Giving Back-to-School Hope for Students

The greatest gifts are generosity and hope, and we saw plenty of both through our 2016 Student Backpack Drive, raising funds and securing gift-in-kind donations for Native American students in need.

8.23.16 Giving Back-to-School Hope - AD - Backpack Draft FB (no hashtags)Yoobi (pronounced “you-be”) means “one for you, one for me.” For every Yoobi item you purchase, a Yoobi item is donated to a classroom in need, right here in the U.S. PWNA learned this, firsthand, when Yoobi donated an extensive array of school supplies through our Student Backpack Drive. Yoobi items are available at Target.

Joining in on the event, Riteline USA also donated some awesome stylus pens for use in Native classrooms.

PWNA welcomes these newest in-kind donors and appreciates their support for the students!

More than 850 individual donors also contributed, with heartfelt donations and social shares reaching out to spread the word.

Thanks to all of you for your generosity and the gift of hope that brought more than $43,000 in backpack supplies and aid, with gifts still coming in. Up to 35 percent of Native American children live below poverty level, so this support is vital to the students and their schools.

As our CEO/President Robbi Rice Dietrich shared earlier this summer, “The first day of school is a milestone event for students, and the excitement of a new school year shouldn’t be tarnished by a lack of supplies.”

The school supplies distributed by PWNA and our AIEF program help teachers ensure more children return to school this fall, setting Native American students up for success.

You made a difference – please join us in sharing this impact through your social pages! And remember, PWNA is stocking up on school supplies year-round for future distributions.


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Voting Challenges Faced by Native Americans

8.16.16 Native Voting - stock photo -13716821-vote-image-copyright---twThere is no doubt that this Presidential election is perhaps one of the most important decisions Americans are going to make this year. With the Native American population growing, individuals must be willing to register, educate themselves on the candidates and be prepared to vote this November.

However, there are challenges exclusively facing Native Americans in regards to voting laws, such as North Dakota’s new voter ID law, which requires a street address on a voter’s identification card – something old tribal IDs do not print. It’s believed that these new restrictions are part of a much broader effort by one political party to reduce turnout among Native American voters on Election Day. In fact, North Dakota is one of 17 states that have new voting restrictions in place since the last Presidential election.

Tribal members in those states are suing in order to change the laws – five federal lawsuits involving Native Americans have been filed, including three this year alone. As Americans, it’s important for all of us to have a voice, and in this case, to recognize that some of the tribes facing voting issues are in key counties where increased voter turnout has tipped the balance in recent congressional races.

It’s important we all have a voice and particularly important for the Native voice to be heard. Many Native American Elders encourage tribal members to vote for change. As of right now, more than 1 million Native Americans who are eligible to vote are unregistered voters.

The National Congress of American Indians and Native Vote 2016 are educating Native voters about the candidates and ballot measures – especially the issues central to Indian country and the need to develop Native policy platforms. Native Vote 2016 will be preparing materials to aid in these efforts, working with regional organizations and other non-profits to increase voter awareness and education efforts.

In the meantime, open the door for your voices be heard. Register to vote, encourage your friends and family to do the same.

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and with it we celebrate our culture, our identity, in hopes of improving lives socially, economically, educationally and spiritually. Established by the United Nations and dating as far back as 1994, this important day goes fairly under the radar. So, PWNA would like to take a moment to talk about it and the indigenous culture in the U.S., and bring some education into an age-old truth experienced by many in today’s society – walking in two worlds.

8.09.16-International-Day-of-Indigenous-Peoples---IMG_5195-TWMany cultures encounter this challenge: How do we practice our culture in a society that demands a large portion of our time outside of that  culture? How do we connect our culture to our daily lives?

I was raised traditionally by my father, and since my independence have had issues tying my culture to my everyday life… where I work, where I go to college to complete my formal education, and even in everyday social situations. Many of us indigenous to America know this can be a struggle, but it’s not just about our ceremonies. It’s about our outlook and the keeping of our values in our day-to-day lives.

Frankie Orona from the Borrado and Comecrudo of Texas, and the Chumash and Tongva of California, was kind enough to offer a few words on this topic.

