Partnership With Native Americans is working with several new organizations and individuals who are helping to support our COVID-19 relief efforts for Native Americans tribes. With high infection rates now in many tribal communities, nutrition is more important than ever to boost immune systems, especially among Elders.
Kate Farms, a plant-based, organic medical nutrition company recently provided 10,000 meal replacement shakes to PWNA for Elders of Navajo and other Southwest tribes impacted by COVID-19, as part of its 250,000-meal commitment to serving those most in need. We spoke with John Hommeyer, Chief Experience Officer at Kate Farms, to discuss more about their nutritional products and the positive impact they hope to make for communities in need.
Can you tell us more about Kate Farms and the power of food for better health?
Kate Farms was founded on the value of bringing nutrition to those most at risk, thanks to loving parents who were determined to save their daughter Kate who was born with cerebral palsy. Kate was failing to thrive because she could not tolerate the available tube-feeding formulas, so out of desperation, her parents developed a plant-based formula without any common allergens. Kate, who is a thriving 13-year old now, is the perfect example of how the power of food, and more importantly nutrition, leads to better health and in turn improves quality of life.
At Kate Farms, we believe good nutrition is medicine and our meal replacement shakes help restore and support health, deliver necessary nutrients and vitamins and boost overall immunity. In fact, Kate Farms is the no. 1 recommended plant-based beverage prescribed to deliver vital medical nutrition to people with chronic diseases and the general population. Now, Kate Farms is continuing our mission to deliver nutrition to those most in need from coast to coast.
Why did Kate Farms decide to help Native Americans during the pandemic?
We feel compelled to act in these tough times – it’s who we are at Kate Farms. With the advent of COVID-19, we know that those most-at risk are seniors, and even prior to this pandemic we understood the food insecurities facing the Native American communities. This is why we wanted to distribute our plant-based meal replacement shakes to Elders of the Navajo Nation and other Southwest tribes impacted by COVID-19, as part of our commitment to serve 250,000 meals to those most in need.
Why did you choose PWNA to distribute your products to the reservations in need?
We are grateful for our relationship with Partnership With Native Americans and for the chance to continue our mission to deliver high quality, plant-based medical nutrition. We looked for partners who had the infrastructure and experience to quickly and efficiently deliver food, so it made perfect sense to work with PWNA and put our nutritional meals directly in the hands of those who can ensure they reach Native communities, and more specifically, Native Elders. It’s a privilege to work with an organization that has dedicated its full force to improving the lives of Native Americans.
What makes these meal replacement shakes ideal for Native American Elders?
Kate Farms produces plant-based, organic and clinically-proven nutritional formulas with none of the major allergens – such as soy, dairy and corn – that many traditional formulas contain. Kate Farms is made of easily digestible yellow pea protein, prebiotics from organic agave inulin and a clinically effective phytonutrient blend that delivers antioxidants. Our products taste great and are good for those with diabetes and a low glycemic index. Kate Farms is on formulary with many of the leading adult hospital systems and provides delicious nutrients to our senior community across the country.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to make sure those most at-risk are getting the nutrition they need through Kate Farms. We are focused on three main populations during COVID-19: seniors, front-line healthcare workers, and those without access to quality healthcare and nutrition. And we are so inspired by the efforts of so many volunteers who are right there with us in helping those in need. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Kate Farms is donating more than 250,000 complete meals to those most at risk, which is equivalent to $1 million dollars in plant-based formulas. Our donation supports the pandemic relief efforts of PWNA, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Meals on Wheels and The Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn, with the goal of getting nutrition directly into the hands of those impacted, including the elderly.
Our nation is experiencing a pivotal moment in history as people across the country stand up against the injustices that communities of color continue to endure. We’re sharing a compilation of news from the month of June around the related challenges Native Americans are facing today, from coronavirus to the 2020 presidential election. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.
- “Federal and state health agencies are refusing to give Native American tribes and organizations representing them access to data showing how the coronavirus is spreading around their lands, potentially widening health disparities and frustrating tribal leaders already ill-equipped to contain the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has turned down tribal epidemiologists’ requests for data that it’s making freely available to states. Authorities in Michigan and Massachusetts since early spring have also resisted handing over information on testing and confirmed cases, citing privacy concerns, and refused to strike agreements with tribes on contact tracing or other surveillance, eight tribal leaders and health experts told POLITICO. In some instances, officials questioned tribes’ legal standing as sovereign entities.”
