The Purple Heart is America’s oldest military merit, originally created as the “Badge of Military Merit” more than 235 years ago to honor a soldier’s “singularly meritorious action.” The Order of the Purple Heart was established in 1932 and throughout history, more than 1.8 million brave soldiers have been awarded the Purple Heart in recognition of their sacrifices in combat and resilience as prisoners of war.
Indigenous peoples have contributed a high rate of representation to the armed forces and other branches for as long as the U.S. military has existed. Today, there are more than 31,000 Native Americans on active duty, and 140,000 American Indian veterans, many of which hold the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and/or Congressional Medal of Honor.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 19 percent of Native Americans serve in the military — a higher rate than any other minority in America. One could attribute it to our own war-torn history, or the need to defend our homes and protect our people, or to honor our “peace and friendship” accords with the U.S. despite its many broken promises to Native communities. In some cases, the military can also offer an escape from joblessness or an uncertain future, and fulfill a need for purpose and contribution.
In the past, we introduced Lawrence Wright Jr, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is now furthering his contribution to the defense of our country by pursuing a Master’s in Emergency Management and Homeland Security (with the support of our AIEF scholarship program). Despite incurring numerous injuries while on duty, Lawrence was not discouraged, and today, he is motivated to make something of himself that he may honor his fellow Marines who sacrificed their lives in Iraq.
Service in the military is a special kind of duty and giving. When all is said and done, those who are recipients of the Purple Heart are honored because they truly have given all they have — body and mind — to fight for their country. As Purple Heart Appreciation Day approaches on August 7, we honor all combat veterans and recipients who hold this badge of military merit, and remember their sacrifices for all of us.
Native American art has developed over centuries, tracing back to cave paintings, stonework and earthenware. Typically linked to a deep connection with spirituality and Mother Earth, Native American art comes in many different styles and forms to reflect the unique cultures of diverse tribes — including beadwork, jewelry, weaving, basketry, pottery, carvings, kachinas, masks, totem poles, drums, flutes, pipes, dolls and more.
Artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, have fallen in love with and been influenced by Native American art, and some traditional Native artists are connecting their work with pop culture in the mainstream. Merritt Johnson, a multi-disciplinary artist affiliated with the Blackfeet and Kanienkehaka, has stated that most people think of “beads and feathers” when they hear the term “Native American art.” There are many contemporary Native artists breaking through these misconceptions with a variety of art forms; here’s a look at five.
Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1974, and raised on the Onandaga Reservation, Hyde juxtaposes 21st century pop culture images with symbols and themes from his Native American heritage. His vibrant, satirical, graphic paintings seek to dismantle stereotypes of Native American culture and replicate what he refers to as “the collective unconsciousness of the 21st century.”
Of Apsáalooke (Crow) affiliation and born in Billings, Montana in 1981, Red Star is known for her funny, but biting self-portraits that poke fun at tendencies to misrepresent Native American history. Employing photography to navigate her experience growing up on the Crow Indian Reservation, juxtaposed with her experience of mainstream contemporary society, Red Star uses materials like Target-brand Halloween costumes and inflatable animals in her work.
A photographer and storyteller affiliated with the Tulalip and Swinomish, Wilbur has traveled to over 300 sovereign nations to depict the vast diversity within and between indigenous communities. By taking portrait-style photographs of tribal citizens across the country, she hopes to reclaim the Native American image, and to effectually change the way that Native Americans are represented.
Pratt, of Cheyenne and Arapaho affiliation, is considered one of the leading forensic artists in the United States. Harvey has completed thousands of witness description drawings and hundreds of soft tissue reconstructions, having spent more than 50 years in law enforcement. Just recently, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian announced that Pratt’s Warriors’ Circle of Honor was the winning design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
Greeves, who grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, is known primarily for her use of traditional Kiowa beading. An art form learned from her Kiowa grandmother, Greeves’ figures are adorned with both traditional and contemporary clothing items, as a commentary on being a Native woman in the modern world. Her work appears in numerous public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Heard Museum and more.
