In keeping with our commitment to providing trending news and events concerning Native Americans, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories on Native life from the month of June. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Beating the Toughest Odds, New Graduate on the Pine Ridge Reservation Accepted to Seven Ivy League Colleges via Red Cloud Indian School
- “More than 60 percent of children on the reservation (South Dakota’s Pine Ridge) live below the poverty line. Statewide, the high school graduation rate for Native American students is less than 50 percent. And life expectancy in Oglala Lakota County, where Pine Ridge Reservation sits, is the lowest in the United States. But this year, one Lakota student at Red Cloud Indian School defied the negative statistics that continue to plague young people on Pine Ridge. Not only is nineteen-year-old Jacob Rosales going to college this fall, but he was accepted into seven of the nation’s eight Ivy League universities.”
Oil Is Flowing Through the Dakota Access Pipeline via The Atlantic
- “After months of protests, more than 750 arrests, and high-profile interventions by both the Obama and Trump administrations, the first part of the battle over the Dakota Access pipeline has ended. Oil is now flowing through the pipeline—and, crucially, beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota, which is sacred to local Lakota and Dakota people and their only source of water.”
- “Only 26 of the 567 federally recognized Native American tribes received HUD-VASH (S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers under the current Tribal HUD-VASH demonstration, yet Native Americans serve in the military at a higher percentage than any ethnic demographic in the United States. ‘No veteran, including tribal veterans, should face homelessness,’ Hoeven said. ‘This legislation will help ensure that Native Americans who courageously served our country have access to safe and quality housing’…”
Public art reminds us of Native Americans’ rich and troubled history via Greenville Journal
- “Last month, in a ceremony punctuated by Native American dance and song, Greenville Water dedicated Prospect Green, a new park at the corner of West Washington and West Broad streets, and unveiled the centerpiece of the park, a ten-foot tall bronze sculpture of a Cherokee male, titled “Water Blessing,” by artist Doug Young.”
- “Well before white settlers colonized their land, Blackfeet Nation members used more than 200 types of plants for food and remedies. But forced assimilation and reliance on the U.S. government for food adversely shifted most nations’ diets from whole foods to industrialized processed foods and eroded tribal health. More than 80 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native adults are overweight or obese, and half of American Indian children are predicted to develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetimes, according to the Indian Health Clinical Reporting system.”
This month, high school seniors around the country will celebrate the culmination of four years of hard work with a freshly printed diploma and well-earned toss of a tasseled mortarboard. Amid the celebrations, however, is the reality that many Native American students have trouble moving on to college.
Today, only 17 percent of American Indian students continue their education after high school, drastically lower than the 60% of greater U.S. population of high school students who attend college after graduation.
Improving graduation and post-secondary education rates begins with providing the tools needed to make school and learning a positive experience. The following organizations have made it their mission to help improve access to education for Native American youth.
- TeachHub.com supports K-12 educators and the teaching profession as a whole by providing lessons, teaching tools and coverage of pertinent K-12 education topics for their readers. The professional development resources they create and share are made “by teachers, for teachers.” TeachHub also puts an important focus on solutions for diversity and disparities impacting minority students.
- Similarly, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) works to support the needs of Native students in the K-12 school system. They also work closely with Congress to ensure the Native Culture, Language and Access for Success (CLASS) Act is followed and applied in public education throughout the country. The Native CLASS Act recognizes the role of tribal governments as sovereign states in directing the education of Native students, and provides a number of provisions including increased tribal control over the education of tribal citizens, a formula grant program for language immersion schools, and comprehensive wraparound services for Native youth.
- The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) provides a support network of tribal colleges that work to influence federal policies and build programs in American Indian education that are holistic and culturally supportive.
Organizations like TeachHub, NCAI and AIHEC help to build a national support system for Native students, just as PWNA and its American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program work to improve graduation rates and post-secondary educational opportunities for Native students nationwide.
AIEF provides literacy and school supplies to Native American students, as well as scholarships, grants and emergency funds that help Native students overcome the barriers to attending and completing post-secondary education.
Education is an important cornerstone for self-sufficiency and quality of life and should be accessible to all Americans to ensure bright futures for our children.
