Paul Newman, the late actor, founded Newman’s Own Foundation about 35 years ago. I remember watching “Cool Hand Luke” and Newman’s role as a prisoner confronting the system and wondering, “Is this ‘Luke’ role giving the world a peek into his real character?” And last month, as I prepared to attend the new Native American Nutrition Cohort established by Newman’s Own Foundation, I realized Paul Newman was just that — a revolutionary person who started a movement by selling a salad dressing and using the profits to help and inspire people to do great things.
As I thought about Mr. Newman’s legacy, images of the Native organizations, communities and people that Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) has assisted, with the support of Newman’s Own Foundation (NOF), came to mind. With the Foundation’s support, PWNA has provided resources and assistance to Native communities, increasing access to fresh food, delivering nutrition education and preserving ancestral knowledge and practices related to food. This work is more than “feel good” service; it is life changing and sometimes daunting.
According to recent data, 23% of Native households don’t have access to adequate nutrition, due to lack of money or other resources. Insufficient access to fresh and healthy food options leads to health issues. Native Americans have the highest prevalence of diabetes of any ethnic group in the U.S., and up to 50 percent of AIAN (American Indian and Alaska Native) children are overweight or obese by the time they turn 10.
On May 8, 2018, Newman’s Own Foundation kicked off the Native Nutrition Cohort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Honored to be representing PWNA, I spent two days with NOF staff and an esteemed group representing eight other organizations that are regionally and nationally recognized for their food sovereignty work in Indian Country. The welcome and blessing by Tewa Pueblo Governor Everett Chavez, meet and greet, agency presentations and discussion of topics such as health and racial equity raised awareness of the potential for this peer learning forum to have far-reaching impact on Native nutrition, as well as our work and respective organizations.
As a collective, we recognized many of us in the cohort are serving the same communities, which are addressing challenges of food insecurity and food deserts, as well as heightened socio-economic challenges, and yet we have been working in silos. Each organization shared stories of inspirational members in Native communities who are activating and expanding nutrition initiatives, yet we have not been sharing these successes and best practices with each other. As our focus turned to defining the cohort’s goals over the next three years, these threads were “weaved and braided” into our scope of work. We identified topics and areas of work for the cohort, ranging from maintaining and supporting Native ancestral practices to contemporary issues embedded in federal policy.
The first gathering of the Native American Nutrition Cohort closed with a spirit of collaboration and shared purpose. All of the cohort members are enthusiastic about taking this journey in the hopes that it leads to greater health impact, reduced food insecurity and stronger self-sufficiency in Native communities.
Along with Arizona’s 22 indigenous tribes, Arizona State Senator Jamescita Peshlakai is already planning a grand celebration for June 2, 2019. The reason for the party? This date will mark the very first Native American Day in Arizona, a holiday brought about by Jamescita herself.
Jamescita, a member of the Navajo Nation and U.S. Army veteran who served in the Gulf War, has been on a successful run of recognitions in 2018. In March of this year, she sponsored memorial actions to rename three Arizona highways after Native American veterans, legislation that passed unanimously.
Then, in April, she introduced SB 1235, which would establish June 2 as Native American Day, an official Arizona holiday. Because of the mandatory 90-day waiting period for the law to take effect, the first observance of the Native American Day holiday will take place in 2019, which should give Native communities around the state plenty of time to prepare celebrations.
Currently, only a handful of other states hold celebrations of Native American Day, including California, Nevada, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Because these observations are instituted at the state level, the exact date of celebration is not fixed. Additionally, many across the U.S. celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on and instead of Columbus Day, as a way of accurately portraying the role Native Americans play in this country’s history and society.
As more grassroots efforts are made to recognize and celebrate Native Americans, their history, and continuing contributions to our culture, more states will move to recognize sanctioned holidays that remind citizens to take a moment and reflect on our Native American citizens.
In keeping with our goal of informing readers of the news and culture affect Native American communities from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of May. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- “On a February evening, Deb Haaland, Democratic candidate for Congress in New Mexico’s first district and a member of the Turquoise clan of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, addressed a crowd of supporters packed shoulder to shoulder in a Capitol Hill brownstone. With stairs as a pulpit, Haaland rested a forearm on the bannister and leaned into her stump speech. “I am the only candidate who went to Standing Rock to stand with the Water Protectors,” Haaland said to cheers from the crowd. “There have been more than 10,000 members of Congress—but never a Native American woman.”
