When most people think of Thanksgiving, an image of family, feasting, and football comes to mind. And while this national holiday is a joyous one for some, for many families in Native American communities, it is a difficult reminder of the food insecurity that is experienced year-round.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many Native communities still suffer incredibly high need, with food insecurity impacting one in four families of this population. Often, families residing in rural or geographically isolated communities do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and struggle to lay healthy food on the table on a regular basis.
In addition to this, many Native Americans experience mixed feelings when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving. Sara Fills The Pipe, a Native American Elder from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, celebrates Thanksgiving but also makes it a point to tell her children the story of Thanksgiving from the Native perspective, to help them understand why some in their community do not celebrate the holiday.
“I tell them, you listen to the Indian version and then you’ll understand why some people don’t celebrate [Thanksgiving],” she said.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) works to deliver meals for thousands of Native Americans annually through their program partners on the reservations. In 2016, PWNA provided healthy Thanksgiving meals that served more than 38,000 Elders and families across more than 40 reservations in the Northern Plains and Southwest.
Even though the history is fraught, many of PWNA’s reservation partners celebrate Thanksgiving as a day when they can gather for a shared meal and celebrate their community. To learn more about how you can join PWNA in supporting a positive holiday for Native families, download our free Thanksgiving publication.
Moon of the Full Harvest, Hopi.
Harvest Moon, Passamaquoddy.
Moon where the Corn is Taken in, Pueblo.
Throughout the centuries, certain moons were believed to mark the harvest season — the time when most crops were beginning to reach peak ripeness and needed to be brought in for winter or the non-growing seasons.
Appearing roughly from August to October, the “harvest moons” are known to many indigenous cultures across the U.S. and beyond. This isn’t as crucial today as it once was, in part due to Thanksgiving. Read more about this in our Thanksgiving blog that will publish next week.
Like the harvest, the season of autumn is celebrated in many cultures as a time of change. Some cultures celebrate it as a new year, a time where the old dies and allows for new growth to be let in.
For those who still work the lands to grow the foods that their ancestors once ate, the fall harvest is still important. For example, some Anishinaabe still cultivate rice and harvest it at this time of year.
Some still pause this time of year, at pow wows and private celebrations, to thank the Great Spirit for a good harvest and surviving another year. Generally, this is done through ceremony or dance. The practice is not as common-place today though, because the fall harvest is not a normal happening for much of the population. Sadly, with this, many no longer stop to notice the significance of the change in the season.
In days of old, food was very much a part of the culture. In some ways, the fall or harvest season still connects all of us to our ancestors and our culture, and this is something to celebrate.
Can you tell me what the upcoming holiday is? Depending on who you are, that answer is going to change. For most, it’s Columbus Day and the history taught in school, and for others, Native American Day or Indigenous Peoples Day. Regardless of what you call it, the celebration of Columbus can be taken as an insult to those who know the larger story.
For Native Americans, the day is often a reminder of a turning point in our history that did not treat us well. The events that took place following the years after Christopher Columbus discovered the “New World” could have been handled differently. Though to have a say in it, I think it’s necessary to redress the topic.
Christopher Columbus was a sailor sponsored by the Spanish Monarchy. Between 1492 and 1504, he traveled back and forth between Europe and an area within the Caribbean, around Cuba and South America. He discovered new lands, and with it, new peoples. Unfortunately, following the years of their discovery, Columbus and his men committed a number of crimes against them, ranging from slavery to murder. Following his return to Spain, Columbus was tried and found guilty for his crimes and stripped of his titles. Today, however, Columbus is recognized less for his crimes and more for his discovery. For some, this topic can be difficult to address, and it’s hard though not impossible to find supporting evidence for some of the more drastic crimes of Columbus.
In 1937, Columbus Day was instituted as a U.S. Federal holiday. though it was celebrated in some places as early as the 18th century. This “holiday” is no stranger to opposition from many groups, especially Native American and Indigenous peoples, who have been part of push to transform Columbus Day into a day not commemorating Christopher Columbus.