On June 23, 1995, Disney released “Pocahontas” to theaters, earning mixed reviews from critics. This controversy was well founded, specifically in the portrayal of the historical events, which romanticize the story between the characters and alleviate the circumstances of Pocahontas quite a bit. For the 22nd anniversary of the Disney movie, and in keeping with PWNA’s aim to share more accurate knowledge of Native American history and culture, we’d like to share a slightly different story than the one with which you may be familiar.
For starters, Pocahontas was actually a nickname. Amonute, or Matoaka to some, was born sometime in the late 1500’s. Her mother, Wahunseneka, may have also shared the name Pocahontas; she died in childbirth.
Matoaka was Powhatan, and while the Disney story would say she was a young adult, she was likely closer to the age of 10 or 11 when the Jamestown settlement was established, according to the journal of Captain John Smith.
There are no personal accounts of Pocahontas leading up to the more popularized events of the early 1600’s, and of these events, most come from the journals of John Smith or John Rolfe.
Urban legend offers many accounts of Pocahontas saving the life of John Smith from execution, though this is still under debate, as it does not appear in Smith’s personal journal (at least not consistently). Nor was Pocahontas ever known to have had a romantic relationship with John Smith – one of the most widely held misconceptions.
More sure is the romantic relationship with John Rolfe. During the 1609 Anglo-Powhatan War, Pocahontas was captured and held for ransom and, while in captivity, Rolfe would explain he developed feelings for the girl. Reportedly, Rolfe had to write a particular governor citing his feelings, as well as the possibility of saving her soul through the conversion of Christianity, although some accounts show there may have been a different motive for the marriage.
Pocahontas and Rolfe married in 1614, when Pocahontas was roughly 17 years old. In 1616, the couple traveled to England, where Pocahontas converted to Christianity and was baptized under the given name of Rebecca.
In England, it was said that her etiquette was well developed and her understanding of English culture grew. To some, Pocahontas was thought of as a “Tamed Savage of the West” and was often presented as a princess of her tribe, though the tribe had no such reference to her. On the journey back to Virginia, she fell ill and died on March 21, 1617. The cause of death is speculated to be pneumonia, tuberculosis or poisoning.
Over the years, her presentation as a symbol of a successful American Indian “Christian conversion” has likely contributed to the Pocahontas story being romanticized to the point of fiction, including Disney’s depiction. The real story of Pocahontas-Amonute-Matoaka-Rebecca is much more dramatic and possibly much darker than most people realize. To learn more of her story based on oral and written history from the tribe, visit:
In a previous blog on World Health Day, I described the main source of health care in PWNA’s service area as Indian Health Service (I.H.S.), which serves Native male and female residents of tribal areas, but the delivery of preventative care stems largely from tribally operated wellness programs.
Health literacy and health education activities are also critical to disease prevention. Lower education levels are tied directly to lower health literacy, so health events and awareness activities are important to populations that are challenged by educational disparities.
PWNA supports hundreds of reservation-based program partners in getting health information to community members, and in recognition of Men’s Health Month, some of them are hosting Community Events to increase awareness of preventative care among the male members in their tribal communities.
Throughout the month of June, one of our partners through the Navajo Nation is conducting a health fair and screenings in eight different chapters, to ensure information on preventative care and health promotion is available. Area health providers will conduct sessions on health awareness, prevention and education, specifically focusing on the theme of “Educating our Native Men and Their Families.” Some topics to be covered include high blood pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, and hygiene. Printed materials will be distributed and available as takeaways, but having health care providers available to address any questions that arise from attendees is equally if not more important.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Department of Health and Human Services, “non-print materials are important sources of health information” and information from health professionals is “one of the most important resources on health topics for all health literacy levels.”
The Tribal Health Department, a PWNA partner from the Gila River Indian Community, is also promoting men’s health by raising awareness in five of their communities. Some of their education will also include summer-related illnesses caused by ticks and mosquitoes.