Partnership With Native Americans was recently awarded a $150,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation to address Native American nutrition and food insecurity.
“Newman’s Own Foundation has been supporting food and nutrition programs for 35 years. Too little attention has been paid to the Native American population, and we’re pleased to see Partnership With Native Americans and its partners addressing the needs of fresh food access and nutrition education,” said Bob Forrester, CEO and President, Newman’s Own Foundation.
“More than 23 percent of Native American families are impacted by food insecurity, and many reservation communities face high rates of impoverishment, putting them at greater risk for diabetes, obesity and other nutrition-related illnesses,” as PWNA President/CEO Robbi Rice Dietrich notes. “With support from Newman’s Own Foundation, PWNA aids Native Americans in developing sustainable nutrition initiatives within tribal communities, such as access to fresh food and training to prepare healthier meals.”
Additionally, PWNA has joined Newman’s Own Foundation as one of nine nonprofit organizations selected for their Native American Nutrition Cohort. The cohort will convene several times over the next three years for peer learning and collaboration toward greater impact on Native nutrition systems.
Last year, PWNA also received a $258,000 grant awarded by Walmart Foundation to help strengthen food access and nutrition training in local communities. With the support from the Walmart Foundation, PWNA supported Native nutrition and food security through Project Grow, Mobile Nutrition Education and Train the Trainer (T3) programs.
For more information, please visit our News Center for the complete press release.
As part of our continued endeavor to inform readers of the news and culture relating to Native American communities from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of June. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
How this man is helping Native Americans gain energy independence via Climate Connections
- “For the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, the sun is more than a source of energy. Red Cloud: ‘Native people’s way of life – language, song, dance, ceremonies – are all focused around the sun. So we’re looking to that energy to help us to create a more sustainable lifestyle.’ Henry Red Cloud is the founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises. The company manufactures and installs solar-powered furnaces for Native American families on reservations across the Great Plains. When tribes outside the region expressed an interest in learning about his solar furnaces, Red Cloud partnered with a non-profit called Trees, Water & People to create the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.”
Nike announces its newest N7 ambassador, professional volleyballer Lauren Schad via Indian Country Today
- “Nike N7 has just named the latest successful Native person to its roster of N7 ambassadors, professional female volleyball player and model Lauren Schad. Schad is a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She began playing at age 14, then played for the University of San Diego until her professional career began in 2016. N7 ambassadors are athletes reflect the Native American and Aboriginal community and influencers who choose to use their voice to inspire future generations and to celebrate the power of native youth, Nike says.”
Decades after destruction, Yosemite welcomes home Native Americans via The Fresno Bee
- “It’s been 41 years since Les James and Jay Johnson first asked the National Park Service for Yosemite’s last Native American village back. Leveled by the park service by 1969, the village site is located just down the road from Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite Valley. On Friday, the native elders watched with pride as Yosemite’s new superintendent, Michael Reynolds, signed an agreement giving them permission to use the site for the next 30 years. The agreement also green lights remaining construction of a roundhouse, what will become the spiritual heart of the village.”
- “JJ Nakai misses her days playing electrifying basketball on the reservation. But the jam-packed gymnasiums, the thunderous crowds – united by heritage, momentarily divided by team colors – the breakneck pace of play and the irresponsibly creative trick passes are more than just memories. They provide the framework for how she plays, the fabric of her game, infused in her basketball DNA, and part of why she’s one of the highest-rated junior-college basketball players in the country, with dreams of playing Division I.”
June is National Camping Month and families are taking advantage of warmer weather to get outdoors and explore, both near and afar. Many people who flock to nearby campgrounds, hiking trails, and natural landmarks don’t always realize the history of the lands they’re visiting.
If you are planning to visit any national parks this summer, consider exploring some of these natural landmarks rich in Native American history and significance.
The Havasupai Indian Reservation is considered one of America’s most remote Indian reservations, surrounded entirely by the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. The Havasupai people primarily reside in Supai Village, which is situated at the base of Cataract Canyon. Havasupai, meaning “people of the blue-green waters,” features spectacular waterfalls that attract thousands of visitors each year. The destination has become increasingly popular for avid hikers and adventure seekers, resulting in the tribe’s shift to scheduling online reservations for camping. Visitors should plan to make their reservations for camping or the lodge well in advance.