- “Two 500-year-old skeletons discovered in Idaho’s high desert plains will be turned over to Native American tribes. U.S. officials in a series of notices starting Friday say the remains of the young adult and child will be given to the interrelated Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in eastern Idaho and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. “We’ve always pointed out that we’ve been here for thousands of years,” Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Chairman Ted Howard said in an interview before U.S. officials announced his tribe would receive the remains. “For our tribe and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, those are the remains of our people, our ancestors. That’s how we feel.”
- “Paulette Jordan, a state senator and member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, has won the Democratic nomination for governor of Idaho. The New York Times called the race for Jordan just before 1 a.m. Eastern, with Jordan leading her Democratic opponent by around 20 percentage points. The 38-year-old Jordan was the progressive favorite in the race, while Idaho’s Democratic establishment lined up behind businessman A.J. Balukoff, who ran for governor unsuccessfully in 2014. Balukoff, a moderate who contributed to Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, ran as a pro-business candidate, while Jordan focused on populist issues, calling out state Republicans for their ties to big business interests.”
- “The Trump administration unleashed a flood of outrage earlier this month after unveiling a proposal to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. The plan would replace half the benefits people receive with boxed, nonperishable — i.e. not fresh — foods chosen by the government and not by the people eating them. Among those horrified at the thought: American Indians who recognized this as the same type of federal food assistance that tribes have historically received, with devastating implications for health.”
May 22 is National Buy a Musical Instrument Day, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon the impact of music on cultures around the world. In the past of any culture lies some point where music underscored acts and events of importance, be it drums of war or songs of marriage, birthdays, or religion. Indeed, in many societies, art such as beadwork, pottery crafting, dancing, painting, and music is a key part of life.
In the past, music was integral to Native culture and now, on the reservations, music continues to be a part of everyday life, whether it helps someone work, celebrate, or even find some solace in the hardships of their life. Music gives us something to look forward to, talk about, or share. Friends have jam sessions after school and on weekends, and groups gather to learn the traditional songs of the Lakota and help carry this tradition on to future generations. Even those among us who were never encouraged to learn our traditions or language were at least encouraged to learn our music or our arts.
PWNA has shared with me that in 2015 they supported Native youth through a group known as Teens for Music, which promotes music as a positive interest and cultural activity, and organizes workshops that teach Native youth how to play musical instruments.
As an alternative to boredom or harmful habits, learning to play a musical instrument is a positive and beneficial hobby that enriches every aspect of life. In fact, there seems to be a correlation between music and quality of life. Studies show that those who play musical instruments tend to do better in school and work, experience more happiness and productivity, and experience less stress. Programs in music (and other arts) give teens a chance to find their passion, de-stress, make friends, and hopefully be happier overall.
Personally, music became a huge passion for me after high school, and I began integrating it into my exercise, hobbies, and even sleep. It has amplified my experiences and in a way helps me store the memories of my life. Many of us in fact catalog our lives by the music we were listening to when… and songs that once meant … now hold personal experience or meaning.
It is very hard to imagine a world without songs, or melodies, or even tunes that get stuck in our heads. Music nurtures us, develops us, accompanies us, and rewards us as we journey through our lives. Surely, more programs like Teens for Music and recognitions like National Buy a Musical Instrument Day could benefit indigenous youth and other youth across the country.
Well, here’s a plan that has been shown to work for decades: the SNAP/EBT program. About 38 million people receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including low-income families, senior citizens and some who live in our rural areas. In today’s blog though, I’ll be taking a look into the proposed plan to cut SNAP benefits and its implications.
I’ve written before about the U.S.D.A. Commodities program and diabetes, about how the amount of empty carbs and sugary foods provided to reservation communities has led to a notably higher rate of diabetes among Native people. Well, the currently proposed “budget saving” plan – known as “America’s Harvest Box” – is only a new take on the existing government food box plan that, while alleviating hunger for families, leaves them wanting in terms of variety of foods and actual nutrition.
As a child I experienced the benefits of “commods” — two boxes of food per month, usually filled with pasta, powdered eggs, canned spam, rice, beans, boxed milk and maybe some Gatorade, if we were lucky. Oh, and the cheese (still some of the best mac ‘n cheese ever made)! But these definitely lack the fresh, healthy, whole foods and items such as those used in Blue Apron meals.
Yet in the Harvest Box announcement, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney likened the Harvest Box to a Blue Apron type program. In recent months, I’ve tried food delivery services like Blue Apron in an attempt to bring better food into my college life and I’ll say this: there is absolutely no comparison in the items. And trying to promote them as the same creates a false interest for those who won’t actually dig into the details.
What’s more, how does a 10-dollar minimum food delivery service save budget over an average cost of two dollars per meal for SNAP? In some cases, the Harvest Box program would cut up to half of SNAP/EBT benefits, not only taking away the possibility of more nutritious food choices, but subjecting families to the health impacts that have already been observed from these boxes. SNAP eligibility criteria would also be altered, adding new guidelines that would disqualify many families in need and for other families reduce the help received.
