May 19 is Native Nonprofit Day: You Can Help Build a Brighter Future
I shared earlier this year about how the continued need and challenges in remote Tribal communities go beyond the giving season and November, which is Native American Heritage Month. Coming up on May 19 is one more way to remember Native Americans – it’s Native Nonprofit Day!
2023 is the second annual Native Nonprofit Day hosted by the Native Ways Federation and serves two aims: increasing support for Native-led nonprofits and helping America understand why #giveNative is so important.
Last year, PWNA saw corporations and foundations stepping up corporate social responsibility for Native causes, such as Google, General Motors, Boeing, Levi Strauss, Synchrony Bank and Olo for Good. This investment in Indian Country is a step in the right direction as businesses and individuals learn how rural Tribal communities are facing the lowest social equity in the country.
Overall, less than 1% of all U.S. charitable giving goes to Native causes (four-tenths of one percent to be exact) – even as 1 in 4 Native families are facing food insecurity and only 16% of Native Americans hold a college degree, compared to the 40% of Whites that do. For funding to be fair and relevant, non-Native organizations need to be more NativeAware®.
In this recent Public Television (PTV) short, I explain some of the barriers that limit Native giving, ranging from staffing to cultural norms and business misperceptions. To learn more, I encourage you to visit our PTV landing page.
This Native Nonprofit Day, do something different. Take the time to learn about the life-changing work of PWNA or other Native nonprofits on the forefront of critical issues such as the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) and their fight to protect the Indian Child Welfare Act or the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and their fight for Missing and Murdered Indian Women (MMIW). Participate in our Bingo learning game, pledge to be more NativeAware® and donate to support Native causes.
Native American Representation in Space Exploration
In honor of National Space Day on May 5, PWNA celebrates the remarkable strides in the field of Space Exploration, Aeronautics and Aerospace made by those in the Native American community. Today, we’re highlighting three people who have contributed immensely to the field. They helped set a foundation for more Native people to excel in these professions, but it is important to note that several others continue to pave the way for future generations too.
As she rocketed into orbit on October 5, 2022, Nicole Mann (Wailaki) became the first Native American woman in space – a dream she thought was “not in the realm of possibilities.” Prior to joining NASA in 2013, Mann flew combat missions in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM with the U.S. Marine Corps. During her five-month journey in space as commander of SpaceX Crew-5, Mann credited her positive outlook to her mother, who engrained in her the importance of positive energy – something Mann especially focused on for launch day. Staying true to her Native roots during an interview from the cabin of the SpaceX ship, Mann showed off a Dream Catcher – a traditional webbed hoop adorned with feathers used for protection – that her mother had given her as a gift when she was a child and that she still holds near and dear to her heart. Nicole and the SpaceX Crew-5 returned safely home on March 11 after 157 days in orbit.
Another astronaut representing the Native community in the field of Space Exploration is now-retired John Herrington (Chickasaw). Herrington landed at the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor’s STS-113 for a 13-day mission in 2002, when he became the very first Native American in space. Born to the Chickasaw Nation in Wetumka, Oklahoma, Herrington wanted to emphasize the importance of his Native roots during this voyage and thus brought along with him the Chickasaw flag and a traditional flute. Earlier in his career, he received his commission from Aviation Office Candidate School in March of 1984 before being designated a Naval Aviator just one year later. In 1996, Herrington was selected as an astronaut candidate. Not only was he the first Native to enter space. He also served as a commander of the NEEMO 6 mission in 2004, a field test in locations that resemble extreme space environments, including living underwater for 10 days. Herrington retired from the US Navy and NASA in July 2005.
