Ira Hayes: Hero by Happenstance?

“I am not a hero, but the brave men who died deserved this honor.” – Ira Hayes

Public Domain, at

Public Domain, at

Ira Hamilton Hayes was born a Pima Indian in Sacaton, Ariz. on Jan. 12, 1923. Before enrolling in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, Hayes lived a rather normal life. He is probably most known for a simple picture at the end of the war, which stands to this day as one of the most iconic photographs of U.S. determination in our history. Being one of the six Marines to raise the American flag at Iwo Jima made Hayes one of the most distinguished Native Americans of World War II.

The eldest of six children, Ira’s parents were Nancy and Joseph Hayes. He was raised Presbyterian and was marked by his quietness. Despite most Pima Indians in his area having a difficult time with English, Ira had a firm grasp on the language, and it was probably because of this that he did well in school.

Enlisting in the Marines in 1942, at the age of 19, Hayes was assigned for parachute training that August. By the end of November, he was a qualified parachutist and left for his first tour of duty in March 1943.

Look anywhere, and you will find this same information on Ira Hayes. What you will not find, however, is much personal information. Hayes’ personal life was just that – personal. Even as one of the most famous Marines in history, there is very little information to be found

Public Domain, at

Public Domain, at

Perhaps Ira was more of a hero by happenstance in his life – being in the right place at the right time to plant that flag on Iwo Jima.

There was no strong indication of a future in the military, based on the childhood years of Ira Hayes. It is rumored that he told a grade school classmate he wanted to be a Marine. Other than this, his early years seem that of a young Native not dissimilar to those we see today.

For instance, when you read about Ira, you read that as a child he would go for days without speaking, unless you talked to him. Comparatively, in my youth, I was taught to speak only when spoken to, to be respectful of those who are talking, and if there was a time I offered my word, to be in a humble way. You also read that he applied himself in school, one of the few ways he knew how – through the English language. Later, he’d apply himself to serve his country, much like his ancestors before him.

So, in many ways, Ira Hayes was just like many of us – quiet, humble, and driven to do the best he could at what he did. In his case, this included critical service such as helping to raise the flag at Iwo Jima and serving among the many Navajo code talkers and other Native American veterans.

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Reflecting on 2016, Welcoming 2017

1-03-17-reflecting-on-2016-welcoming-2017-stock-photo-62264559-blog_mlWith a new year comes new hope. For Partnership With Native Americans, it’s another year to work toward our mission of serving immediate needs and support long-term solutions for the tribal communities we serve. We accomplished a lot in 2016, as we reflect on the past year, and we couldn’t have done so without the support of our donors, reservation partners, volunteers, staff and Board of Directors. As our CEO Robbi Rice-Dietrich shared last month, we know we are making in impact, but we can do even more.

Here are some of our 2016 highlights from media, social media and the PWNA blog:

  • In January, we shared tips on to help Native American students obtain scholarships and grants.
  • In July, we invited you to participate in our Backpack Drive to help us provide school supplies for 26,000 Native American students on the reservations.
  • In August, we shared a story on the passing of David Beautiful Bald Eagle, Jr. on Facebook, to which nearly 500 of you reacted and 200 of you shared.
  • In October, PWNA was awarded $258,000 by the Walmart Foundation to aid our partner agencies that support nutrition and healthier living on the reservations PWNA assists across the country.
  • In November, PWNA recognized American Indian Heritage Month, celebrating Native culture and honoring Native history through curated stories on what really happened on the first Thanksgiving, as well as stories from some of the Elders we serve.
  • Also in November, PWNA invited you to participate in #GivingTuesday to help us reach a goal of $10,000 and receive a matching $10,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation.

Join us in welcoming 2017 with open arms and keeping up with our work here on the blog, and on our social media channels: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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‘Tis the Season for Giving

‘Tis the season for giving and the countdown is on for this year! Holiday giving is generous and it helps bring smiles like the ones in this video.

But did you know New Year’s Eve giving is even bigger and marks the most generous day of giving for the entire year? Or that half of all nonprofits rely heavily on donations made Dec. 29-31 for a significant portion of their annual revenue? Learn more at Mobile Cause.

