Show Native American Kids Your Generosity this #GivingTuesday

The holiday shopping rush is on, but don’t’ forget: #GivingTuesday is tomorrow, November 28. It’s your once-a-year chance to profoundly boost your favorite nonprofits and causes! The economy this year seems uncertain, but generosity is abundant. That’s a blessing for so many like the Native American children who need new coats this year.

That’s right. Here at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), our #GivingTuesday goal is coats for kids! With your support, we aim to give new winter coats to 2,800 Native children in kindergarten through grade 6.

Remember Native Americans

A 2019 study by the Brookings Institute shows poverty rates among American Indian and Alaska Native children have consistently exceeded 40% for almost the past 30 years. In fact, Native American children are three times as likely as Whites to live in deep poverty (i.e., family income less than 50 percent of the poverty threshold).

Just $35 can provide a warm, new coat for an Indigenous child. This can be an enormous relief for the many families who are struggling financially in remote reservation communities.

And that’s not all… Right along with you, Joshua Arce, our President & CEO, will match your #GivingTuesday donations dollar for dollar up to $10,000. The deadline to donate is 11:59 PM on November 28, 2023.

Spread the Word This #GivingTuesday

Now recognized globally as a day of “doing good,” Giving Tuesday reminds us of the joy of giving and how rallying together creates a bigger impact. Everyone has something to give, and we hope you will join us. Learn more on our landing page and donate here:

After you donate, don’t be shy about sharing your generosity online. Although some of you like to keep giving private, you can be a force for good by inspiring others to give as well. Together, we can make 2023 a year Native American children will remember.

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Elevating Native Truths for Native American Heritage Month

Much about Native history, culture and traditions are unknown to non-Natives. But one thing many people do know is that Native Americans honor their ancestors and take history very seriously. And while we celebrate Native culture every day at PWNA, we’re making an extra special effort to elevate Native voices and history in November, Native American Heritage Month (#NAHM). 

“It takes 1,000 voices to tell a single story.” This is a Native proverb and one that is spot on. For example, modern day teachings of Thanksgiving weave a tale of friendly Englishmen who invited Native Americans to share a meal after the English sailed into Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower. But the inaccuracies, just in that one sentence, are astonishing. That’s why it’s so important to share real Native history and stories.

About the First Thanksgiving

Did you know the English did not even land on Plymouth Rock? The first recorded history of Plymouth Rock was not until 1715. That was some 95 years after the Mayflower landed in what was actually Cape Cod in 1620. In fact, the only true parts of the Thanksgiving tale are as follows:

  • The English did celebrate their first successful harvest with a day of thanks.
  • The Wampanoag did show up, but it was not because they were invited; it was out of concern after hearing gunshots.
  • Fowl was eaten during the meal, although there is no mention of turkey in any of the first-hand or historic accounts.

Become More NativeAware

We encourage all of you to take this time to become more NativeAware™. This Heritage Month, learn not only about the real story of the first Thanksgiving, but also the aftermath. It is still impacting Indian Country today in the form of economic and social injustice.

Accurate Native stories is something PWNA fights for and educates around. But as you read, it takes all of us to get those stories out there. Everyone from Hollywood producers to Native leaders and everyone in between can make a difference by sharing accurate Native history, culture and heritage. Follow our Heritage Month page all month to learn, share, and receive offers for downloads, Native-made giveaways and merchandise. And please, remember to donate!

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Did You Know About the New PBS “Native America” Series?

Native Americans have a long history of being misrepresented. So, as our CEO Joshua Arce says, “when a movie or show airs that tells our real stories, we do what we can to ensure it gets in front of as many people as possible.” In this case, it means sponsoring PBS’s Native America series to help raise awareness.

Few people know that systemic oppression continues to limit food and water insecurity, healthcare and education for the tribes. Meanwhile, less than one percent of U.S. charitable giving supports Native causes.