“I have found it is very difficult at first when learning how to prioritize what’s important and critical on living and walking the spirituality and way of life of your people, versus surviving in today’s society. I was told one time by one of my elders that ‘we don’t really need all the physical ceremonies we do as Native people because we have them inside of us and were born with those teachings that come from the ceremonies already…’ I think the difference between our spiritual beliefs as Native people and the mentality of today’s society is that we are taught spiritually through teaching passed down to think of future generations… rather than today’s society teaching you must think and put yourself first without considering the consequences to others and future generations.”

As it turns out, Native Americans may carry our culture closer than we think, according to a small study done by Evergreen State College that gives a quick generalization of Native behaviors and values, including acceptance, mutualism, non-verbal orientation, and practicality, among others. Through our background, and our ancestral upbringing, it could be argued that it is an inherent part of our nature to “walk in two worlds” every day.

With so many cultures and social intersections occurring all around us, and obligations following us home through technology long after normal working hours, it can be easy to forget a simple teaching in my culture: “Mitakuye Oyasin” (we are all related), reminding us that we are intertwined with our cultures, and our devotion to each other. Let’s all be mindful of this, on this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

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137 Ways to Just Move It on the Navajo Nation

move·ment (müv-mənt)

Defined by Webster as “the act or process of moving,” on a more significant scale, movement is also a change of conditions or “the act or process of changing a situation or event…” 8.2-Just-Move-It-logo-credit-added

The original kick-off to the Navajo Nation’s Just Move It (JMI) campaign, which runs each year between May and July, dates back to 1993. This year, July 28th will mark the final event for the 2016 season, and Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) wants to extend our hearty compliments for another year of Just Move It. What began in just 20 communities with fewer than 500 participants has grown exponentially to a whopping 40,000 people in 137 communities across the Navajo Nation.

Movement is really the only way to describe the Just Move It program, which was established to combat health disparities that are facing Navajo and other indigenous communities daily. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death among American Indian/Alaska Natives and diabetes ranks fifth in the same listing. Obesity is not only impacting our adult population, but Native youth are also at risk at an alarming rate. Community efforts are necessary to effectively combat these inequities.

PWNA has been fortunate enough to support events such as Just Move It for many years, and this year we are providing incentives and supplies for more than 2,000 participants through 11 Program Partners in Arizona and New Mexico. Three tons of supplies have gone out – reaching all five agencies of the Navajo Nation. PWNA tribal partners use our supplies to help participants stay hydrated and protected in the summer heat. Water, sunscreen and lip balm are just a few examples of necessities that help those attending the Just Move It community events.

8.2.16 Just Move It - Madison Toledo1My own experience with JMI was hosted at the Red Rock Chapter near Gallup, New Mexico, several years ago. Community members of all ages were arriving to run or walk the designated path towards better health. Although the event is non-competitive, many participants came prepared to run – setting a faster pace for those wishing to challenge their cardio levels. Elders, children and families with babies in strollers were all encouraging one another, smiling and visiting as they walked. Many sported their JMI t-shirts and I even earned one for participating. Staff from the Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) and the Community Health Representative program were on hand to educate and provide important screenings for blood pressure and blood sugar levels, keeping their community members informed.

PWNA congratulates the Navajo Nation, our Program Partners and I.H.S. on closing out another year of Just Move It, and we look forward to supporting JMI as they approach their 25th anniversary and beyond. Through JMI, the Navajo Nation has successfully provided the stage (actually 137 “stages”) for individuals to actively defy the health disparities afflicting their communities. On the Navajo JMI website it challenges each person to create their own change of condition: “You can do something about your health – It’s Up to You…It is up to each of us to shape healthier lives and communities.”

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2016 Backpack Drive: Setting Native American Students Up For Success

Believe it or not, we’re already approaching Back to School season. Where did the summer go?

As families across the country head to the nearby big box store or mall with lists of items to buy – notebooks, pencils, backpacks, binders, lunch boxes – the concept of access to these important items likely doesn’t cross their minds. Oftentimes, it’s as simple as making a list and checking each item off as you shop. But for thousands of Native American students living on reservations, it’s neither simple, nor easy.

Let’s change that.

7.26.16 Backpack-landing-top-yellow-hash-tmAnnually, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) provides school supplies to aid Native American students in grade K-12. The first day of school is a milestone event, and PWNA believes the excitement of a new school year shouldn’t be tarnished by a lack of supplies.