In California and South Dakota, Native American Day has already replaced Columbus Day, and in more states still, such as Alaska and Hawaii, Indigenous Peoples Day has replaced it. These new declarations take into account the recognition of past wrongs and instead celebrate Native and indigenous peoples.
For all of my life, Columbus Day has been recognized, but when Native American Day was first established in South Dakota, I remember believing it was a good change in a right direction. Hopefully, some day, Columbus Day will shift to a holiday that can focus on triumphs over the past rather than the past itself, can help close a gap between different cultures, and can hold a moment to celebrate the Native cultures that are still here despite the past.
In pursuit of our goal to keep you informed of the top stories about Native life from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of September for your enjoyment. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
- “Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward Manuel is determined to prevent President Trump’s proposed border wall from carving a path through his tribe’s lands — a move which he said would separate members from much needed resources and disrupt the community’s way of life. The nation, which is about the size of Connecticut, is a federally recognized tribe that has land and members on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border.”
- “The collapse of a prominent Native American media network has triggered debate over how Native media can best serve the interests of communities across Indian Country and counter stereotypes and misinformation in the mainstream press. Native American journalism dates back to the Cherokee Phoenix, founded in 1828 to advocate against the U.S. government policy of assimilation and forced removal. Many newspapers have since come and gone, victims of high costs and low revenue.”
- “Bears Ears is one of the most powerful and historic cultural and spiritual centers of the first peoples of the south-west. The monument, established in the twilight of the Obama administration, stands just next door to Canyonlands national park, north of the San Juan river and east of the Colorado. The rock formation after which the monument is named comprises twin buttes standing high above the piñon-juniper treetops, carved canyons, and majestic mesas – like the head of a bear emerging from the south-west landscape.”
Compromise Reached in Boycott of Native American School via The New York Times
- “A dispute over who should lead an elementary school that serves almost exclusively Native American children has been resolved, just in time for the start of classes next week.”
- “One thing was clear, though: it would take a vast amount of work to create a sustainable coalition that can actually change things, up to and including rewriting the story we tell ourselves as a country. But given that so many attendees were already individually working towards progress, a powerful collaboration seemed like it could actually happen.”
Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. September is National Preparedness Month, and with recent disasters around the world, it couldn’t be a more relevant topic. FEMA originally created this observance back in 2004 to encourage Americans to prepare in advance for disasters such as floods, fires and power outages. Now we mark its 13th year of recognition and although the program is well established, many of us seem to give it a glance and then ignore its message. Hopefully, this year we can encourage you to expect the unexpected and take action.
When disaster strikes, PWNA is a first responder for the reservations. Although its services range from education to nutrition assistance and animal welfare, and disaster relief is also of critical importance to the tribes in our service area and beyond. Last year, alone, PWNA assisted nearly 57,000 people impacted by environmental emergencies such as flooding, fires and blizzards in Native communities.
In one case, PWNA helped the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe during the blizzard of 2010. This case is personally relevant to me, as the storm severely struck my hometown. Pipes froze shut, power lines collapsed and homes lost power for close to two weeks. The local store lost power, and with no way to refrigerate, lost much of its fresh food. My own family had to move between two houses during this time, one for heat, the other for water. While thousands were affected, this news did not reach the mainstream for 11 days, by which time, several homeless had already passed in the cold.
Since many reservation communities are so remote, and media coverage of disaster events tends to focus on the mainstream and often overlooks the tribal communities, these areas have a hard time getting timely and meaningful disaster relief. In working to get the word out to tribes about its disaster relief and other emergency services, PWNA utilizes community outreach as well as its website and social pages.
As a member of National VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster), PWNA provides emergency relief to reservations in its 12-state service area, and evaluates out-of-service area disasters on a case by case basis. As part of its emergency preparedness effort, PWNA is continuously anticipating and preparing for emergency situations by stocking and re-stocking water, cleaning supplies, batteries, personal hygiene kits, blankets and other items frequently requested by reservation partners during environmental emergencies.
This proactive emergency preparedness enables PWNA to quickly mobilize and deliver supplies to affected areas in need. Even just this year, we were able to provide emergency relief to Cheyenne River and the Lake Traverse Reservations for winter storms, and last year to tribes in Wisconsin, Louisiana and North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew and other storms flooded homes and displaced residents.