Because the Native population is small (less than 2% of the U.S. population), many organizations do not track health, disparities, or other information on American Indians, let alone gender-specific data. But the Indian Health Service acknowledges:
“American Indian and Alaska Native people have long experienced lower health status when compared with other Americans. Lower life expectancy and the disproportionate disease burden exist perhaps because of inadequate education, disproportionate poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services, and cultural differences. These are broad quality of life issues rooted in economic adversity and poor social conditions.”
The statement holds true for Native males, as illustrated by just a few of the health challenges they face:
- Suicide rates are nearly 50 percent higher for AI/AN people compared to non-Hispanic whites, and more frequent among AI/AN males and persons younger than age 25.
- Pine Ridge has the lowest life expectancy (66.8 years) in the U.S., according to JAMA (2017).
- Over 23% of Native men 18 years and older smoke cigarettes, per the CDC (2012-2014).
Our tribal community partners are working year-round to instill prevention and healthy lifestyles into the hearts and minds of Native Americans. PWNA is proud to support their collective efforts to recognize June as Men’s Health Month, and to give a shout out to father’s everywhere this Father’s Day.
A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthful whole food is a privilege for many Americans; however, it remains elusive for many Native Americans, especially those living in geographically isolated areas. Insufficient access to fresh and healthy food options continues to be an issue on at least 60 reservations in the United states, and this grim fact has an inordinate impact on the long-term health outcomes of those residents. As a result, occurrences of nutrition-related disease are still high among Native Americans.
Lack of access to healthy food choices have directly impacted the rate of diabetes for Native Americans. Today, Native Americans suffer from the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country, and the mortality rate of diabetes among Native Americans is three times higher than that of all other races in the country, according to the federally operated Indian Health Service (IHS).
Additionally, the Office of Minority Health (part of Health and Human Services) reports that Native people have higher rates of several risk factors that can lead to heart disease, including two that are nutrition-related: obesity and high blood pressure. Food insecurity among Native Americans is also especially detrimental to younger generations, as the issue of childhood obesity continues to gain national attention. Obesity in children is a common symptom of food insecurity, which affects 1 in 4 American Indian families. Diabetes among American Indian teens has dramatically increased; between 1994 – 2004, diabetes cases rose 68 percent among Native youth ages 15 – 19.
Because of the pervasiveness of this problem, and the adverse effects that touch all members of the community, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) takes numerous approaches with reservation programs to combat food insecurity, including immediate relief and long-term solutions that support healthier communities.
These solutions include practical fixes, such as assisting the most vulnerable members of the community by delivering healthy food options on a regular basis. Programs like this solve an immediate need while shining a light on the areas where additional support is still necessary.
To learn more about what you can do to support PWNA’s efforts and help stave off the effects of insufficient nutrition for those dealing with food insecurity, please visit www.nativepartnership.org/nutritionhealth.
Partnership with Native Americans strives to keep you abreast of trending news and events concerning Native Americans, and have compiled our favorite stories on Native life from the month of May. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Stanford Powwow celebrates Native American history, culture via Santa Cruz Sentinel
- “The gatherings — marked annually by Native Americans throughout the U.S. — are an opportunity for people to join in dance and song, while renewing friendships and celebrating the rich culture of American Indians.”
Native Americans Keep Grasslands Traditions Alive With Dance via CBS Denver
- “For hundreds of years Native Americans have expressed themselves through clothing and dance. In those traditional dances, every piece of clothing and every move has a deep significance, honoring a particular idea or way of life. “When the villagers moved, we were very nomadic tribes,” said Grace Gillett, the executive director of the Denver Pow Wow.”
National Native American Veterans Memorial to be Erected in Washington via U.S. Department of Defense
- “A memorial to Native American veterans will be erected on the outside grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The anticipated dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial is Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2020, according to Rebecca Trautmann, project manager of the memorial.”
- “The former leader of the New Mexico Democratic Party is officially running for an open congressional seat and hopes to become the nation’s first Native American congresswoman. Debra Haaland announced her bid Tuesday after recently filing a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission to run for the state’s 1st Congressional District.”