Join our efforts as we launch our 2016 Student Backpack Drive to raise funds and secure gift-in-kind donations for 26,000 Native American students in need. We are accepting donations through August 12 to provide these students with the materials they need to succeed.

Whether you provide a monetary donation to go toward purchasing supplies, or you’re able to provide a bulk donation, such as a pallet or more of backpacks, notebooks, pencils, binders and other school supplies, you will make a difference by setting Native American students up for a successful school year. And remember, although the backpack drive ends August 12 — in time to meet school schedules — the need to replenish school supplies continues year-round.

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2015 Annual Report: Serving Immediate Needs and Supporting Long-Term Solutions

2015 Annual Report - cover imagePartnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is committed to championing hope for a brighter future for Native Americans living on remote and often isolated reservations. Collaborating with our partners in more than 300 tribal communities, we work hard every day toward our vision of strong, self-sufficient Native American communities. We believe the people who live and work in the communities PWNA serves have the solutions to the problems that challenge their quality of life. PWNA’s role is to provide resources and support to these community driven efforts toward lasting change.

In fact, more than 1,000 reservation-based programs know they can count on PWNA as a consistent, reliable resource. Our services are available year-round to address critical needs related to education, health, food and water, emergency relief, holiday support and animal welfare on 60 reservations. PWNA is committed to providing high-quality, useful products, services and grants that reservation partners specifically request to enhance their programs or meet pressing needs in their communities. A sampling of PWNA’s support, which aims at both immediate needs and long-term solutions, includes:

  • School Supplies: In 2015, PWNA partners at 82 schools continued to request school supplies for more than 25,000 Native American students. As more students realized the reality of graduating high school, PWNA supported higher education for 306 students through scholarships, emergency funds and tools such as laptop computers.
  • Emergency Relief: In 2015, PWNA provided 104,804 pounds of safe drinking water for 14,352 people. We also provided critical supplies to residential shelters for the aged, homeless, disabled and domestic abuse victims, as well as children in trauma.
  • Community Gardens: Wanting to embody traditional and cultural ways to unite the community, the Red Paint Creek Community Council sought to build a high-tunnel garden to support self-sufficiency and healthier lifestyles on the reservation. PWNA funded the supplies to construct the garden and get the project off the ground. More than 170 residents participated, donating 1,000 hours to tilling, planting, maintaining and harvesting the garden. This is one of many community gardens PWNA supported in 2015.
  • Youth Development: In 2015, with PWNA support, Hopi Residential Youth Development enhanced an existing playground to promote health and wellness, adding benches and four trees, as well as pavers (enclosures) to keep sand and wood chips off the playground. This project is continuing to evolve, with the next phase being a basketball court, soccer field and gardening project for the 675 students who have access to the area.
  •  Animal Welfare: In 2015, PWNA provided food and other supplies for nearly 80,000 dogs and cats under the care of our animal welfare partners, and awarded a grant to support spay/neuter services through the McKinley Gallup Humane Society in New Mexico. These partners rescue, rehabilitate and place injured or stray animals in foster care or forever homes, ensuring the well-being of animals and healthy, safe communities. They also educate communities on proper animal care.

This and so much more was accomplished in 2015. None of this could have been possible without our in-kind donors, individual contributors and community investors, or our tribal partners who collaborated with PWNA. Together, we addressed critical supply needs in underserved tribal communities and enhanced community-led initiatives focused on nutrition and health, youth development and emergency preparedness. We want to thank all of you for your generosity and dedication to PWNA’s mission. To read more about PWNA’s impact in 2015, take a look at the full report here.

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Four Directions: Help the People, Help the Tribe

In supporting long-term gains for tribal communities, a key initiative offered by Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is our Four Directions Development training (4D). Through 4D, we are building capacity among grassroots leaders who want to make a greater contribution to their tribal communities. We developed this training as a direct result of feedback from our reservation program partners, and here’s what one participant has to say about it:4D, Help the People, Help the Tribe - Christy Sangster-Begay IMG_9461_cropped

“As a participant of the first Southwest cohort of the Four Directions leadership development program provided by Partnership with Native Americans, I was able to learn and apply various skills needed to work with the people on the reservation.