The Legend Rock petroglyph site is located near Hot Springs State Park in Wyoming features nearly 300 individual petroglyphs (rock carvings) that showcase ancient figures. These are some of the oldest examples of rock art dating as far back as 3,000 years. The nearby town of Thermopolis, Wyoming claims the world’s largest mineral hot spring — The Big Spring. Located on the Wind River Indian Reservation but open to the public, these springs are part of a treaty signed with the Shoshone and Arapaho Indian tribes.
Pueblo Bonito is the largest ancestral pueblo in the Southwest, situated within the Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico. The structure known as “Great House” was constructed sometime between 850 A.D. and 1150 A.D. The Chaco Canyon area was first inhabited in the middle of the ninth century and was home to Anasazi Indian tribes who inhabited the area until the thirteenth century. The site became a national monument in 1907 and still holds significance for many tribes today.
Four Corners Monument
This well-known attraction is located close to Aztec, New Mexico on the Navajo Nation and in one spot connects the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. A brass cap marks the site where an individual can stand in all four states at once, attracting tourists year-round. The Navajo Nation oversees the monument, and the surrounding area is remote, with no running water, electricity or telephones.
PWNA has become familiar with each of these areas. Some of the most remote Native communities reside near national or state parks and historic monuments. Through our year-round service to 60 reservations, including the Navajo Nation, PWNA is championing hope for a brighter future for Native Americans across the Southwest and Northern Plains. If you’re visiting a national park or landmark this summer, we encourage you to study the history and people of the area and respect the land.
Are you one of the heroes who stepped up in 2017 when the need for disaster relief was incredibly high? If so, I hope you will take this message to heart, as the 2018 hurricane season is already here.
Last year, most of us heard about the fires, flooding and hurricanes in mainstream areas, resulting in expensive property damage, though we rarely, if at all, heard about the need for disaster relief in the remote reservation communities that PWNA serves. Sadly, traditional news outlets rarely cover these areas of the country.
As individuals asked, “how can I help?” they mainly heard about supporting those larger charity organizations that are consistently associated with disaster relief, and they promptly complied with donations. However, isn’t it equally helpful and wise to also support the disaster relief efforts of charities serving similarly affected communities that are routinely overlooked by the larger charities and the media?
PWNA is often the first to hear about disasters affecting Native American tribes, because our reservation partners know us as a first responder for the reservations. We heard about the following emergency situations. Did you?
- Dangerous wildfires affected tribes across Montana, Idaho, California, Arizona, Washington and Oregon.
- Summer drought and triple-digit temperatures (up to120 degrees) posed a threat to Native Elders and youth, many of whom don’t have air conditioning or running water in their homes.
- The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey left the Tunica-Biloxi tribe in Louisiana in urgent need.
- Blizzards in the Northern Plains created five-foot snowdrifts, trapping many Montana tribal families in their homes for days with limited food and water.
As a Native-serving nonprofit, PWNA must anticipate needs in advance and prepare for disaster before it strikes. While it’s impossible to predict when and where disasters will happen, we know they’re inevitable. PWNA and our programs, including Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) and Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA), have to be ready at all times to respond to our Native communities in a timely and truly helpful way.
How do we prepare for a disaster before it strikes?
- By pre-stocking our warehouses with bottled water, canned food, flashlights, blankets, and other emergency supplies
- By working year-round as a member of National Volunteers Active in Disaster (National VOAD), partnering with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other first responders and not limiting this work only to the fall or September, which is National Preparedness Month
- By building up our Disaster Relief Emergency Fund – before disaster strikes – to cover the costs of emergency supplies and delivering them as soon as the tribes need them
- By supporting tribal communities with emergency preparedness planning and training, so they’re better able to react in emergency situations
As we anticipate the oncoming season of fires and hurricanes, my hope is that you’ll remember Native American families are often the hardest hit by natural disasters, given the impoverishment many tribal communities face. With little outside news coverage on their communities, tribal citizens often face these situations alone with limited resources or emergency responders.