Objects returned to Native American leader Massasoit’s burial site in Warren via Providence Journal
- “Members of the Mashpee tribe were joined at the gathering by those from the Pocasset Tribe, the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag, Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe, Troy (Fall River) band of the Wampanoag, Assonet Band of the Wampanoag, the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) to listen to speakers, join in prayer and hear honor songs. Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell celebrated that his people were “victorious” in helping correct the desecration.”
What does your culture mean to you? Why do you practice your traditions? How do these tie into today’s society?
In remembrance of tradition, culture, and values passed along many generations, I ask: How do you remember your culture? I have always questioned what kind of role my culture plays in today’s society, and how it stays relevant. Today, more than ever, our cultures and traditions are at risk of dying out, our languages, ceremonies, and old ideals. Across the many different cultures throughout the tribes in this country, we remember the similarities across Native peoples.
We’ve always had a respect for our tribe’s culture, other tribal cultures, and the place these teachings came from: our ancestors. Memorial Day is a time that brings families and neighbors together to remember those fallen in service to our country. These sacrifices are not easily forgotten, and sometimes remembering them is hard too.
Whether or not we realize it, our traditions are a part of our everyday life and way of thinking, so much so that we may routinely make choices based on teachings we learned early in our lives, choices like service to others, service to our tribe, or in today’s terms, service to our country.
Another tradition across Native cultures is the rate of military service. Many will note that Native Americans have the highest per capita rate of military service of any minority group. I’ve always wondered why so many of our people continue to sacrifice themselves for a country that has committed so many wrongs to our people in the past, and it dawned on me that we still protect our own. In trying times, our neighbors are there for us, and we push on as a whole. Despite what has happened to our people historically, and the impact still occurring today, we continue to fight for our country because we were raised on the values that keep our people in the highest regard.
For the upcoming holiday, I ask that you remember the sacrifices that Native peoples, and all peoples, have made, for those brave enough to serve are a tribe unto themselves, a culture of their own. I ask that you celebrate lives lost, be thankful for those still here, and keep in your prayers those who still serve. Remember to be safe on the roads, and remember to enjoy yourself, which is the express freedom we have thanks to those who fight for the independence of our country.
Reality: By today’s standards, about 7 in 10 of the American Indian students who start kindergarten will graduate from high school.
Put another way, the average freshman graduation rate for Native students who will complete public high school within 4 years of the first time they start 9th grade is 70 percent, compared to a national average of 82 percent, according to NCES (the National Center for Education Statistics, 2012-13 data). This excludes BIE (Bureau of Indian Education) schools, which are federally underfunded and produce the lowest educational attainment levels. US News reports that the national Native high school graduation rate is 69 percent across all types of schools – but the BIE school graduation rate is only 53 percent. BIE schools serve eight percent of Native American students, or 48,000 students in 24 states.
Reality: More than 60% of U.S. high school students go on to college, while only 17% of American Indian students are able to continue their education after high school, facing a number of challenges the average student does not encounter.
Lack of funding and resources paired with geographic isolation contribute to the reality that many Native students have trouble moving on to college. Lack of cultural inclusion in off-reservation schools is also a factor — consider the inaccuracies taught in U.S. history classes about Christopher Columbus, the pilgrims, and the founding fathers.
Reality: While 28 percent of Americans complete college, only 13 percent of Native Americans hold a college degree.
From elementary to post-secondary school, 35 percent of Native youth grow up in impoverishment. Life without a college degree can often mean hardship and lost opportunity. Four-year college grads earn $1 million more in a lifetime, and two-year college grads earn $10,000 more per year than someone who only graduates high school.
Education is an important cornerstone for self-sufficiency and quality of life. For every scholarship we are able to award through AIEF (American Indian Education Fund), a program of Partnership With Native Americans, there is another qualified student wanting to attend college and waiting for funding.
Dante’ is an honor roll student from Alaska, of Yupik Eskimo, Athabascan Indian, and Native Hawaiian heritage, and was awarded an AIEF scholarship. He enjoys playing sports and is an excellent student with a dream of a college education. Already, Dante’ is serving his tribal community by meeting with lawmakers about cleaning up contaminated lands and waters for the future generations and participating in Alaska Native and Hawaiian cultural traditions.