In my personal opinion, trying to save money by introducing a mix of lower quality foods is simply saving for the short-term while adding to health care costs in the long-term. In fact, this new proposal has been in testing groups for years and shows food boxes to have long-term health impacts. Whether they have even been shown to provide an adequate amount of food to families based on volume and portions is unclear. Maybe if the Harvest Boxes provided better food items, the program would help families, though in its current state, I simply see another commodity plan looking to save money.
Nonprofits in the U.S. bear an enormous responsibility, filling the humanitarian needs and gaps left by government-funded social programs and corporations that do not view these needs as profitable enough for investment. In the balance, people suffer and are left wanting the quality of life and equity enjoyed by other Americans. This is why millions of people in the U.S. choose to work at nonprofits, and to do so for a lesser salary than they could earn in private industry.
In this way, I view nonprofit workers as akin to donors: both are the lifeblood of nonprofits; both care about making a difference and ensuring their help reaches those who need it. Nonprofit workers and donors also share another likeness: commitment to a cause. I personally have worked in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, and now as VP of Development at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). I grew up on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana and, like each and every one of PWNA’s donors, I am committed to improving quality of life for Native Americans.
One of the best ways I’ve seen to do this is to keep on giving. For me, this means keep on working long and productive hours at PWNA and putting my heart into it. For our donors, this means keep on giving to support the cause through PWNA and the programs of PWNA.
In fact, donors have a very special chance to support the cause through “sustained” giving, or in simpler terms, through monthly giving. Many donors ask us: Does monthly giving makes sense for me? It’s a great question that all donors should ask.
My question to donors is: Do you realize how much more you can help by giving monthly, as an alternative to giving frequently in response to fundraising appeals? Or that giving monthly helps all year?
First and foremost, you should know that if you sign up for monthly giving, and you ever need to stop or change it, doing so at PWNA is as quick and easy as a call to our Donor Relations Department. Next, monthly giving means less mail and fundraising calls for you — and most importantly, it means knowing you are easing the suffering of others, every day. It also means a lower cost of fundraising for the charity, and maximizing how efficiently and effectively your gift is used in support of the mission. This just makes financial sense: monthly giving = more impact.
You might be a monthly donor if:
- You are donating to a particular program or cause over and over
- Routinely choosing to support a particular ethnic group
- Looking to lessen a particular concern for those in need
- Making frequent gifts to a particular program or project
- Wanting to see your gifts used as efficiently as possible, to make the greatest impact
- Wanting to help, and also wanting to receive less mail or fewer fundraising calls
I would welcome a call from anyone who wants to learn more about monthly giving and joining our Circle of Friends. You can reach me or my staff at 800-416-8102, or visit www.nativepartnership.org.
At Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA), we take pride in the work of our partners who serve Native communities on 60 reservations across 12 states, year-round. So, what does it take to ensure we’re helping our partners serve their communities?
In addition to our donor relations and administrative offices in Virginia and Texas, PWNA operates two distribution centers that directly serve our partners in the Southwest and Northern Plains. Our distribution center for the Southwest is located in Phoenix and houses essential supplies and materials that are distributed to reservations across Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and portions of Colorado and California. Every product in the 40,000-square foot warehouse is inventoried, valued, and accounted for as part of an annual auditing process. And while maintaining track of items at this scale can be a challenge, our team has scored 100 percent on audit accuracy for the past three years.
Our Phoenix warehouse is stocked year-round with canned goods and emergency food and water, toiletries, school supplies, new clothing items, emergency blankets and more. These items are made available through donations of high-quality, gift in-kind products and purchased items, to ensure PWNA is ready to deploy deliveries and replenish supplies when our partners need them. Recently, local news outlets 3TV AZ Family and ABC 15 visited the Phoenix distribution center to learn how we’re helping Native American communities.
PWNA operates a distribution center of similar size and volume in Rapid City, South Dakota, to serve reservations across North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and Idaho as well as a portion of Washington state. Through our program partners on the reservations, PWNA delivers about $30 million worth of goods and project support annually.
Every week, our drivers load up and hit the road to make deliveries to about 100 program partners, about half of which are located in the Southwest. These deliveries help support reservation-based programs that are working to combat barriers to education, food access, disaster relief, and animal welfare on Native American reservations.
PWNA’s mission is two-fold: serving immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions as identified by the Native American partners and communities we serve. Our regional distribution center teams are a vital component in making sure we work toward realizing our dream of stronger, more sustainable Native American communities.