Mary Golda Ross (Cherokee) is the first Native American aerospace engineer and one of NASA’s now famed “hidden figures” – a small group of individuals whose contributions to America’s space age remained unknown until recent years. Ross, born in 1908 in Park Hill, Oklahoma near the capital of Cherokee Nation, is considered an iconic Native figure in history today. After earning a degree in mathematics in 1928 at Northeastern State Teacher’s College, she built a strong career as a teacher and continued her education, earning a master’s degree in math by 1938. To make a breakthrough as a Native woman in a field dominated by white men, Ross had to work eons harder than most. Eventually in 1942, the U.S. needed highly skilled mathematicians to assist with intelligence in World War II (WWII) – her moment to shine! In 1942 she joined Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as an integral part of the team that improved the design of the P-38 Lightning fighter plane. By 1949, Ross had become a professional engineer through UCLA and once the Cold War hit, she was part of a top-secret project that developed missiles, including those that launched from submarines. Though we may never fully understand the entirety of her contributions, her legacy lives on today through her work with NASA, most notably for the Interplanetary Flight Handbook, Volume 3, that provides a detailed flight path between Mars and Venus. Ross is also commemorated in art including the painting titled Ad Astra per Astra by America Meredith (Cherokee), which lives in the National Museum of the American Indian.
Learn How the Supreme Court Review of ICWA Threatens Native American Children and Tribes
The United States Supreme Court is soon to release a decision regarding the Haaland v. Brackeen case, which questions whether the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is racist and constitutional. The Court heard arguments on the case in November 2022; the ruling is expected this summer.
Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) on November 8, 1978, in response to a crisis impacting American Indian and Alaska Native children, families and tribes. High numbers of Native children were being separated from their families, extended families and tribal communities by state child welfare and private adoption agencies alike.
In establishing ICWA, the intent of Congress was to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902). In fact, ICWA sets forth specific federal requirements to address system-level abuses targeting Native children, as well as their unique political status and cultural considerations. for state child custody proceedings involving Indian children.
ICWA draws on the relationship established by the U.S. federal government through more than 500 treaties with tribes. These treaties are based on the exchange of lands for U.S. protection of Indian autonomy and rights – a political relationship that has existed since this country was in its infancy.
Unfortunately, those supporting the ICWA case would have you believe ICWA is premised on race. If overturned, the reversal of ICWA would undermine hundreds of years of tribal sovereignty and diminish the United States’ trust responsibility to Native communities.
To learn about the impact a reversal of ICWA would have and be an advocate for Native children, download the ICWA Fact Sheet. Questions discussed include:
- When and why was ICWA passed?
- How has ICWA impacted Native children and tribes?
- How do courts enforce ICWA regulations?
- How would a reversal of ICWA impact tribal sovereignty and why?
- What else might a reversal of ICWA impact?
- Why is ICWA such an untold story?
- How can a concerned citizen make a difference today?
Celebrating Indigenous Women Who Are Shaping Our World
March is Women’s History Month – commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. This year, the theme for Women’s History Month is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Stories.” For centuries, Indigenous people have passed stories by word of mouth from one generation to the next, and storytelling remains an inherent part of Native American culture today. In recognition, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is celebrating Indigenous women for breaking the glass ceiling to tell the stories that need to be told.
PWNA celebrates these Indigenous women who are storytelling through film:
- Joanelle Romero, founder of the Red Nation Television Network (RNTN), is increasing Native representation in film and pioneering entertainment content that puts Native Americans in charge of their own TV narratives. One of the first Native filmmakers/actors invited into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, she received the Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award for “the vision to see the truth…and the courage to speak it” at the Arpa International Film Festival in 2005. RNTN hosts the only Native Indigenous Awards show to broadcast annually. Joanelle’s heritage is Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache, Dinétah, Paiute Nations and Spanish Sephardic.
- Yalitizia Aparicios, the first Indigenous Mexican woman to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category, earned the nomination for her role as Cleo (her first role ever) in the 2018 drama “Roma.” A supporter of the Red Nation International Film Festival and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador who stands against racism, Aparicio will serve as the executive producer of “Dreamer” this year, a sweatshop thriller awarded Best Picture at the 2023 Mammoth Film Festival.
We also celebrate these Indigenous women who continue breaking barriers in the political world:
- Secretary Deb Haaland, who most recently launched an investigation that revealed graves at some 53 ‘Indian’ boarding schools operated by the U.S. government;
- Sharice Davids, who is working to secure access to quality public education for every student and supporting small business in Kansas; and
- Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native woman elected to Congress who is pro-jobs, pro-fish and pro-families for the people of Alaska.