Despite these barriers, Native engineers, politicians, artists and educators are building a brighter future. The Native America series gives them a platform to tell their stories and share thousands of years of knowledge. Honoring of Indigenous culture and history, the series offers an extraordinary glimpse into Indian Country just as we approach Native American Heritage Month.

Native Contributions Continue

Over the centuries, Native Americans have and are making significant contributions to western society and the world. For instance, Native Americans have the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group. Congress acknowledges the Iroquois Confederacy influenced the U.S. Constitution. Actors like Wes Studi and Tantoo Cardinal and athletes like Billy Mills make lasting impressions. Native Americans are contributing to space, conservation, music, art, food, dry farming and more. Each new, hour-long episode of Native America reveals how Indigenous innovations continue, all the while still honoring beliefs and traditions.

The second season of Native America airs October 24 through November 17 at 9:00 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS App.  You may also want to visit PBS for more info, clips, extended trailers and the Native Voices blog.

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Being a Purpose-Driven Leader in a Native Nonprofit

When preparing to write this blog, I did a little research on the meaning behind purpose-driven leadership and found that Harvard Business Review narrows it down to 5 principles: clarity of purpose, role and whom you serve, value and authenticity. As CEO of one of the largest Native-led nonprofits, I considered these principles, any purpose-driven leaders I could identify and what within myself aligns to these principles.

For instance, I have always wanted to leave things better than I found them. As consummate coach, I really want to help people learn and evolve. I surround myself with people that are smarter than me. To me, being bold and transformative is awesome. I think leading from the front is important, but listening to the back is too. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

Next, here are my takeaways from Harvard’s principles of purposeful leadership.

What is your purpose?

Leadership is hard, but having a clear purpose can help lower some of the anxiety that goes along with being in a leadership role. As the Harvard article points out, trying to be a know-it-all or the smartest-person-in-the-room does not equate to good leadership. In fact, it can create an overly competitive and toxic environment. Being clear about your purpose, building up others and creating a collaborative environment will produce a healthier outcome.

What is your role?

When entering an organization as a new leader, clarity about your role can be illusive, murky or shifting. Sure, every organization has defined roles and responsibilities, guidelines or guardrails for their leader. However, when charting a different course and resurrecting teams to prominence, you may find yourself wearing completely different hats such as counselor, assessor, arbiter, evaluator, strategic planner and final decision maker.

Whom do you serve?

I love this question, because when I think of PWNA, I know exactly whom I serve. I serve the Tribal communities we partner with, the students to whom we award scholarships, the beneficiaries of our relief services, and the donors and staff that make it all happen. My experience at PWNA and prior experience working with Native students across the U.S. contribute to my certainty around service. The Tribal communities where we work are not abstract places to me, I’ve been there, experienced them firsthand and know people who live there. Serving Indian Country is my passion, and I try to convey that message to my team every chance I get. PWNA has so many great people working behind the scenes, I always try to recognize them for their dedication and hard work.

What values drive you?

I believe values are important not only to leadership but because they also determine how you are outside of work and within your community. Do you live by honesty, integrity and compassion when the camera is off? Are you truthful, dependable and accountable beyond the four walls of the office? Do you live by these values or merely project what’s expected? Living with integrity means your thoughts, words and actions are aligned to your values.

Are you being authentic?

One thing I have learned is that I can only be me, and I consistently try to be the best version of myself. Understanding your truth, your authenticity and your values is something that comes with life experience. For a long time, I did not know my self-worth, and I did not think I could bring much value to an organization. But after 20 years of work and life experiences, 15 years of recovery and countless failures/rejections/denials, I have learned some better ways to be and live, and that includes being authentic and vulnerable.

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The 562 Project: Seeing Native America Differently

October is National Arts & Humanities Month and a great time to check out some incredibly talented Native artists that have dedicated their life to their craft. Oral history and passing down our truth through the generations is a tradition among Native Americans. Art is another form of passing down truth, whether through photography, painting, pottery or other forms of expression and sharing.