To meet the unexpected year-round, PWNA relies on individual donors as well as bulk donations of in-kind products such as those mentioned above. You can learn more about our first responder emergency relief and other emergency services here.
For most of us, home is where we build our memories. But for many Native families, poor living conditions often get in the way of everyday life. In fact, 40 percent of Native families live in sub-standard or overcrowded housing, such that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights notes, “the basic standard of living of Native Americans remains well below that of the rest of the nation, with crumbling structures… and overcrowding all too common in Indian Country. Many Native American households often lack even basic provisions such as plumbing, electricity, and telephone lines.”
Compounding this is the lack of resources many Native families face. Without the local jobs and economic assets to make improvements, housing issues can continue to negatively impact the lives of families – especially for Native American Elders.
In an effort to ease the housing need, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) provides home improvement services to Elders in select reservations communities through its Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) program.
SWRA provides home repairs such as replacing roofing and windows, fixing plumbing, and installing access ramps. By working with reservation-based partners to identify the Elders most in need, SWRA can provide improvements necessary to bring the Elders’ homes up to safe living standards. The recipients selected typically live in very old homes that present significant health or safety risks, such as improperly installed wood stoves, holes in floors and walls, rickety wheelchair ramps or no ramps at all, black mold, dirt floors or faulty electrical wiring.
For Elizabeth S, a lifelong resident of Cove, Arizona, Our SWRA program replaced her old stove with a new one. Another Cove Elder, Flora L., will have her roof replaced soon through the SWRA program. “My husband, David, built our home in the early 1970’s so that I could be close to my aging parents. If David were still alive, he’d be repairing the roof himself! Thank you, A’he’hee,” she said to PWNA, SWRA and the Cove Chapter.
The repairs and improvements being provided are more than improvements to the structure of homes; they are helping provide Native American Elders and their families a solid foundation on which to build their future. Find out how you can help PWNA and SWRA ensure that more Southwest Native American Elders have safe, livable housing here.
We are excited to announce that Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) has received a $329,480 grant from the Walmart Foundation to help fund programs that provide essential, high quality food and nutrition services to Native Americans in tribal communities. This funding will support PWNA’s ongoing effort to improve health through better nutrition and education.
PWNA first received a grant of $258,000 from the Walmart Foundation in 2016, and was able to fund multiple initiatives aimed at food distribution, nutritional education, community garden projects and a Southwest mobile training unit. In fact, due to this aid and the dedication of our reservation partners, in less than a year PWNA provided food and nutrition assistance, including:
- 133,668 pounds of fresh produce delivered by PWNA to food pantry partners and benefiting nearly 20,000 community members
- 63,599 pounds of emergency food and bottled water
- 62,103 pounds of shelf staple snacks and meals
- Nearly 5,000 backpacks filled with nutritional snacks and juices for youth
- 10 community and youth gardens expanded in the Southwest, including $50,000 in re-grants and garden supplies
- Mobile unit education and support services such as canning/food preservation training sessions and cooking demonstrations reaching Native communities in 8 states
These efforts made a significant impact on Indian Country, exceeding even our own expectations. As an example, our canning training sessions led many from Horse Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation to pair with their community garden leaders to provide canned goods to the local homeless shelter. As enthusiasm for this training spread through the local community, the tribe requested that PWNA provide additional opportunities for nutrition education, which was met through fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie demonstrations. We were also able to conduct similar demonstrations to reach another 108 individuals in the Southwest on the Gila River, Maricopa, Salt River, and Pascua Yaqui Reservations.
We hope to continue this record of success with the 2017 grant, supporting our reservation partners through nutritional education initiatives. Today, food insecurity continues to be an obstacle to lasting health and self-sustainment for many tribal communities. This is especially detrimental to younger generations, as diabetes among American Indian teens aged 15-19 has risen 68 percent between 1994- 2004. This issue not only affects the community members of today, but creates difficulties for the generations of tomorrow.