For instance, I learned that, in order for people to work together, there must be a positive atmosphere and everyone must have a purpose in the project. I also had the opportunity to become aware of issues that take place on the reservation. One that stood out was “lateral violence,” which is the hurt and manipulation that people do to one another within a community for personal gain. Lateral violence exists on the reservation and is not tolerated in most work places in San Carlos.

I learned a lot from Vicki, my cohort “Key” (mentor), a leader within her own community and someone who knows what it’s like to work for the people. Vicki was able to coach me though developing a small after-school program within my community. Her approach and insight was invaluable, and my organizational skills and thinking have improved noticeably thanks to her techniques.

Using what I learned through 4D and Vicki, I was able to co-organize a new and active community group, “The Ni’gosdza’n Project” (TNP) on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The project’s purpose is to provide the community with the education and information to live a sustainable lifestyle. While living in this digital world, TNP is about reconnecting the people to the land.

Through TNP, we are currently working after school with students from the Twin Mesquite Community. They are learning about recycling, zero waste, gardening and healthy physical activities, which is the Apache Way of Life.

The skills I discovered and strengthened in 4D helped make the TNP program possible and are impacting the youth in my community. Thanks, PWNA!”
— Christy Sangster-Begay

In 2015, 42 people actively participated in 4D, each one identifying and achieving both personal and professional development goals. We wish Christy and our other 4D grads great success in applying their new skills to future endeavors!

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Animal Welfare in the Summer Heat

Summer is here! In recent years, the summer temps have only been rising. While we can be indoors in the comfort of air conditioning, some of our furry friends are not so fortunate – especially animals of the reservations we serve.

PWNA partners care about quality of life on the reservations and this includes our four legged friends! Through our animal welfare program, Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR), we collaborate with tribal partners to help hungry and injured animals, and alleviate their hardships. Recently, PWNA and RAR received recognition from BlogPaws at their annual conference, which this year was held in Phoenix, Arizona.

7.12.16 Animal Welfare in the Summer - Caring-for-our-Four-Leggeds---ROAR-NA-McKinley-Humane-Society-2015-(29)-smA global community connecting pet parents and pet brands for the good of all pets, BlogPaws has shown a tremendous interest in our work and supported RAR in our endeavors toward animal welfare. At the conference, BlogPaws made a helpful donation of $2000, and many vendors at their conference made their own contributions by giving more than eight pallets of products, including food, toys and other supplies we will distribute to our RAR partners across 10 reservations in the U.S. You can learn more about the BlogPaws conference and RAR in this article by Christy Caplan.

Speaking of Christy, we would like to join her in reminding readers you can do your part to help pets. Heat stroke is a risk over the summer, especially to outside animals, and it’s good to remember what your dog or cat looks like at its comfortable “baseline” temperature. Christy shares tips on recognizing heat stroke, and what to do about it. A few of the warning signs to watch for include:

  • Nausea and panting
  • Wobbliness or weakness
  • Increased salivation or heart rate

If symptoms continue after attempts to cool the animal, a vet may be in order. Icing the animal should be avoided.  The Humane Society adds these helpful tips for animal care on hot days:

  • Limit exercise to prevent overheating.
  • Never leave animals in a vehicle unless the air conditioner is running.
  • If kept outside, ensure animals can access adequate shade and water.
  • Consider a homemade treat like peanut butter pupsicles for dogs!

As you enjoy the summer, please keep your pets in mind and strive to keep them as comfortable as you and your other family members.

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PWNA receives a Grant from the Walmart Foundation for Nutritional Impact in Native American Communities

Today, we’re excited to announce that Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) has received a $258,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to help fund programs that support nutrition and healthier living on the reservations PWNA assists across the country.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe grant will be used to address the critical needs of Native Americans who suffer from the highest poverty rates in the U.S., yet receive less than one percent of the nation’s charitable giving. Funds will support enhanced food distribution, nutritional education, community garden projects, cooking and canning training and a mobile nutrition and training unit for tribal communities in the Southwest region where PWNA currently provides other services.