- “As the coronavirus has ravaged the country, killing 100,000 Americans and leaving 40 million without jobs, states are beginning to consider voting by mail as a safer alternative to in-person voting. However, while voting by mail may make it easier for some voters to cast their ballots, it isn’t a universal solution. For Native Americans living on reservations, implementing vote-by-mail policies could actually create barriers to voting. Many Native Americans living on reservations have ‘nontraditional addresses,’ meaning that they do not receive mail to their houses but instead get it from a P.O. box. Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, said that it was more likely for people living on tribal lands to have ‘descriptive addresses’ like ‘last house on the left,’ instead of a specific address like ‘123 Main Street.’”
- “The U.S. is home to 574 federally recognized tribes with approximately 6.9 million Native Americans and Alaska Native citizens. But despite their population size and their vast and thriving communities, Natives often suffer problems silently, invisibly, without the benefit of public outcry or media attention. Their problems can no longer remain in the dark: American Indians and Alaska Natives are facing a crisis of their own going missing or being murdered. Our government is finally beginning to tackle the issue. The next step is for all Americans to join in on the efforts to end this ongoing tragedy.”
- “Native American tribal nations are imposing stricter lockdown and social-distancing measures than their neighboring states, creating tensions with both governors and the federal government. Many Native American leaders are worried that the recent surge in cases could disproportionately impact tribal members, just as they did in April and May. In response, some tribal governments have exercised their sovereignty to reinstate lockdowns and travel bans as neighboring states move in the opposite direction. ‘It’s a greater challenge for us to deal with knowing that just right across the borders, everyone else is doing things different,’ Cheyenne River Sioux chairman Harold Frazier told The Hill.”
- “Nestlé is rebranding its Red Skins and Chicos sweets, saying that their controversial names — which feature offensive racial overtones — are ‘out of step’ with the company’s values. The products, which are sold in Australia, have prompted complaints for several years. Allen’s, the Nestlé (NSRGF) brand that produces the sweets, said in a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday that the decision to rename the products was made to avoid marginalizing its friends, neighbors and colleagues.”
The term “pow wow” comes from the Algonquian native language group and most closely translates to “meeting.” Pow wows were originally a way for traders to gather and sell goods, and in doing so, they often employed Native American dancers. However, while today’s pow wows still play a role in local economies, they have become popular among tribes for other reasons.
Pow wows serve as a reminder of the beauty in our traditions and cultures. Dancing is a form of prayer and a way of life for many tribes. I was taught that dancing is the highest form of prayer. It’s also inspired by different sources, such as hunting and gathering, camping, tracking, respecting animals and their worth, and more. All these dances hold different meanings for those who dance and pow wows serve as a cultural celebration that brings levity to hard times and connects us with past and future generations through tradition.
Unfortunately, pow wows are currently a cause for concern as tribal communities continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and worry about the risk to Native American health. This year, we’ve had to ask ourselves a hard question: Are pow wows, sun dances and other traditional gatherings more important than the health of our communities?
Many tribes are canceling pow wows, cultural ceremonies and other events to protect the very lives of those who celebrate them. And as tribes continue to be impacted by the spread of COVID-19, the lack of celebration and continued risk for Elders is taking a heavy toll on traditional customs and culture.
The Navajo Nation, for example, has the highest per capita infection rate in the country (more than 7,800 as of June 20). With so few sources of cultural knowledge across the 574 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., any loss of Elders, spiritual leaders and practicing community members means a loss of culture for their tribes. The coronavirus certainly has impacted us all, but for these communities where fewer remember their oral history and traditions, every loss comes with a significant cost.
While Native communities are taking steps to social distance, it’s hard not to miss partaking in our pow wows, sun dances and inipi ceremonies. However, we must sacrifice these traditions to protect our loved ones and our ancestral ways for the greater good of our people.
I hope everyone is staying safe – and not complacent – as we become adjusted to the new normal. Too much is at risk and we must stay vigilant to protect ourselves and each other in these trying times.
Father’s Day is June 21, and we’re recognizing the critical importance of Ates (Lakota for Fathers) in the development of young minds and hearts. Fathers have a hand in teaching their children life skills, guiding smart life choices and, in early life, providing a sense of safety. They teach us both by what they do as well as what they do not do. Even fathers who are absent from their children’s lives teach us vital life lessons, though sometimes difficult, and children who grow up without a father or father figure are at higher risk of high school dropout, addiction, incarceration, homelessness, and the list goes on.