Our new Vice President of Development Rod Trahan is very familiar with the realities of year-end giving, as well as the year-round realities facing the reservations PWNA serves. Rod was formerly on our Board of Directors and a Program Partner of PWNA for the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. He is now leading our direct mail, planned giving, online and social giving efforts to fund our mission, drawing on extensive experience with Saint Labre Indian School, Native American Development Corporation and the Montana Indian Business Alliance for business owners.

With all his years of experience, we asked Rod what he wished donors would consider with year-end giving. This is what he shared:

“Remember the reason for the season. And if you’re thinking of giving to your favorite charity, be sure your gift is postmarked before midnight on Dec. 31 to ensure there are no issues with Uncle Sam, should you claim the donation on your tax return.”

12-27-16-tis-the-season-christmasornamentWith this in mind, we hope you will remember PWNA in your year-end giving and contribute so that we may continue our vital work with Native Americans on the 60 reservations with the highest need in the U.S.

Less than one percent of all charitable giving supports Native causes, but your gift today can help change this.

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Happy Holidays and Thank You!

12-20-16-dietrich-001retAs we approach the end of this year, I am so grateful for the work PWNA is allowed to do within tribal communities. Side by side with our program partners, and supported by the incredible generosity of our donors, we are making progress toward our mission of meeting immediate needs and supporting long term solutions, and our vision of strong, self-sufficient Native American communities.

There’s a popular column in O Magazine called “This I Know For Sure.” The topic each month is something that is certain – something so deep within the author’s heart and soul that she knows it is true. I want to share with you “What I Know For Sure” about PWNA as we end this year:

  • Our 250 scholarship recipients, many of them completing their first semesters in college far away from the reservations where their families live, appreciate the encouraging words and care packages they receive from PWNA – especially during final exams this month. They’ll go home for the holidays and encourage others in their tribes to stay in school and start making plans to attend college.
  • 12-20-16-sharing-the-good-buncee_clipart_holiday_10028,000 Native children across 33 reservations will soon receive huge stockings full of fun and needed items appropriate for their age range. They will know we remembered them, and they’ll laugh and smile and play.
  • Nearly 12,000 Elders will receive blankets, socks, and personal care items they need to help make it through the winter. They will share what they receive with others because they understand the importance and value of giving.
  • Over 2,000 holiday meals will be provided for Native Elders, families and children, and they will enjoy this nourishment while visiting with families and getting news about the community. The ingredients for these meals – ham or turkey, vegetables and pies – will be delivered by PWNA drivers to our program partners at Elder Nutrition Centers, who recruit volunteers to assist with planning, preparing, serving and cleaning up for these community-wide gatherings.
  • The graduates of our 4 Directions Development Program (4D) training have become more confident and effective leaders within their communities. They’ll share the professional and personal goals they created and talk about the support and encouragement they continue to receive from others in their class and their Native American mentors, as they encourage others to participate in 4D.

I know these things for sure because I see the results of our work each time I visit a tribal community and hear about them from our partners who live and work there. PWNA’s staff, Board of Directors and partners are aligned around a mission that respects the self-determined goals and rights of tribes, as we listen and learn about the solutions that are working in their communities. “What I Know For Sure” is that PWNA is doing important work in the areas of highest need in our country and, with your continued help, we can do even more.

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Emergency Preparedness: A Community-based Response

Floods, fires and winds cause serious threats to Native American communities and when emergencies arise, Partnership With Native Americans is often called as a first responder. As Tristan mentioned last week, in July, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reached out to PWNA; in August, the United Houma Nation did; and in October, the Lumbee Tribe did. PWNA was pleased to provide combined aid of $1.9 million in immediate relief for tribal citizens.

Our reservation partners view PWNA as a consistent and reliable resource and know that, in addition to “disaster” events, PWNA responds to smaller emergencies that are disruptive to local communities. In fact, over the past decade, PWNA responded to more than 55 disasters impacting Native American communities, with our aid benefiting 620,000 people.

Our experience with these kinds of disaster events has led PWNA to expand its role in emergency response, to keep up with the needs of tribal communities.


