assembly line with 800 stockings to fill and a multitude of gifts for kids from pre-school age and older. We lined up and each took responsibility for stuffing a particular gift into each stocking. It only took us a few minutes to find our groove, turn on some great music, and soon we were moving quickly to assemble stockings for hundreds of hopeful children on the reservations. We had a wonderful time spreading Christmas cheer!

Within a few hours of volunteering, we filled all 800 stockings, but this is only a fraction of the thousands of gift bags and stockings PWNA provides annually to children and Elders. In fact, in 2016 PWNA provided holiday stockings for 11,730 Elders and nearly 27,500 children in reservation communities.

Native American Elders receive gift bags with practical items such as socks, a blanket, batteries, personal care products and other supplies. Some communities gather their Elders, families and children for a community-wide Christmas meal, hosted by PWNA’s Program Partners and supported by Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) and Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA), regional programs of Partnership With Native Americans.

PWNA is always looking for volunteers who want to support those in need, from donating monetary gifts to giving time to help stuff stockings and spread a little holiday cheer. If you’re interested in volunteering with PWNA, visit their website at http://www.nativepartnership.org to learn more.

*Guest blogger Elizabeth Zwerin (center of front row) is a Director with Allison+Partners, a top 15 agency known for integrated communications strategies, social impact and cause marketing.

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Holiday Realities in Remote Native Communities

As the holiday season gets into full swing, most Americans will have gifts and parties on their minds. But for many Native American families living on remote reservations, the holiday season only exacerbates the challenges of everyday life and this kind of celebration is not always within reach.

Did you know that households on reservations are 400 percent more likely than other U.S. households to report not having enough to eat? This is usually tied to the fact that many reservation lands are in geographically-isolated locations with insufficient access to healthy and affordable foods. It’s also a surprise to many that Native Americans face the highest rates of poverty in the U.S., with 35 percent of Native American children affected.

The upside is that the holidays are one more opportunity for Native Americans to continue their lifelong tradition of unity and helping others.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) exists to support reservation programs all year long, and during the holidays, works to ensure Native families have opportunities to share a holiday meal and practical gifts to enjoy. Children and elders alike know there are people who care and remember them.

In 2016, PWNA worked with reservation partners to provide holiday meals for 2,400 Native American Elders, families, and children. Sylvia Aims Back from Sylvia’s Store – the food pantry in Polson, Montana – says they also rely on support from PWNA during the holiday season, when they see a spike in the number of families needing food.

In addition to food, PWNA’s holiday services also include thousands of gifts and stockings delivered to partners for distribution in Native communities. Holiday stockings are filled with practical items; while Elders receive gift bags with items such as socks, blankets and personal care products, excited children find toys, school supplies and more in their stockings. In 2016, PWNA provided holiday stockings for 11,730 Elders and nearly 27,500 children in remote reservation communities.

Find out how you can join PWNA’s efforts to ensure Native communities across the country can enjoy a bountiful holiday free of economic stress, and get started on a bright new year. Download Holiday Realities in Remote Native Communities, and make a meaningful gift through our Plains gift catalog or Southwest gift catalog.

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PBS Documentary on Native American Diets Now Airing

Today, nearly one in four Native American families experience low food security, and on many reservations, residents lack local access to supermarkets or fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods, due to their isolated locations. Lack of access to these foods fuels for Native Americans the highest rate of diabetes in the U.S. Because of this, a return to healthy, traditional diets and a renewed understanding of ancestral foods and practices in Native American communities is being embraced.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), has partnered with Front Page Productions, a full-service, high-definition production company, to share the story of a return to healthy, traditional diets in Indian Country through a new PBS segment that looks at the movement to promote health and fight food insecurity within Native communities.

“Healthy food choices are in abundance for most Americans, but that’s not always the case for our Native American citizens,” said Rafael Tapia, Jr., PWNA Vice President of Programs. PWNA, along with Native American Chef Lois Ellen Frank, PhD and Daniel Vega, Director of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Department of Language and Culture, are featured in the film.

PWNA makes continuous efforts to address food insecurity through provision of food as well as community-based solutions, including nutrition training and on-the-ground support for gardening that assists Native communities in creating new sources of fresh, healthful foods.

An example of this is the Pascua Yaqui tribe (PYT) in Tucson, Arizona, where the Huyapo Bwaa’ame ancestral garden project was created two years ago. This garden project has since engaged the PYT community, reinforcing the importance of incorporating tribal knowledge and culture into new answers to food shortages. Projects like community gardens connect current needs with tribal traditions to better support engagement and sustainability for years to come.

Hosted by actor James Earl Jones, the Public Television segment, “Native American Food Movement,” is airing on PBS stations nationwide. Check your local listings or visit www.nativepartnership.org/PBS, and call (877) 618-0610 to learn how you can get involved and support Native nutrition.

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Recently in Native News

At Partnership With Native Americans, it’s our goal to help you stay informed on the top stories from Native American life and culture from across the country. Below we’ve compiled our favorite stories from the month of November. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Native American Students Fight Discrimination By Celebrating Their Heritage via KUNC.org

  • “Ask students in the Mohawk Club at Massena Central High School whether they’ve been on the receiving end of negative stereotypes, and the answer is quick and sharp. ‘We see that we’re always the troublemakers or that we’re bad kids,” says Amanda Rourke, the club’s president. Member Mallory Sunday adds, “It’s funny because they don’t understand who we are as a people.’”

Five myths about American Indians via The Washington Post

  • “Thanksgiving recalls for many people a meal between European colonists and indigenous Americans that we have invested with all the symbolism we can muster. But the new arrivals who sat down to share venison with some of America’s original inhabitants relied on a raft of misconceptions that began as early as the 1500s, when Europeans produced fanciful depictions of the “New World.” I hear those concepts repeated in questions from visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian every day. Changing these ideas is the work of generations. Here are five of the most intransigent.”

Native Americans use their growing clout to reclaim tribal remains and relics via Los Angeles Times

  • “Nearly a century ago, an amateur archaeologist and showman named Ralph Glidden dug up Native American burial sites on Catalina and other Channel Islands off Southern California’s coast. To him, the human remains and relics were treasures to be displayed in the so-called Indian Museum he opened as a tourist attraction overlooking Avalon Harbor. It was a macabre place — and to Native Americans, highly offensive… What Glidden didn’t use in the museum he sold.”

Native American culture, contributions via Fort Hood Sentinel

  • “Fort Hood joined the nation in celebrating the culture and contributions of Native Americans during a ceremony Nov. 16 at Club Hood. Following years of efforts for official recognition, November has been designated as National Native American Heritage Month since 1994. This year’s theme, Standing Together, illustrates Native Americans’ and Alaska Natives’ profound influence on our character and our culture, Col. Curtis King, commander, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said.”

‘This is not a trend’: Native American chefs resist the ‘Columbusing’ of indigenous foods via The Washington Post

  • “Earlier this fall, Karlos Baca, an indigenous food activist known for cooking beautiful foraged meals using traditional Native American ingredients and cooking methods, was approached by a regional food magazine: Would he like to provide a recipe for their Thanksgiving issue? “Instead of getting a recipe from me, they got three pages of activism,” he says. Baca, along with some other Native Americans who see the holiday as whitewashing the harm colonists did to indigenous people, refers to it as “Takesgiving” or “Hatesgiving.” Typically, he won’t participate in the dinner: “I have a tradition of fasting,” he says.”
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