Makita Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip), a Native photographer and author, has done so much in the spirit of educating those who view her work. Her collection – titled Project 562 – was done in honor of the 562 federally recognized tribes at the start of her journey. In 2012, she packed up her life in Washington and drove cross-country in an RV, traveling 600,000 miles and visiting more than 400 tribal nations. Her goal was to portray Native cultures and people as they are today.

Finally this year, she published her book titled 562 Project: Changing the Way We See Native America, a New York Times bestseller. In an article for The New York Times Wilbur states, “In the beginning, the work was very much about overcoming stereotypes of the leathered and feathered Indian. How do we help people to realize that Native America is complex, that everywhere we are is Native land, that there is a Native identity that is always around you, if you choose to listen and engage? It was certainly about that.”

What’s in the 562 Project?

In her collection, viewers will find stunning images of Native families and individuals. They range from a young boy of the Colville Tribe in Washington playing an electric guitar to Fawn Douglas (Las Vegas Paiute) wearing a traditional Jingle Dress in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that her grandfather helped fabricate. To us, Wilbur’s work is the epitome of the intersection between art and humanity. It’s also a great way to gain insights into the many cultures of Indigenous peoples.

Becoming More NativeAware™

One of our main goals at Partnership With Native Americans is to inform and guide people to become more NativeAware™. We are so thankful for those that do what they can to expand awareness through art and change the narrative. We encourage you all to explore Makita Wilbur’s “Project 562” and learn more about other artists who excel at their craft, such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (French-Cree, Shoshone and Salish) and Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota).

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How to Remember Native Americans This North Texas Giving Day

With North Texas Giving Day around the corner, we are reminded of the impact a strong community can have when everyone finds their passion, works together and gives with purpose. What are you passionate about?

At PWNA, we are passionate about helping Tribal communities become strong and self-sufficient. Unfortunately, few people are aware of the economic, educational and systemic challenges Native people face every day. But living with hardship has forced countless Native Americans to become resilient problem-solvers, and who better to address the issues than those actually facing them? That’s why we encourage your support for the Native students of North Texas!

Education is a cornerstone of economic mobility. Yet only 16% of Native Americans hold a college degree compared to 40% of their White peers. Our education services focus on retention of Native students and provide them with scholarships, welcome packs, spring care packs, laptops, mentoring and holiday care packages.

No student should miss out on college. Every student deserves access to education that helps them become catalysts for change and a brighter future. This September 21, we invite you to join us in helping Native students become the next generation of leaders. To help change a life, visit PWNA’s North Texas Giving Day page and donate.

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What is Food Sovereignty and Why is it Important to Tribes?

Put simply, food sovereignty is the right of a community to identify and control how their food is produced and distributed, and this includes the quantity and quality of what they are consuming. Often, people think food sovereignty is the assurance we have enough food to meet our physical needs, but it goes far beyond that. In fact, the food sovereignty movement dates back many years between farmers, fishermen, Indigenous peoples and those most impacted by the ongoing struggles between control over land, sea and livestock. September is Hunger Action Month, giving us the perfect platform to shed light on why food sovereignty is so important to tribes.

Factors behind food insecurity for tribes

Twenty-three percent (23%) of Native American families suffer from food insecurity today – the highest rate of any group in the U.S. This is due to many factors like climate change, droughts, natural disasters, a lack of government responsibility and more, but something often overlooked is the lack of food sovereignty for Tribes on remote reservations.

For most people, going to a grocery store and picking out your favorite items is a mundane task. You have endless options for flavors, calorie count, gluten-free, fresh or frozen, and more – all to say, the choice is yours. But, for many Native Americans, the nearest grocery store is an hour or more away; tribal lands are often food deserts devoid of healthy, fresh produce; and stressed budgets leave them turning to foods that provide volume over nutritional quality. It is because of this lack of control over our food system that nutrition-related health issues like diabetes run rampant among Native peoples. It is also why many Tribal communities are turning to gardening as a solution.