121316-pwna-arc-logosToday, PWNA is playing a bigger role as an intermediary, essentially connecting outside resources directly to the reservations. For example, in each of the three disaster events Tristan mentioned, PWNA provided aid, but also secured outside support to assist tribal citizens. PWNA has effectively partnered with the American Red Cross, the Walmart Foundation, the National Guard, Natural Resources and Fire management programs, regional food banks and members of VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) to provide emergency relief on the reservations.

PWNA is also playing a bigger role in disaster relief by supporting community-based emergency preparedness planning. Through community investment projects funded by the American Red Cross from 2015-16, PWNA is supporting capacity building within four tribal communities that are working to create community-based emergency response plans. The plans involve establishing logistics such as where to store critical emergency supplies within each community, identifying individuals interested in taking a lead for emergency preparedness and disaster response, and training these individuals as first responders and resources for community members in times of emergency.

The four communities are in the Northern Plains, including Cherry Creek and La Plant on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, and Payabya and Wamblee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. So far, more than 40 residents have been trained in CPR and first aid and helped to create an emergency response plan relevant to their respective communities. These communities have taken control of dealing with the unexpected and are ready to respond, immediately alleviating some of the stress and impact disasters can have on a community and its citizens.

Waiting for help to arrive is a stressful and daunting place to be when emergency strikes. All of PWNA’s emergency services are designed to alleviate this stress, from disaster relief, to outside resources, to emergency preparedness. Although PWNA prioritizes disaster relief in our 12-state service area, we encourage all tribal communities to remember PWNA as a first responder in your time of need.

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Disaster Relief by a First Responder for the Reservations

Disaster strikes – and PWNA responds with Emergency Relief for tribes adversely affected by environmental situations. In these situations, PWNA provides immediate disaster relief such as nonperishable foods, water, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products, as requested by its reservation partners.

But, I’d like to bring attention to three particular cases that occurred in 2016 – each one affecting lives and homes for the Lumbee Tribe, United Houma Nation or the Bad River Tribe over the past few months – each well beyond PWNA’s regular service area.

12-06-16-emergency-relief-image-naa-produce-cc-hunkpati-2016-89Going first to North Carolina, in October, Hurricane Matthew made landfall and the Lumbee Tribe was hit hard by flooding, with approximately 50,000 people affected. Residents were evacuated and many families were left “homeless or without electricity, and businesses were destroyed…” By October 11, emergency aid was requested from PWNA to assist families with clean up and displacement from their homes. PWNA was first contacted for aid by the American Red Cross, on behalf of the tribe, and responded with about $630,000 in critical supplies, including more than 25,000 pounds of food. The Walmart Foundation supported PWNA in this effort, providing $25,000 worth of supplies. Local residents impacted with longer term needs may apply for FEMA aid.

Moving on to Louisiana in August, severe storms caused widespread flooding that impacted the United Houma Nation. The flooding led to the destruction of homes, displacement of families and loss of vehicles and personal effects for up to 250 tribal citizens. The tribe requested food, water and cleaning supplies. PWNA responded with $1.2M in aid, including more than 36,000 pounds of food and coordinated relief efforts with the American Red Cross who supplied about $65,000 worth of water. On a September 28 follow-up call with Chief Thomas Dardar, he noted, “every product was a great quality product and everything sent was needed and appreciated. The blankets in particular were so appreciated by the Elders.”

Finally, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin experienced heavy rains in July that led to widespread flooding. Several counties were named in disaster declarations, including Ashland County – home of the Bad River Tribe. Four of the tribe’s main communities were affected, with 590 homes either damaged or destroyed, roadways washed out and utilities disrupted. Some residents were without electricity, others were under advisories to boil water for home use, and many lost their food due to power outages – restoration was slow as each home was subject to individual inspection. PWNA responded with more than 100,000 pounds of food, as well as emergency blankets and cleaning supplies, and coordinated the local distribution through the Bad River Community Center in Odanah, Wisconsin.