Dante’ shares, “I believe in hard work! I have worked hard to prepare myself for college and for a productive life.” He has also held several jobs, including at a ski area, a car dealership and the Alaska Native Village Corporation on the way to making his dream a reality.
All AIEF services are paid for through contributions from compassionate individuals across the United States. We encourage you to join them in supporting a brighter future for students like Dante’ through the American Indian Education Fund. Learn more at www.aiefprogram.org.
Mother’s Day is a time to honor mothers of every kind, and to celebrate the innovations and methods of support available to Native American mothers residing in tribal communities. Cherished in the lives of not only their children but also their community at large, the values that mothers instill in their families spread across their own tribe and beyond. It makes sense then, that Native communities would offer programming to support new mothers, often the most vulnerable time in a new parent’s life. Prenatal and post-natal wellness checks, parenting classes, and immunization checks are some of the ways tribal programs assist new mothers in Native communities.
Native American mothers often face more high-risk pregnancies and maternal complications than their non-Native counterparts do, and the infant mortality rate is 4.4 percent less for Native Americans than for other ethnicities in the U.S. The birthing risks are due in part to inadequate nutrition, diabetes and other health issues preconception. Native women have a harder time accessing preventative healthcare on the reservations, and the barriers may include something as simple as transportation to doctor appointments or consistency of primary care.
Indian Health Services, the federal health program for American Indians, also works to improve outcomes for Native American mothers by compiling information on what to expect during pregnancy, how to protect the health of the baby, and resources for new mothers in their local communities. Unfortunately, these Indian health hospitals with full obstetrical services are rare on the reservations PWNA serves, focusing more on critical illness than preventative care.
Partnership With Native Americans supports tribal health and wellness programs with our Baby Baskets and Cradle Club services, available through our Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) and Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) programs. Baby baskets are a new parent “starter kit” replete with essentials for newborn care, along with personal care items for mom, and given to all new moms at participating partner hospitals before they are discharged. The Baby Basket and Cradle Club services also help tribal health programs ensure a healthy start for infants, by providing additional supplies, diapers and even strollers that moms can earn once the baby’s immunizations are completed.
Roslyn is 32 years old with four children, and Julia Grace (two months old) is her first daughter! The family is living in a one-bedroom apartment in an elderly complex located on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Housing is scarce and Roslyn is on a tribal wait list, but in the meantime, she makes the best of cramped quarters and has other long-term goals.
”I want a bigger home – it will all work out, and I don’t want to give up my dreams of college,” she said, grateful for all the content in the baby basket she received before leaving the hospital.
Baskets of essential items, like the one Roslyn received, can help new moms enjoy their newborn and ease the adjustment once they return home. The baskets include items such as blankets, bottles, diapers, skin creams, and bath supplies, which can cost families quite a bit and are not always available in the remote communities on the reservations. Services like these also impart a sense of care and comfort for new moms.
Sustaining families and traditions are among the greatest things Native American mothers can do, and on this Mother’s Day it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the mothers in your life, and educate yourself on all the ways you can support them as they support future generations!
Although attending college is a goal for many high school students, for many Native American youth, attending college is something of a distant dream out of reach. Only 13 percent of Native Americans 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 28 percent of other ethnic groups.
Today, many Native youth express a desire to attend college, but a number of barriers to success still exist along the way. Getting to college is often difficult due to the geographical distances of many tribal communities from university towns. Native populations often struggle without computers and Internet access at home, which could provide an avenue for completing online curriculum. Additionally, once Native youth make their way to college, they are often underrepresented on campus, finding themselves without a community for the first time, and teaching in schools often lacks cultural understanding and relevance.
Although barriers to higher education cannot be eradicated overnight, many Native communities are working hard to provide youth with resources and encouragement to further their education and deliver sustainable contributions within their tribes and society at large.
Access to college has been further improved by a number of scholarship programs that exist solely for Native Americans, and which can help students manage the cost of attending college. As university expenses continue to rise around the country, the prevalence of these programs is a welcome relief to many college-bound students. As more Native youth attend college, the path is more welcoming and clearer to those considering whether college is an option for them.