Moving tribal food sovereignty from concept to reality

Alongside Hunger Action Month, September is also National Emergency Preparedness Month. Earlier this year, PWNA partnered with Feeding America to launch the Natives Prepared Project, which will help recover traditional foodways and help tribes prepare for natural disasters, food access during disasters, and other hurdles that get in the way of providing a healthy diet to their families.  

This initiative has shown us the complex intricacies of working in Tribal communities, innovative solutions they are creating and the level of impact that adequate funding can provide in moving concept to reality. Feeding America is leading the way with their financial support, and the outcomes of the Natives Prepared Project will be truly transformative. I am hopeful other organizations will follow their lead and forge future partnerships for the betterment, advancement and deployment of food sovereignty initiatives in Indian Country.

To learn more about Native American food sovereignty or donate to help recover healthy, traditional food ways, please click here.

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Oppenheimer Overlooks Native Americans

Native Americans have been on the frontline of U.S. history from the beginning. This country is so intertwined with Native issues that stories can hardly be told without a thread of impact to Indian Country. But “Oppenheimer” missed the opportunity.

Native American thought leader on "Oppenheimer"

I like Cillian Murphy as an actor and am sure he helped “Oppenheimer” become one of the top grossing WWII biopic films domestically. It’s a boost the film industry needs amid their writer and actor strikes. Unfortunately, the film leaves out some greater truths, the American legacy of developing the first atomic weapon and the role of Native Americans.

The impact of mining for enough uranium to create the atomic bomb is well documented. In fact, the movie was released just five days after the 44th anniversary of the Church Rock uranium spill. That one spill poured 94 million gallons of radioactive waste into the Pureco River. Radioactivity was 7,000 times above the level deemed safe for drinking water. This substantially impacted Arizona, New Mexico and 14 areas around Church Rock – a chapter of the Navajo Nation – and is still poisoning Navajo lands 44 years later.

Uranium Mining on Native American Lands

Few people realize just how much uranium mining has been done on Indian lands. Even today, tribal citizens have a high incidence of radioactive exposure, health/birth defects, and cancer correlated to mining site contamination. Since the 1940’s, the mining companies and Federal government have done little to clean up, protect or compensate Tribal communities from exposure to the tailings left behind.

The Yakima, Colville, Nez Perce, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Kalispell, Umatilla, Klickitat, Havasupai, Paiute, Navajo, Hopi, Western Shoshone, Oglala Lakota and Cherokee all have been harmed by mining. It has a long-lasting impact on the environment, the ecosystem and Native families.

Every Native Family Has a Story

It’s rare to find a Native family that mining hasn’t impacted. For my family, it’s my wife’s second cousin, Bobby McKelvey (Cherokee). He was in Utah during the original atomic bomb testing by J. Robert Oppenheimer. After having served our country in the Navy, Bobby developed brain cancer. He received the limited medical treatment available and was sent home to die. Bobby was only 23.

When sharing their Hollywood story, my hope is that the makers of “Oppenheimer” can find space for some Native American context and help America become more Native Aware™.

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Real Native History Won’t Be Taught in Schools This Year

Children across the country are heading back to school early this year. They’ll see their friends, sport new clothes and backpacks, meet new teachers and learn new subjects. But one thing most kids won’t learn is real Native American history. They will learn history from a non-Native perspective, and the history that shaped the conditions facing tribes today will be omitted.

Just ask your kids this: Why did the U.S. government establish Indian reservations? Most likely, they won’t know the answer… that the U.S. wanted to rid the country of its “Indian problem” and open Native lands to settlers. So, President Andrew Jackson signed The Indian Removal Act in 1830. This ushered in a forced displacement of tribes from their ancestral homelands – far away to regions “reserved” only for Indians – thus, the term reservations. The tribes relocated peacefully to protect their women and children. The problem is, the 500+ treaties they signed were then broken by the U.S. government. The settlers kept expanding westward, so the government took most of the reservation lands too, relocating the tribes once again to even less-desirable lands. Overall, the land once “reserved” for tribes shrunk to just 2.3% of the land originally promised by the United States.  