If you’ve never supported recovering Native communities, or disaster relief here in the U.S., you have the opportunity to make a difference before the next emergency strikes. Donate today to support PWNA’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund and visit www.nativepartnership.org to stay informed on disasters affecting Indian Country.
Paul Newman, the late actor, founded Newman’s Own Foundation about 35 years ago. I remember watching “Cool Hand Luke” and Newman’s role as a prisoner confronting the system and wondering, “Is this ‘Luke’ role giving the world a peek into his real character?” And last month, as I prepared to attend the new Native American Nutrition Cohort established by Newman’s Own Foundation, I realized Paul Newman was just that — a revolutionary person who started a movement by selling a salad dressing and using the profits to help and inspire people to do great things.
As I thought about Mr. Newman’s legacy, images of the Native organizations, communities and people that Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) has assisted, with the support of Newman’s Own Foundation (NOF), came to mind. With the Foundation’s support, PWNA has provided resources and assistance to Native communities, increasing access to fresh food, delivering nutrition education and preserving ancestral knowledge and practices related to food. This work is more than “feel good” service; it is life changing and sometimes daunting.
According to recent data, 23% of Native households don’t have access to adequate nutrition, due to lack of money or other resources. Insufficient access to fresh and healthy food options leads to health issues. Native Americans have the highest prevalence of diabetes of any ethnic group in the U.S., and up to 50 percent of AIAN (American Indian and Alaska Native) children are overweight or obese by the time they turn 10.
On May 8, 2018, Newman’s Own Foundation kicked off the Native Nutrition Cohort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Honored to be representing PWNA, I spent two days with NOF staff and an esteemed group representing eight other organizations that are regionally and nationally recognized for their food sovereignty work in Indian Country. The welcome and blessing by Tewa Pueblo Governor Everett Chavez, meet and greet, agency presentations and discussion of topics such as health and racial equity raised awareness of the potential for this peer learning forum to have far-reaching impact on Native nutrition, as well as our work and respective organizations.
As a collective, we recognized many of us in the cohort are serving the same communities, which are addressing challenges of food insecurity and food deserts, as well as heightened socio-economic challenges, and yet we have been working in silos. Each organization shared stories of inspirational members in Native communities who are activating and expanding nutrition initiatives, yet we have not been sharing these successes and best practices with each other. As our focus turned to defining the cohort’s goals over the next three years, these threads were “weaved and braided” into our scope of work. We identified topics and areas of work for the cohort, ranging from maintaining and supporting Native ancestral practices to contemporary issues embedded in federal policy.
The first gathering of the Native American Nutrition Cohort closed with a spirit of collaboration and shared purpose. All of the cohort members are enthusiastic about taking this journey in the hopes that it leads to greater health impact, reduced food insecurity and stronger self-sufficiency in Native communities.
Along with Arizona’s 22 indigenous tribes, Arizona State Senator Jamescita Peshlakai is already planning a grand celebration for June 2, 2019. The reason for the party? This date will mark the very first Native American Day in Arizona, a holiday brought about by Jamescita herself.
Jamescita, a member of the Navajo Nation and U.S. Army veteran who served in the Gulf War, has been on a successful run of recognitions in 2018. In March of this year, she sponsored memorial actions to rename three Arizona highways after Native American veterans, legislation that passed unanimously.
Then, in April, she introduced SB 1235, which would establish June 2 as Native American Day, an official Arizona holiday. Because of the mandatory 90-day waiting period for the law to take effect, the first observance of the Native American Day holiday will take place in 2019, which should give Native communities around the state plenty of time to prepare celebrations.
Currently, only a handful of other states hold celebrations of Native American Day, including California, Nevada, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Because these observations are instituted at the state level, the exact date of celebration is not fixed. Additionally, many across the U.S. celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on and instead of Columbus Day, as a way of accurately portraying the role Native Americans play in this country’s history and society.