Surely, one of the most resonant questions for future fathers everywhere is, “Will I be a good father?” Children do not come with a reference manual, nor does fatherhood. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t resources available to help guide new fathers in the right direction.
One such resource comes from Albert Pooley, a Hopi and Navajo father and grandfather who has helped many Native American fathers discover their strengths. Pooley realized social programs often fall short of the real help that is needed, and in 2002 he founded The Native American Fathers and Families Association (NAFFA) to help Native fathers who are struggling.
When we look to our fathers for help, we often forget that many times they are alone with their own doubts – even those who are in the home. At the heart of the NAFFA philosophy is the wisdom that families are sacred, and that while many families often see the father as the problem, these fathers can also be the solution to the family’s problems (i.e, the “white sheep” of the family).
Through their “Fathers are Sacred” program, NAFFA inspires self-motivation and encouragement and provides culturally relevant support to give fathers the tools they need to help their children succeed in life. NAFFA facilitators and programs offer fathers ample opportunities to grow and learn from the experiences of others.
All fathers have great influence over their children and therefore the world. This Father’s Day, we recognize fathers everywhere for the gifts you bring and sacrifices you make for our families. Our very connection to you holds the promise of life.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone in our country, including Native Americans living in remote, under-resourced and often impoverished reservation communities. Families and businesses have adapted to social distancing, working and schooling remotely, and communicating with co-workers, friends and family primarily through a digital screen.
COVID-19 may have changed the way we work and socialize, but it did not change the need to address the year-round food insecurity that exists for many Native American communities. With travel restrictions in place both on and off the reservations, many of our previously scheduled group trainings and food demonstrations with our tribal partners and T3 (Train the Trainer) participants were postponed or canceled.
However, we consulted with several Native American chefs, nutritionists and practitioners on the best ways to reformat the T3 training sessions so that tribal members could continue to learn traditional methods of meal preparation and food preservation, even in the midst of a global pandemic. The solution was to develop an online video series that allows tribal members to stay connected while at home, learn new cooking skills and attempt recipes as demonstrated in the videos.
Facilitators are recording videos from their homes that we are publishing on YouTube. The first four videos focusing on “food as medicine” include lessons on no-waste cooking, cooking with wild onions, making Elderberry drops and practicing self-care while sheltering at home. More videos will be released this summer.
In addition to the online training, PWNA is sending boxes of produce with recipes and nutritional information so that participants can practice their cooking and food preservation skills training. We’re also encouraging tribal members to submit their own videos, whether it’s cooking with methods learned from the online training courses or sharing their own healthy recipes with traditional ingredients. Several T3 participants have already submitted content, including videos on best use of spices, chili sauce recipes, salsa recipes and a cornbread recipe using blue corn meal.
PWNA is also furthering its T3 service by investing in more capacity building projects to support gardening, small farming and food sovereignty initiatives. We’re providing funds for seeds and remote technical assistance for reservation community-based projects that include online training in gardening, farming and project management.
We are thankful for our dedicated partners throughout Indian Country and the support of Newman’s Own Foundation and LDS Charities as their contributions allow us to continue providing critical food and nutrition education services, even amid the pandemic.
Have you ever experienced serendipity? An occasion when someone or something comes into your life at just the right time? PWNA’s longstanding partner, American Red Cross, acted as our Eyapaha (ee-yah-pah-hah) or advocate, sharing PWNA’s work in tribal communities and connecting us with Baby2Baby.
A nonprofit organization, Baby2Baby provides diapers, clothing and other necessities for infants and children up to age 12 when faced with disaster or economic disparities. The Los Angeles-based organization is supported by many celebrities and has distributed more than 100 million items to children in homeless shelters, foster care, hospitals and underserved schools across the country. Baby2Baby’s mission aligns effortlessly with PWNA’s work in underserved tribal communities across the Southwest and Northern Plains and our partnership could not have come at a more crucial time.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, PWNA’s distribution centers in Phoenix and Rapid City were already running low on some of the basics needed to assist families. Diapers are particularly in demand and at the top of many of our reservation partners’ lists, including Alan from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation who works with local families and says they always receive requests for diapers.
Not to mention, shopping for essential items while on tribal lands is limited – even in “normal” times. It may take someone an hour to travel to and from a convenience store or gas station, given the remote location of some reservations. So, what does one do? Spend your limited money to gas up a vehicle that’s likely already in need of repair only to travel twice as far to a bigger store with discounted prices? Or do you stay closer to home and pay significantly more for the same item at a trading post?