PWNA sought the grant from the Walmart Foundation to advance a variety of essential nutrition services that will help improve health through higher quality foods and training. The funding will support – and expand – existing services offered by PWNA through its regional offices in Phoenix and Rapid City, S.D. PWNA transports food and supplies from these locations to remote tribal communities in the Northern Plains and Southwest regions of the country, every week, and funds community investment projects to increase food sovereignty.

Specifically, PWNA will use the Walmart Foundation grant to:

  • Provide thousands of children nutritious snack and juice service through food pantries
  • Distribute emergency food supplies for thousands of people through food pantries
  • Provide fresh produce distributions at eight Elder Nutrition Centers
  • Support ten community garden projects and provide garden training
  • Conduct canning and healthy cooking training in 15 communities
  • Equip a mobile nutrition and training unit for use in Southwest communities

PWNA CEO Robbi Rice Dietrich added, “We expect to increase availability of healthier food options through this grant by providing additional resources and funds to support new and existing community gardens. By working through food pantries and other partners, we hope to learn more about the community assets and resources available to sustain these projects beyond the life of the grant period.”

“The Walmart Foundation is pleased to support the efforts of PWNA to improve the diets in Native communities and increase the knowledge and availability of healthy foods,” said Carol May, Program Manager for the Walmart Foundation. “Helping improve the health of Native peoples through better nutrition is something with which we are proud to help PWNA.”

7.05.16 Walmart Announcement - NPRA-Grow-Gardens-Wanblee-Donovan n Jaren Jr-1 2016Many of the Native American youth and the elderly who live in communities served by PWNA reside in food deserts. This contributes to poor diets, health issues and lack of awareness of proper nutrition and food choices. The Walmart Foundation grant will encourage and empower elders and youth to improve their nutrition and eating habits. For more information follow up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit our website

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The Buffalo Takes Its Place in History Again

From near extinction centuries ago, the buffalo now makes another mark on history as President Obama declares it the United States National Mammal. Signing in new legislation on May 9 that established the historic animal as a national symbol, the American Bison now takes its rightful place alongside the American Bald Eagle – both valued in Native American culture.

This is a major milestone for the iconic and ever-important buffalo, known to some tribes as tatanka. Considering its history and its significance especially to Plains tribe, we’re taking this opportunity to provide some historical context for you, starting with this bison timeline:

6.28.16 Bison timeline

More than 200 years ago, a move to have the bison recognized as a national animal would have been unsupported. Herds once estimated at up to 60 million or more animals plummeted in 1884, to as low as 328 bison in the wild. The near extinction of the buffalo was the culmination of hide trading, hunting, and even intentional slaughter to put pressure on the tribes, as well as loss of natural habitat due to westward expansion. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that by 1872, up to 5,000 bison were being killed each day. George Catlin, an American painter and traveler once stated that 150,000 to 200,000 robes were sold a year, equating to the slaughter of more than 2 million bison a year for the hides to make these robes. He expected bison would become extinct by 1840.

This would prove to be an issue to many Native American cultures, specifically in the Plains region of the United States. Many of these tribes relied on the buffalo to fulfill a range of needs such as food, clothing, warmth and tools like eating utensils, weapons and water containers. In Sioux culture, the buffalo was a symbol of both strength and fertility. It was hunted regularly for its materials – yet the tribes never hunted more than they needed for survival. The near extinction of this unique animal put strain on Plains tribes to relocate away from their ancestral grounds toward less occupied areas and eventually contributed to their relocation to Indian reserves.

6.28.16 Bison - NRC-St Labre Buffalo Ranch-2011 (40)The buffalo only started to recover after protection laws were put into place in 1894 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Secretary of the American Bison Society in 1919 released a statement saying there were 2,048 bison protected by the United States in Yellowstone and other reserves, and the Canadian government had roughly 4,250 under protection, bringing the total captive bison to nearly 6,300 – compared to the mere 1,000 reported in existence in 1889. This was the first glimpse of recovery for the bison and it would slowly improve as the number placed in nature reserves allowed them to thrive.

Today, half a million bison inhabit the U.S., some wild, some semi-domesticated and cross-bred, and all all positively hopeful and unexpected. While the bison may never again number the masses they once did, their population growth over the last 100 years is a testament to their resiliency and place in history as the United States National Mammal.

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