The funds from the 2017 grant will be used to support PWNA’s gardening programs, helping community members get their start by providing garden materials and training in how to best care for crops as well as supplying garden tools, seeds, and fencing for participants. We will also expand community and youth gardens in the Northern Plains and the Southwest. Our mobile nutrition education efforts will continue with canning instruction, healthy food preparation/cooking training, and supplying tools such as knives, blenders, and food processors.
The support of the Walmart Foundation ensures that PWNA will continue to have an impact in remote communities around the country, as we work with reservation partners toward improved nutrition and self-determination for Native peoples.
As we continue our mission to keep you abreast of the top stories concerning Native life from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of August for your enjoyment. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Why it’s taboo in Navajo culture to view the solar eclipse via 12 News Arizona
- According to traditional beliefs, viewing the eclipse could result in health and spiritual problems. Navajo beliefs warn against eating, sleeping or being out in the sun while a solar eclipse is happening. “You’re not supposed to be out in the sun because nature does change, the atmosphere, the lighting, everything changes,” said Carlos Begay, a Navajo culture and language teacher at Page High School. “It’s a time that the sun or the moon is changing itself. When it’s changing, it’s a time that you’re supposed to be reverent.”
Navajo Code Talker’s life told in film via The Durango Herald
- “Sam Sandoval, the last surviving Navajo Code Talker from Shiprock, has much to say about his life, his tribe and justice. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sandoval said, he enlisted to fight for two nations: the Navajo Nation and the United States. Sandoval, 93, visited Cortez on Monday for a screening of a film about his life, “Naz Bah Ei Bijei: Heart of a Warrior.”
- “In 1958, the guitar riff known as “Rumble” shocked audiences… and its influence is still heard today. Behind that song was a Native American musician named Link Wray, who went on to inspire legions of rock ‘n’ roll greats. He’s featured in a new documentary called Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, which aims to finally give Native American musicians their due.”
Carson Sees ‘Moral Duty’ To Give Native Americans A Chance At Prosperity via Daily Inter Lake
- “Ben Carson, secretary of housing in the Trump administration, visited Polson on Monday afternoon and said there is a “moral duty” to ensure Native Americans have the same opportunity to prosperity as others. At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, our mission is to ensure that all Americans have access to safe and affordable housing,… there is also “special responsibility” to Native Americans “who govern themselves on their tribal lands” and preserve their heritage and culture.”
VMFA exhibit opens the dialogue of Native American art in the past and present via Richmond Times-Dispatch
- “Art can be one of the greatest learning tools, and to explore the rich history of Native Americans, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will open the exhibit “Hear My Voice: Native American Art of the Past and Present”… at the Evans Court Gallery… and will feature 56 works from 35 Native American tribes, which explore the way Native American art shares history and tradition while also being diverse in style, medium and subject. The exhibit includes pieces from 400 A.D. to modern day.”
While dogs are often thought of as “man’s best friend,” within Native American cultures, they have a history of being so much more. Over the years their responsibilities have included hunting, guarding and even pulling sleds, and have long been considered essential members of their communities. Today that close relationship with animals continues, but unfortunately some tribes face significant overpopulation of animals and the challenges that brings.
The overpopulation of animals is a growing concern, specifically when it comes to dogs and cats. The Navajo Nation alone has thousands of stray dogs and cats on their land. These homeless animals are often in poor health, with many needing veterinary attention, some even dealing with broken bones or untreated infections.
Many of these animals may have been born as strays on the reservation. Other times, animals are left on the side of the road in Native communities by individuals living off-reservation, a practice commonly referred to as “animal dumping.” This creates health and safety issues for the tribal communities involved, and hardships for the animal.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) through its Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR) program supports ongoing animal welfare efforts with a commitment to compassionate, humane treatment, which includes helping RAR partners that find these animals forever homes and ensure the health and safety of the community. Through our RAR program, we deliver essential supplies such as food, collars, leashes and more, support spay and neutering services and other medical care, and support education on how to properly care for animals. In 2016, PWNA supplied veterinary programs and animal care groups on remote reservations with more than 23,000 pounds of pet food and other needed supplies to help meet this growing concern.