As more grassroots efforts are made to recognize and celebrate Native Americans, their history, and continuing contributions to our culture, more states will move to recognize sanctioned holidays that remind citizens to take a moment and reflect on our Native American citizens.
In keeping with our goal of informing readers of the news and culture affect Native American communities from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of May. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- “On a February evening, Deb Haaland, Democratic candidate for Congress in New Mexico’s first district and a member of the Turquoise clan of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, addressed a crowd of supporters packed shoulder to shoulder in a Capitol Hill brownstone. With stairs as a pulpit, Haaland rested a forearm on the bannister and leaned into her stump speech. “I am the only candidate who went to Standing Rock to stand with the Water Protectors,” Haaland said to cheers from the crowd. “There have been more than 10,000 members of Congress—but never a Native American woman.”
- “Two 500-year-old skeletons discovered in Idaho’s high desert plains will be turned over to Native American tribes. U.S. officials in a series of notices starting Friday say the remains of the young adult and child will be given to the interrelated Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in eastern Idaho and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. “We’ve always pointed out that we’ve been here for thousands of years,” Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Chairman Ted Howard said in an interview before U.S. officials announced his tribe would receive the remains. “For our tribe and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, those are the remains of our people, our ancestors. That’s how we feel.”
- “Paulette Jordan, a state senator and member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, has won the Democratic nomination for governor of Idaho. The New York Times called the race for Jordan just before 1 a.m. Eastern, with Jordan leading her Democratic opponent by around 20 percentage points. The 38-year-old Jordan was the progressive favorite in the race, while Idaho’s Democratic establishment lined up behind businessman A.J. Balukoff, who ran for governor unsuccessfully in 2014. Balukoff, a moderate who contributed to Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, ran as a pro-business candidate, while Jordan focused on populist issues, calling out state Republicans for their ties to big business interests.”
- “The Trump administration unleashed a flood of outrage earlier this month after unveiling a proposal to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. The plan would replace half the benefits people receive with boxed, nonperishable — i.e. not fresh — foods chosen by the government and not by the people eating them. Among those horrified at the thought: American Indians who recognized this as the same type of federal food assistance that tribes have historically received, with devastating implications for health.”
May 22 is National Buy a Musical Instrument Day, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon the impact of music on cultures around the world. In the past of any culture lies some point where music underscored acts and events of importance, be it drums of war or songs of marriage, birthdays, or religion. Indeed, in many societies, art such as beadwork, pottery crafting, dancing, painting, and music is a key part of life.
In the past, music was integral to Native culture and now, on the reservations, music continues to be a part of everyday life, whether it helps someone work, celebrate, or even find some solace in the hardships of their life. Music gives us something to look forward to, talk about, or share. Friends have jam sessions after school and on weekends, and groups gather to learn the traditional songs of the Lakota and help carry this tradition on to future generations. Even those among us who were never encouraged to learn our traditions or language were at least encouraged to learn our music or our arts.
PWNA has shared with me that in 2015 they supported Native youth through a group known as Teens for Music, which promotes music as a positive interest and cultural activity, and organizes workshops that teach Native youth how to play musical instruments.
As an alternative to boredom or harmful habits, learning to play a musical instrument is a positive and beneficial hobby that enriches every aspect of life. In fact, there seems to be a correlation between music and quality of life. Studies show that those who play musical instruments tend to do better in school and work, experience more happiness and productivity, and experience less stress. Programs in music (and other arts) give teens a chance to find their passion, de-stress, make friends, and hopefully be happier overall.
Personally, music became a huge passion for me after high school, and I began integrating it into my exercise, hobbies, and even sleep. It has amplified my experiences and in a way helps me store the memories of my life. Many of us in fact catalog our lives by the music we were listening to when… and songs that once meant … now hold personal experience or meaning.
It is very hard to imagine a world without songs, or melodies, or even tunes that get stuck in our heads. Music nurtures us, develops us, accompanies us, and rewards us as we journey through our lives. Surely, more programs like Teens for Music and recognitions like National Buy a Musical Instrument Day could benefit indigenous youth and other youth across the country.