These women are creating strong, safe environments for Indigenous women and girls around the globe. This month, take some time to learn about more Indigenous women who are actively shaping our world and to honor the women in your everyday life.
Emergency Preparedness: We Are Doing This to Make Our Tribe Stronger
For 500 years, Native American tribes have been dealing with unmitigated disasters, in part caused by the federal government and/or colonialism. Disasters like those recently in Turkey have an impact, but climate change is reshaping reservation communities and displacing whole tribes. So, PWNA has focused on emergency preparedness for many years, with the support of organizations like Good360, Boeing, Freeport McMoRan and more.
What we have found while doing this work is nothing short of remarkable. There is no timeline for when an emergency will strike or even what it will look like. It could be a wildfire, a flood, or a car wreck, but a community with individuals that are prepared reaps better outcomes. These individuals also create a stronger bond with the youth, the Elders and the tribal leaders, creating a powerful connection to the betterment of their tribe or nation.
Recently, I attended one of our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) sessions with the White Mountain Apache Tribe in northern Arizona. This two-day training was led by Code4, with tribal members from several nearby communities attending. The participation was electric, the stories abundant and the comradery energized. Even on day two, the participants returned with stories of sharing their learning with those at home, building excitement for the whole family. Through all the discussion, one theme was constant: ‘We are doing this to make our tribe stronger.’
On one of those days, we hosted a meeting with community officials for law enforcement, fire and dam safety too. All shared the same sentiment: ‘We must have an emergency plan for our community to be prepared’ ahead of disaster. When you see a community with a commitment to emergency preparedness at multiple levels (throughout leadership, across generations), you know they will be ready before the next disaster strikes.
Each group recalled impactful emergencies, whether a rodeo incident, a named wildfire or a flood. Being unprepared opened their eyes and sparked the intent to not be caught off guard again. Preparing for a disaster after it strikes is too little too late, but knowing what to do when disaster strikes means saving lives and minimizing the damage. This is what our CERT-trainees do.
Working with Tribal communities to develop their CERT team leaders is an honor and a privilege for PWNA, and we will keep advancing these programs with the support of corporate grants and sponsorships. Whether the disaster event is man-made, natural or accidental, proactive planning is the best way to limit the damage and mitigate the impact (physical, mental or material).
As CEO of PWNA, I am proud to work with so many different tribes to help coalesce their community resources, raise awareness and create a plan that can be implemented locally and shared with others. The mandate for emergency preparedness cannot be overstated, and being a good relative means that readiness and vigilance will be waiting in the wings.
Big Game Day Foods and the Worry of Food Security Collide
Last Sunday, more than 100 million fans and viewers stocked up on their favorite game day foods to watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Kansas City Chiefs in “Super Bowl LVII.” The Big Game is the most watched television broadcast in the United States every year, and this year’s fare included geo-based foods like the Philly cheese steak and the Kansas City BBQ, along with traditional game day foods like wings, nachos, pizza, soda and beer. But not all U.S. families were able to participate.
Take the Native Americans living on remote reservations throughout the Southwest and Northern Plains. One in four Native families faces food insecurity, concerned about having enough healthy food to feed everyone in the household. Plus, a HUD report shows that reservation households are eight times more likely to be overcrowded than White households – meaning more mouths to feed.
There’s more to the equation too. The USDA considers many reservation communities to be rural food deserts, devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables and 10 miles or more from the nearest grocery store. For many tribal communities, the nearest grocery store is one hour or more one way. The Navajo Nation, for instance, spans 27,000 square miles but only has 13 grocery stores. Imagine how the cost of fuel today drives up the overall cost of groceries – and then consider who can afford to stock up on game day foods.
This year those Big Game Day foods are higher in cost for everyone. In fact, the National Retail Association predicted families would spend an average of $85 on Big Game Day foods this year, but for families facing low food security, there is often no game day spending at all.