During a mobile spay and neuter clinic supported by RAR in collaboration with Midwestern University’s Animal Health Institute, we met Rhianna, a young community member and volunteer from the San Carlos Reservation. She helped coordinate outreach so that members of her community knew to bring their pets to the mobile clinic for medical attention. She said, “Because we’re struggling monetarily, there is no way we can get our dogs fixed. They come out here and fix our dogs … they’re really a blessing to some families that love their pets but have no money to take them to a vet.”
You can join PWNA and RAR efforts to improve animal care and quality of life, and help to ensure all animals on reservations have their health, and a place to call home. Find out more at www.nativepartnership.org/animalwelfare1.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is committed to supporting a brighter future for Native Americans living on remote and often isolated reservations. By collaborating with our partners in more than 300 tribal communities, we work to realize our vision of strong, self-sufficient Native American communities. It’s our belief that the people who live and work in the areas PWNA serves have the solutions to the problems that challenge their quality of life, and PWNA’s role is to provide resources and support to these community-driven efforts toward lasting change.
Today, our reservation-based program partners count on PWNA as a consistent, reliable resource. Our services are available year-round to address critical needs in the areas of education, health, food and water, emergency relief, holiday support and animal welfare on 60 reservations. PWNA is committed to providing high-quality, useful products, services and grants that reservation partners specifically request to enhance their programs, meet pressing needs and address sustainable solutions in their communities.
A sample of PWNA’s support, which aims at both immediate needs and long-term solutions, includes:
- Food & Water: In 2016, PWNA addressed food insecurity by providing over a ton and a half of food to help stock Polson Loaves and Fish Pantry in Montana, in addition to other food pantries, which helped contribute to food security for Native communities. We also helped to further food sovereignty by providing cooking demonstrations and healthy nutrition education with our reservation partners. One of our innovative approaches to food and nutrition in 2016 was the use of mobile units for training and nutrition (MUTNs), enabling collaboration between Native chefs and local cooks.
- Education Services: Furthering PWNA’s commitment to supporting self-determination and quality of life, our initiatives in education included investing in literacy programs that motivate reading and promote parent-child reading time. In 2016, PWNA provided enough literacy incentives and supplies for 38 partners on 14 reservations and furnished school supplies to 75 partner schools on 28 reservations. For older students, we supported the pursuit of higher education by awarding scholarships and grant funds, and supplying laptops to deserving students. In support of lifelong learning, PWNA expanded its 4 Directions Development Program, investing in personal and professional development training and, since inception, equipping 63 emerging leaders to make even greater contributions to their tribal communities.
- Emergency Services: PWNA supported disaster relief and disaster preparedness among our tribal communities in numerous ways in 2016. In one case, this included providing $1.3 million in supplies to the residents of the United Houma Nation in the wake of severe storms in Louisiana in August, 2016, and through collaborations with community partners and organizations like the American Red Cross, supporting disaster preparedness planning, providing emergency kits, and ensuring emergency medical training.
- Health + Holiday Support: PWNA supported reservation programs aimed specifically at preventative care, home health visits and health education initiatives for tribal members, as part of its commitment to reducing health disparities and lowering disease rates within Native communities. Beyond health, in 2016 PWNA helped our program partners enrich quality of life among tribal members by embracing the holiday season, delivering to nearly 300 program partners the requested holiday stockings for children and Elders.
- Animal Welfare: In 2016, PWNA supported reservation programs that spay, neuter and vaccinate animals, and educate communities on proper animal care. We also supported community health through a $10,000 grant to Midwestern University’s Animal Health Institute in Glendale, AZ, to advance the critical need for reservation-based spay and neuter programs and veterinary services through Midwestern’s mobile animal clinic.
This is just a snapshot of all the life-enhancing initiatives PWNA supported in 2016. None of this could have been possible without our individual contributors, in-kind donors, and community investors, or without our tribal partners who collaborated with PWNA throughout the year. Together, we addressed critical supply needs in underserved tribal communities and enhanced community-led initiatives focused on nutrition and health, youth development and emergency preparedness. We want to thank all of you for your generosity and dedication to PWNA’s mission and to those who benefit from our services. To read more about PWNA’s impact in 2016, read the full report here. And check out the back page to learn about our cover art.