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?
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.
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, Levi Strauss, 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.
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.
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.
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.
As we embark upon the new year, we want to take a moment to reflect on the past year at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). 2022 brought many opportunities to continue raising awareness and righting the wrongs affecting Native Americans and people of color. Thankfully, through the continued support of generous donors, PWNA was able to continue delivering services that address long-standing disparities around food and water, education, health care, emergency response, animal welfare and holiday support.
It takes heart and partnership from our tribal partners, collaborators, donors, Board and staff to carry out our mission of serving immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions – not to mention champion hope and a brighter future for Native Americans living in remote tribal communities. We thank each one of you for making this possible.
We would like to share this list of your favorite blogs and social posts from 2022, which rally around racial and social justice, culture, history and hope:
- Native Americans in Film and Music
- It’s National Hot Breakfast Month: What Are You Eating
- The Inflation Reduction Act: Indigenous Communities Need More
- This Weeks #NoteworthyNative is Mangas Coloradas
- Answering the Call When Disaster Strikes on the Reservation
- The Supreme Court Must Protect ICWA to Avoid Added Risk for Native Children
- 2020 Census Native Americans Undercounted: A Need for Real Numbers
- Barboncito Was the #Navajo Head Chief during the Treaty of 1868
- Native American Heritage Month: A Time to Celebrate & Become Native Aware
- Olo for Good donates $150000 for PWNA to Distribute Ancestral Foods
- Reservation Animal Rescue Made Possible by You
- #CrazyHorse Was Known for His Bravery and Prowess in Battle
Happy New Year! Stay tuned all year for the latest updates about our programs and Native thought leadership!
For many families, this time of year is filled with presents, movies and hot cocoa by a fire – but on remote reservations, many Native Americans continue to face challenges like hunger, poverty and health inequities. During this time of year where many of you are considering charitable commitments, we hope Indian Country can count on your support.
The challenges facing Tribal communities today are very real. For instance, food is an ongoing and urgent need. A concerning 23% of American Indian families experience food insecurity, and 29% live below the poverty line. Far too many Native Elders struggle daily to get the fresh, nourishing foods they need to stay healthy. The housing crisis on the reservations is equally concerning. A report prepared by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notes that 40% of reservation homes are inadequate, and an estimated 42,000 to 85,000 Native Americans living in tribal areas are homeless.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) works to mitigate these issues – from distributing food and drinking water to providing winter emergency preparedness boxes and warmth to Elders. While many of us are in the midst of our happy holidays, many Native families aren’t so materially fortunate – so we ask that before looking ahead to 2023, you consider donating to a deserving Native cause.
So far this year, here’s what donations have helped us achieve:
- We delivered 701,325 lbs. of supplies.
- Over 18,000 Individuals received food.
- 218 Elders received groceries through our Breakfast-in-a-Bag service.
- Over 10,000 people in 20 communities received 62,000 lbs. of fresh produce.
- Nearly 13,000 youth in grades K-12 received school supplies, and 170 received college scholarships.
- Nearly 6,200 people in shelters received supplies.
- 4,660 people in Southwest tribal areas received disaster relief.
- Over 3,700 people received emergency food boxes.
- 23,218 lbs. of supplies helped animals, and nearly 1,300 animals were spayed/neutered.
Despite these accomplishments, there is still much to do. Partnership With Native Americans is honored to have a group of generous benefactors that have committed to match every gift, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000 to support the Native Americans we serve. This means your year-end donation will double in value to help communities in need.
So, a friendly reminder, the 2022 calendar year ends at midnight on Saturday, December 31 – the deadline by which your year-end giving must be received to qualify as a 2022 tax-year gift. Before turning a page to the new year, we ask you to please give what you can – donate here.
For Native Americans, being transformational in 2023 starts with you! We thank you for your consideration and support this holiday season.