Here’s another question for your kids: How did the U.S. decide where to locate the reservations? The answer… the U.S. put reservations in areas it regarded as unfit for settlers – unsuitable for agriculture and isolated from towns, transportation and the growing economy. These barren reservation lands play a major role in the food insecurity that affects 1 in 4 Native families today.

Act Now:  Take our History Quiz to unravel misconceptions about
the “free ride” and funding for Native Americans.

Speaking of schools:  What happened with the Indian boarding schools? The U.S. government ran Indian boarding schools under the motto “Kill the Indian, Save the man.” In short, they wanted Native kids to be like them. The U.S. government forcibly removed children from their families, and when families refused, food rations were withheld. Boarding school leaders abused Native children, forbidding them from speaking their language or wearing traditional clothing, cutting off their braids and using them for slave labor. If you’ve followed the news these past two years, you know many of these kids were never seen by their families again, and many graves have been discovered at Indian boarding schools.

Here’s one last question for your kids: If you were to visit a reservation today, what would you see? They might say teepees or Indians with long hair or even ponies. Some of that still exists, but reservations today are both traditional and modern communities. So, you would see proud people focusing on family and preserving their culture and traditions, which are unique to each tribe. There are 574 tribes with federal recognition in the U.S. and hundreds more that are state-recognized or not recognized at all. At the same time, in the reservation communities PWNA serves, poverty is the norm. It’s visibly difficult to see. But symptoms like these make it clear: a lack of infrastructure (clean drinking water, internet), lack of access (jobs, grocery stores, retail shopping), and modest or substandard homes.

Without local stores, many Native kids have a tough time getting school supplies too, and the first day of school will look different for them. So, as you send your kids off to school this month, instill in them a willingness to become more NativeAware™. To support Native kids for back to school, please donate today.  

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Increasing Food Security with Olo for Good & Tides Foundation

The need for access to healthy food and clean drinking water on remote reservations cannot be overstated. Thanks to a generous gift of $150,000 from Olo For Good (Olo) and Tides Foundation (Tides), PWNA will increase food security in marginalized reservation communities across the U.S.

The defining characteristic of food insecurity is reduced food intake and disruption of normal eating patterns due to lack of money and other resources. This happens periodically to 23% of Native American families. With water insecurity, the overriding issue is the absence of adequate government funding to make good on treaty obligations. This leaves about 10% of Native Americans without access to safe tap water, hauling water to their homes and rationing it for daily use.

About Olo and Tides

Olo is part of the Pledge 1% movement, committing one percent of their time, product and equity to sustainable social impact. Olo first teamed up with PWNA in 2022 to distribute fresh produce and ancestral foods on the reservations. These traditional foods like bison, mutton, squash, corn and beans are healthy and preserve a cultural connection. Tides Foundation partners to help nonprofits accelerate the pace of social change and social justice. All of us at PWNA are ever grateful for their care and support to improve quality of life in Indian Country.

Act Now:  Help PWNA deliver more food and water to the reservations and build skills for self-reliance.

Using the Gift

PWNA will use their gift for immediate relief and skill-building. After we distribute ancestral foods to residents, Native chefs will host demonstrations using similar foods. This will leave behind the knowledge and skills to prepare healthy traditional meals and embrace food as medicine. Funding some food-related Community Investment Projects (CIPs) will also create a sustainable impact in Tribal communities. Projects such as food preservation training and gardening increase access to healthy foods and help address health disparities like diabetes.

Native Americans are in a constant battle against food insecurity, so we are carefully selecting the communities to be served.

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