Lovena, a partner from the Sweetwater community on the Navajo Nation, also shared that increased shoppers from surrounding areas have created even more demand in local trading posts, making it difficult for locals to purchase the food and items they need as the supplies are gone within a few hours of restocking.
The COVID-19 pandemic is further magnifying this problem and even ‘big-box’ stores are experiencing empty shelves and price increases, so what are families in remote communities to do? Tribal governments are also asserting their sovereignty through stay-at-home orders, critical roadway checkpoints, curfews and even lockdowns to protect their citizens from the deadly virus.
Fortunately, PWNA has continued regular deliveries and also distributed tons of supplies to impacted tribes through our COVID pandemic response. And with the supplies donated by Baby2Baby, we’ve already been able to assist families living on the Navajo, Hopi, Pine Ridge, Crow Agency, Northern Cheyenne, and Spirit Lake reservations and the San Felipe Pueblo.
So, from all of us at PWNA, I’m sharing a heartfelt Lakota ‘thank you’ to Baby2Baby: Pilamaya yé. We appreciate your generosity and will leave you with a recent message from Marguerite, a resident of the Chinle community of the Navajo Nation:
“My heart is so full right now as I look at the food and baby supplies you delivered to our home today. You couldn’t have known that we were wondering where we would find the money to go to town and that we were down to our last [items]. Ahehee’ (thank you)!”
Many Native Americans are seeking comfort in cultural traditions and community goodwill despite the harsh realities of life amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re sharing a compilation of some of these noteworthy stories from the month of May. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.
Powwows move online to keep Indigenous communities together via Cronkite News
- “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some Native Americans have found a way to safely host traditional powwows by moving them online. In many Indigenous communities, powwows are celebrations of culture in which tribes gather to share art, stories, food, song, dance and the company of one another. But the ongoing pandemic has made it impossible to hold these gatherings safely – in person, anyways. The Navajo Nation, for example, has set curfews and asked the 173,000 tribal members living on the reservation to stay home because 142 Navajos have died of COVID-19 and 4,071 cases have been diagnosed.”
- “At the height of Ireland’s Great Famine, Choctaws in southern states of the USA sent a donation of $170 (£111). An extraordinary whip-round, that would be tens of thousands of dollars today. The sculpture Kindred Spirits stands in a park in the small town of Midleton, in east Cork. Cork-based artist Alex Pentek told the BBC that the 6m tall feathers, all unique ’as a sign of respect,’ signify the feathers used in Choctaw ceremonies. They are arranged in a circle, making the shape of an empty bowl that symbolizes the hunger suffered by Irish people in the famine.”
- “’I had a friend who told me one time that the more degrees you get, the more credentials you get, the harder it is to ignore you,’ Jasmine Neosh (Menominee) told Teen Vogue by phone. The junior at the College of Menominee Nation, a school chartered by her tribe, is working on her bachelor’s in public administration, and plans to pursue a master’s in environmental science and policy. When she graduates, she wants to help Indigenous communities, many of which are on the front lines, prepare for climate change. ‘As far as advocating for climate justice, the more quote-unquote credibility you can bring to the table, I think the better chance you have of getting your point across,’ she says.”
History of inequality making COVID-19 worse for Native Americans via The San Diego Union-Tribune
- “Indigenous communities have already experienced generations of disparities in areas such as poverty, education and access to health care, so something like the COVID-19 pandemic magnifies the ways in which our systems have failed to serve everyone appropriately. These failures have made the virus especially dangerous. ‘Native access to healthcare is unacceptably limited and the fault lies with the U.S. government, which continues to fail its treaty obligation to provide healthcare to Native peoples,’ said Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and executive director and attorney for the Association on American Indian Affairs. ‘The conditions that are killing Native Americans now have existed for a long time and have been unacceptable for a long time.’”
Most tribal gaming operations have been closed since March to ensure the public’s health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic, severely impacting tribes and laying bare two misconceptions… that “Native Americans are casino rich” and “Native Americans do not pay taxes.” In fact, the loss of revenue, wages, supply chain orders and charitable donations as a result of COVID-19 has impacted even the most prosperous gaming tribes as well as jobs and state revenues.