If your team won this year, or even if they didn’t, consider sharing another kind of win by helping us improve food security for Native American Elders, children and families. Game day organizers are making efforts to get the Big Game leftovers to those in need – it is doubtful any of this will make its way to Native American reservations. But all year round, Partnership With Native Americans delivers emergency food, fresh produce, breakfast food, pantry foods and staple foods for nutritious hot meals, and you can make someone’s day by donating here.
NativeAware Beyond the Giving Season
While we have turned the corner of the giving season, that time of year when many Americans consider charitable commitments, support is still needed across Indian Country. On many reservations, Native Americans continue to face challenges like low food security, poverty and health inequities.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) works to mitigate these issues by providing services through eight distinct programs, with an eye to cultural relevance, timeliness, community-based volunteerism and the self-determined needs and goals of its reservation partners. PWNA’s major programs include:
- American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), which supports the educational dreams of Native American youth
- Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA), which aids tribal communities in the Northern Plains
- Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA), which assists tribal communities in the desert Southwest
- Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR), which helps tribal groups that rescue, rehabilitate and rehome strays and injured animals
Other programs include Native American Aid (NAA), Sioux Nation Relief Fund (SNRF), Navajo Relief Fund (NRF), and Southwest Indian Relief Council (SWIRC). All PWNA programs reinforce self-sufficiency, pride and community.
Your generous donations allowed us to make 1,700 deliveries to more than 350 tribal program partners in 2022, providing vital support for Native American Elders, families and children.
With your help, we can continue addressing long-standing disparities around food and water, education, health care, emergency response, animal welfare and holiday support. We encourage you to make time all year to become more Native Aware and donate here to support the cause.
President and CEO Joshua Arce Shares 2023 Predictions
As we enter a new year, it’s important to both reflect on the past year as well as look ahead to help us make informed predictions for 2023. In the case of Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), 2022 brought along opportunities to continue raising awareness around Native issues – some of which will play out throughout 2023.
Here are three predictions surrounding Native issues and the actions being taken to address inequities in Native communities:
Policies affecting Native Americans
At the local level, Texas Native Health – a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a successful 50-year history of providing culturally sensitive, community-based services to meet the diverse needs of over 76,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex – has the opportunity to support Texas Senate Bill 136 in 2023. The bill is to establish the Texas Indian Affairs Commission, which currently doesn’t exist. The commission would consist of tribes and thought leaders in the Native space, giving them a platform to advocate for Native rights at the state level. The bill has the potential to significantly impact Native communities in Texas in a positive way.
At the national level, an ongoing Supreme Court case could potentially have a large impact on Indian Country based on the decision that is set to come out in 2023. Haaland v. Brackeen, a pending Supreme Court of the United States case brought by the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, and individual plaintiffs, seeks to declare the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court determines that the act is race-based, it could have a larger impact on other issues in Indian Country that deal with gaming, fishing, hunting, and education rights – rights historically guaranteed through treaties.
Education building awareness
While there has been news about the discovery of mass graves of Indigenous children’s bodies stemming from ‘Indian’ boarding schools, there will continue to be news, reports and conversations surrounding U.S. ‘Indian’ boarding schools and the atrocities they created. As the government continues to unfold the traumatic events of the past through investigations in boarding school locations, I predict more reports on mass graves of children’s bodies will surface.
Very little attention has been given to the dismal failure of the boarding school system or the long-lasting impact it has had on Native communities, but as more people are educated on this brutal part of U.S. history through the materials and news that are continuing to surface, they are stepping up to make others #NativeAware. Additionally, if you have watched the Paramount + series “1923” by Taylor Sheridan, you cannot help but cringe at the treatment of Native children at the hands of boarding school leaders of that era. This is not fiction, and there were over 300 boarding schools in the United States affecting every Native American alive today.
Opportunity for more corporate engagement
Only 1 percent of total giving to nonprofits goes to Native nonprofits. While there is clearly a large percentage of giving that is not going toward supporting Native causes, it means Native organizations have a large opportunity when asking for support. It starts with building awareness, which is what PWNA is doing by connecting with CSR and ERG groups of large corporations for widespread discussions about the inequities being faced by Native Americans.
As awareness campaigns continue in 2023, corporations are becoming #NativeAware, which will hopefully lead to increasing that 1 percent.