VOADA national member of VOAD – Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster – PWNA provides emergency relief to reservations within its 12-state service area. As a state member of VOAD in Arizona, South Dakota and Montana, PWNA concentrates its emergency relief in these areas but evaluates other disasters on a case by case basis, if requested by the tribe.

Life on the reservation has its hardships every day, but when disaster strikes, it can bring extended hardship to geographically-isolated and economically-stressed communities. Fortunately, many partners know PWNA as a first responder for the reservations and PWNA is often the first organization they call for disaster relief.

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On #GivingTuesday Support Healthy Holidays for the Homebound

As we enter the holiday giving season, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) encourages everyone to participate in #GivingTuesday, a day designed to inspire people to collaborate on improving their local communities and to give back to causes they support. Held annually and occurring this year on Nov. 29, #GivingTuesday is the Tuesday immediately after Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, encouraging consumer attention to those in need after a weekend full of shopping.

gt-co-branded-campaign-image_lillianbrand-finalAs part of this once-a-year opportunity, PWNA can earn up to $10,000 in matching funds for donations made through Nov. 29, as part of the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge for Giving Tuesday. For a limited time, people across the world can touch the lives of Native Americans in need, and their gift to PWNA will be matched dollar for dollar and used to support food and holiday care for homebound Elders on the reservations.

PWNA supports nutritious, hot meals for Elders on remote, geographically isolated and impoverished reservations, as well as holiday services. We’re thankful to have been selected for the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge and our hope is to reach our goal and continue to support our reservation partners delivering healthy meals, along with holiday cheer, to ensure healthy holidays for the homebound.

To help PWNA reach its Challenge goal and make a holiday memory for a homebound Elder, visit to make a donation by tomorrow, Nov. 29. Donations must be made on this Crowdrise page to qualify for matching funds.

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American Indian Heritage Day & Month

banner-heritage-month-final-low-resThank you for joining us throughout November to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month. Echoing the words of President Obama on Nov. 25, 2009, when he encouraged every American to observe the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day:

“…it is important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition and history of Native Americans and their status today– and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made, and will continue to make to our Nation.”

Linking the national Heritage Day to Thanksgiving is fitting, given the contributions of American Indians that long preceded the first harvest of the pilgrims. For those of you who missed “The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving,” visit to download it now.

We are moved by the generosity with which you shared our stories on your social pages, and by the comments you left on our blog – many of which echo the sentiment that videos like PWNA’s should be shown in the schools. Here is just one of the many blog comments that touched our hearts:

Marilyn Enness wrote: “Now is the time to rewrite elementary-, midde-, high school text books and curriculum. My school years in the ’50s-60’s lacked education of the truth, and as an elementary school teacher, 40 years later, I was teaching the same things I had learned! As I educated myself, I passed on info to the fifth graders, in a neutral matter-of-fact way and never did they side with the governing forces. They were appalled. It went against all morals and values they had learned in their 10 years of upbringing. Info is so accessible nowadays; hopefully local units can once again determine the course, if core curriculum goes to the wayside.”

logo-heritagemonth-circlelogofinal2016-low-resWe thank all Heritage Month participants and again congratulate our grand prize and giveaway winners:

Ina P. of Wisconsin:  Code Talker book
Michelle V. of North Carolina: Heritage Month t-shirt
Paula A. of Pennsylvania:  Crazy Horse book
Rhonda L. of Washington: Revenant movie DVD
Jeanette S. of Michigan: Squanto book
Martin B. of Minnesota.: Standing Bear DVD
Cynthia S. of California: Grand prize winner of We Shall Remain documentary DVD set

Please stay with us now through November 29 for updates about #GivingTuesday, and see how you can get involved at

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Thanksgiving in Indian Country

Thanksgiving celebration, and gratitude, come in different shapes and sizes. Some people gather with friends and neighbors for a meal and reflection on the good things in their lives. Some travel to be with loved ones, and some practice gratitude daily, rather than setting it aside for one special Thursday in November.

11-22-16-sara-fills-the-pipe-3_blog-smSara Fills The Pipe, an Elder from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, has spent her Thanksgiving in some of these ways, but also in ways that are very different – even across the generations of her own life. Read her story, “Sara Fills the Pipe on Thanks & Thanksgiving,” to learn how she has spent Thanksgiving, what she has taught her children and grandchildren about the first Thanksgiving and her questions about the holiday.