Contrary to popular belief, fewer than 15% of American Indian tribes operate prosperous casinos. More than 400 tribes in the U.S. are not federally recognized and cannot rely on gaming for a revenue stream. And less than half (about 38%) of the 574 tribes that are federally recognized actually operate casinos. Meanwhile, though there are about 75 highly profitable casinos, others barely break even. These smaller casinos, however, help create local jobs for tribal and non-tribal members living in rural locations.
My tribe – the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation – opened their gaming operation in the late 1990’s. And while our compact with the state of Kansas indicates there will be no direct revenue-sharing by the tribe to the state, and the state will not directly tax the tribe for its operation, the state does require our tribe to fund the entire operating budget of the State Gaming Department. Additionally, we must allocate a certain percentage of gaming profits to charity – despite not being in the best location for revenue generation within Kansas.
Unlike the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, the Hard Rock Casino in Florida or the Table Mountain Casino in California – each of which has their own terms under a state compact – my tribe launched its casino through an outside management company and did not become a tribally owned and operated casino until 10 years later. Like many tribes, we depend on gaming revenues in order to sustain a minimum standard of living for our tribal communities – from building homes for Elders and awarding scholarships for our youth, to funding our local court system and social services.
Like many others, the Potawatomi Nation employs Native American staff (roughly a third of its workforce). The rest are non-Native employees from surrounding communities. And just like other Americans – every single employee pays taxes on their wages. Not to mention they’re putting their dollars back into the local and state economy. This aligns with a recent story in Oregon where closed casinos are hammering the tribal economies and surrounding communities.
The Indian gaming industry is facing an $18 billion loss due to the coronavirus. It will likely survive, but even as some casinos re-open, a host of issues will cascade from the economic impact of this pandemic, including loss of reserves and investments, increasing debt and re-employment hurdles. Ernie Stevens, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), along with several individuals within the U.S House of Representatives, regularly advocate for fair legislation impacting tribal casinos and are now pushing for COVID-19 relief funding through the CARES Act. What the public and lawmakers most need to understand is that tribal casinos are economic drivers that benefit entire communities – not just the tribes but also their states – and they deserve to be considered in the next stimulus package.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, students have been removed from their campuses, forced to find somewhere new to live, and in some cases, are unable to return home. For many students, college is our life, and without the security of our schedules, housing and meals, we struggle on our own. Our studies are rigorous, and not everyone has the capacity to work while maintaining success in school. Nor does everyone have easy Internet access – especially Native American students returning home to a remote reservation community. About 20% of Native students on the reservations do not have computer or Internet access at home for distance learning, according to the American Indian College Fund. Students who were forced to leave campus need to figure out how to replace all the things school provided them – and quickly.
Now that our lectures have shifted to an online platform, our schedules are extremely malleable, our deadlines have softened, and our learning experience has changed for the lesser in some ways. What impact do you think it has for an engineering student to be restricted from hands-on learning? Or for a research student to not have a lab? Or a design student to not have access to necessary equipment? Our labs and hands-on work bring forth the better part of our learning.
On a personal level, I have been unable to conduct the in-depth amount of research needed for a design project that is due this semester, and it’s preventing my team from finding the information necessary for crucial design decisions. While we have found some workarounds, to say the robustness of the project will be seriously affected is putting it lightly.
When it comes to finances, many students are struggling from the impacts of COVID-19. While the government is delivering relief checks to a large portion of the U.S. tax-filing populace, many parents still claim their offspring until they are 24 years old – an age that most college students fall under. As a result, most students didn’t receive a COVID-19 relief check to help with the travel and relocation they were forced into, the leases they must still cover, or the food and other supplies they need now that they’re away from school. In addition, being forced to leave the state where you attend school can disrupt residency status and have tuition implications if the disruption lasts long enough.
Internships are another aspect of student life greatly impacted by COVID-19. Many businesses across the country are now dropping staff, not to mention internships. For many students, internships are a source of income they rely on to help pay for college – myself included.
Beyond all of this, something students share with the general population is the feeling of isolation. Recently, I’ve had a hard time waking up in the morning and I’m noticing a feeling of grogginess and fatigue, which were symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency from not getting enough sunlight. Being in isolation doesn’t just impact our social life – it can affect our health, relationships and opportunities as well.
While I can’t speak for all college students, many of my friends are experiencing the same challenges and insecurities – and I haven’t even mentioned the implications of cancelled events such as graduations, organization inductions and cultural ceremonies. For many of us, March and April are just the tip of the iceberg.
While the coronavirus is affecting each student differently, the one commonality we all share is the impact it has on our education. I pray it lifts soon.