Merry Christmas and Thank You!

Season’s greetings! Each year, we take time to reflect on the impact of our program partners and donors on Native communities and assess the challenges we have overcome together in that time – and to put it mildly, 2020 was unprecedented.

The entire country was confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic nosedive and the social movement of a generation – none of which deterred us from carrying out our mission. To the contrary, our staff stayed safe and dug deeper, emotionally and mentally, to ensure we continued providing essential services to the most geographically isolated and impoverished communities in the U.S.

I started as the newly minted president & CEO of PWNA in January. In February, we held the First Lakota Food Summit in Rapid City, SD –  an overwhelming success for our partners and participants. As I finished visiting our offices in the Northern Plains and Southwest, we began to hear about coronavirus – and when Native communities began canceling spring ceremonies, and the NCAA canceled the March Madness college basketball tournament, we knew it was serious.

As many watched from their homes during lockdowns from March through June and longer (some Native communities are still in lockdown today), PWNA was able to adapt and continue operations safely and effectively. We transitioned many of our training services to an online platform, introduced a new portal and Instagram channel aimed at creating awareness of reservation realities, celebrated a milestone 30-year anniversary as a Native nonprofit, and hired a new vice president of fundraising to ensure we can continue to carry out our mission.

Sadly, the adverse impacts of COVID-19 to tribal communities were countless and only magnified the social inequities we work to address even in ‘normal’ times. Though, on a hopeful note, we saw the best of humanity as those who could stepped up to make a difference.

National news outlets, such as Forbes, NBC, ABC, PBS, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today and more helped share the stories and images of what was happening – and helped raise a new awareness of life on the reservations. We also owe a special thanks to legendary actor Wes Studi for helping us get the word out. Our entire staff was proud to see PWNA continuously highlighted as a top nonprofit serving Indian Country.

The outpouring of donations has been heartfelt and uplifting, helping to answer the call for COVID-19 relief for the tribes. In short:

  • Thousands of individuals made donations to PWNA for the first time – including Kliff Kingsbury, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
  • Funders, such as Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Newman’s Own Foundation and LDS Charities, generously renewed grant funding.
  • New funders, including Boeing Corporation, Sergey Brin Family Foundation, Catena Foundation, South Dakota Community Foundation, Arizona Community Foundation, Synchrony Bank and the Verizon Foundation, prioritized Native giving.
  • And just as our warehouse inventory was running low, new in-kind donors, such as Baby2Baby, Convoy of Hope, Global PPE, Kate Farms and Boomer Naturals stepped up with critical supplies.

We are not out of the woods yet. Continued advocacy, awareness and social justice will be critical factors in the recovery of our tribal communities, and it will take several years. So, as we approach the new year, we’d like to remind you that nonprofits rely heavily on end-of-year giving. If you’re thinking of donating, we hope you’ll contribute to PWNA and postmark it before midnight on Dec. 31 for a tax deduction.  

From the entire PWNA family, we would like to wish you all a happy, healthy and joyous holiday season, in a safely scaled back version of your celebration with your loved ones.

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