Like Sara, each of PWNA’s partners and reservation communities has a different take on Thanksgiving – ranging from a day of gratitude to a day of mourning. In an effort to support families and communities in however they wish to recognize it, PWNA offers a Thanksgiving service to reservation-based program partners, providing foods that have come to be the typical fare for this controversial holiday. This is one of the many ways PWNA provides food throughout our service area.

PWNA partners may participate in the Thanksgiving service in one of two ways. One way is a community-wide meal prepared by the partner and local volunteers, to be shared by all community members. Each community meal delivery typically includes turkey, vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes and pies – enough to feed the number of people anticipated by each partner. Another way to participate is through individual family meal bags. In this, the partner orders enough meal boxes to serve every Elder in their community. A family meal box will feed up to six people and includes foods similar to those provided for community meals.

Annually, PWNA partners request thousands of Thanksgiving meals, and this year, PWNA is providing enough food for just over 38,000 people in the Northern Plains and Southwest. Through the heartfelt work of our partners, this impact will be felt across seven different states, reaching into 70 communities on 24 reservations – for this one holiday alone! PWNA’s staff is fortunate to connect with some of the partners hosting these meals. We are always welcomed with smiles and hugs, often followed by an apron, hairnet and gloves! It’s always an honor to serve and visit these communities.

My own childhood memories of Thanksgiving involve “the kids table” and a mass of food that took days to prepare and about 10 minutes to eat (not including the leftovers). The holiday included aunts and uncles and cousins that only congregated every so often as a family. I remember crawling up on my grandfather’s lap and sipping coffee out of his mug (it was really cream and sugar with a dash of coffee). And, of course, I likely learned about the first meal between Indians and pilgrims while seated with my classmates sporting a black pilgrim hat or a feather headdress made from construction paper.  As a Lakota woman, I am happy to know so much more of the history and truth about this particular holiday and to recognize that I have much to be thankful for every day.

Although Sara hasn’t decided where she will end up for Thanksgiving this year, we hope you think about her, her family, her story and the people and places you are grateful for on Thanksgiving and year round.

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The Untold Story After the First Thanksgiving

img_8659-heritage-blog-post-smWe are continuing our theme of honoring Native American culture and history throughout November, American Indian Heritage Month. Last week, we were excited to share with you the real story of the first Thanksgiving, curated from accounts by the ancestors of the Indians who were there, and the pilgrims who inhabited Plymouth Colony. This week we take a closer look at what happened next – after the first Thanksgiving.

For many people, the story of Thanksgiving stops at the harvest and the “happy ending.” Often people never stop to think what happened next – in the same way many never think about what happened in Native history after the treaties and the reservations. Yet Native history didn’t stop there and neither did the realities of the first Thanksgiving.

The rest of the story untold is how that first harvest marked the end of pilgrim reliance on their tribal neighbors, and the relationship brutally changed. In return for their charity and compassion, the Wampanoag and other tribes got genocide, loss of land and centuries of oppression.

To grasp the untold story after the first Thanksgiving, one need only look at realities on the reservations and realize that history and policies, then and now, have shaped the most adverse challenges of modern Native life. To learn more, go to, where you can download a telling story that includes:

  • What happened within 10 years after the first Thanksgiving
  • Surprising eras of U.S. policies toward the tribes
  • The legacy left for Natives in the wake of U.S. history and policies

Some illuminating questions to ponder are:

  • Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with feasts and football – why do many Native people consider Thanksgiving a National Day of Mourning?
  • Family is essential – can you guess why Native children were removed from their homes?
  • As a group, Native Americans suffer the highest poverty in the U.S. – can you guess what percent of U.S. giving supports Native causes?

You can’t change history, but knowing the real history could change you. Be sure to read “The Untold Story After the First Thanksgiving” on If you didn’t catch part one, “The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving,” be sure to read it first! And visit us next Tuesday for one Sioux Elder’s take on Thanksgiving.

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