The winter of 2018 has been relentless in Montana, bringing extreme cold, heavy snow and blizzard conditions. So, when Montana Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency for the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne Reservations, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) knew requests for emergency response were soon to follow.
A month earlier, the Blackfeet had already declared a state of emergency on their reservation, and it was still in effect. Located near Glacier Park and the town of Browning, Montana, schools were closed for days on end and high winds had caused huge snow drifts that shut down travel at times – making it difficult for residents to shop for food and other essentials – and impacting animals, as well.
On March 1, Roy Crawford, our program partner from the Blackfeet Food Bank, called PWNA requesting supplies for 500 households in Browning and Heart Butte, in need of items such as blankets, water, bread, baby formula and diapers, toilet paper and personal hygiene items. PWNA coordinated delivery of supplies to the food bank warehouse on March 20 when the roads became passible, with support of the UPS Foundation.
On March 12, Patricia Ramos, our program partner from the Environmental Health Office (Northern Cheyenne Tribal Board of Health), requested similar supplies for 600 households in Birney, Busby, Lame Deer, Ashland and Muddy Creek. In this case, the Northern Cheyenne picked up the supplies from PWNA’s distribution center in Rapid City, South Dakota on the same day.
Roy and Patricia shared this feedback:
“The supplies that PWNA sent made a huge impact. We were able to help Browning and Babb communities, and Heart Butte next. 500 individuals were served. Our southern communities were hit the worst, and plow crews were stretched pretty thin. Some families were stuck longer than 14 days due to drifting snow and help was not getting to them. Snow mobiles were utilized by law enforcement and Game, Fish and Parks to help us get the PWNA products to the homes.” — Roy Crawford
“In collaboration with PWNA, we were able to obtain the much needed resources to help our community. The quick response and working together to get the products from Rapid City to here was great. By having the items readily available, we were able to distribute them quickly to those most in need. We have a high population of low income families here; some were already without power, All of the PWNA products were well received.” — Patricia Ramos
PWNA’s goal as a first responder for the reservations is to provide a rapid response to remote reservation communities that request emergency aid and to raise mainstream awareness for much needed support. When weather and other events arise in communities that are already economically-stressed, it can bring extended hardship and challenge. PWNA partners like Roy and Patricia turn to PWNA during these times because they know we can quickly mobilize to provide emergency supplies for immediate impact. Through our programs — Northern Plains Reservation Aid, and Native American Aid — PWNA provides emergency relief in our 12-state service area and evaluates other disasters on a case by case basis, if requested by the tribe.
Movies of indigenous peoples have always been a bit on the back burner of cinema. While some movies such as “Dances with Wolves” or “Last of the Mohicans” have garnered great fame, there are many that get little recognition by movie critics and movie goers. Native American focused movies are indeed in short supply, and often include inaccurate portrayals, but the ideas they take on in the modern era have wide-reaching themes such as family issues or cultural death.
The first movie is an old favorite of mine: “Smoke Signals.” This movie has a great many examples of native humor, as well as many other methods that indigenous cultures use to cope with difficult situations. Following Victor Joseph in his dealing with his father’s passing, the movie hits on many difficult subjects, but has as its heaviest theme family estrangement, something that is found in Native and non-Native American communities around the world.
Another favorite movie of mine is “Rhymes with Young Ghouls,” a 1970’s era film that occurs on a fictitious reservation and heavily involves the theme of Christian-run state schools and their efforts to integrate native children into mainstream society. With my own family having had a taste of this dark part of history, and many outside people having little to no insight on these old boarding schools, I find it important to make these situations known through cinema. While the story also has some supernatural elements, the realities of these schools and some of the dramatic situations people go through are depicted accurately.
To touch on one last movie, I think “Skins” is a moving portrayal of some of the situations encountered in indigenous (and other) communities. Following a local officer named Rudy Yellow Lodge on a fictional reservation, the movie was actually shot on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. After a local incident involving a murder, and dealing with an alcoholic brother, Rudy steps out as a vigilante and sets the local ABC store on fire. While this movie deals with heavy themes of alcoholism and the consequences and stress it causes on the reservation, it gives the audience the experience of addiction and the bonds it can break in a family. This movie also shows the barriers that can be overcome by families dealing with these problems together – in any community.
I think indigenous-made movies today provide an insight into reservation realities, histories, and other parts of the dysfunction in modern day culture, and they are portrayed well. Not often feel-good films, they deal with the tougher issues that take place on the reservations, with colonization and assimilation into the modern world, and at the same time tell compelling stories complete with heroes, villains, vigilantes, and bystanders. Make your next movie night one of these Native American tales!