Volunteers Spread Holiday Cheer by Assembling Stockings for Annual “Santa Stops”

After working with Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) as their agency over the past few years, Allison+Partners has had the opportunity to learn a great deal about their mission and values, and has been lucky enough to lend a hand in some of those efforts.

We recently visited PWNA’s Phoenix Distribution Center to volunteer our time and help assemble gift-filled stockings, which are a part of PWNA’s annual holiday services provided to reservation partners around the country. The stockings are delivered to communities annually, including at “Santa Stops” where PWNA’s Native staff members attend in Santa attire to give out the stockings and toys.

Upon arrival, our group of 11 were directed to an assembly line with 800 stockings to fill and a multitude of gifts for kids from pre-school age and older. We lined up and each took responsibility for stuffing a particular gift into each stocking. It only took us a few minutes to find our groove, turn on some great music, and soon we were moving quickly to assemble stockings for hundreds of hopeful children on the reservations. We had a wonderful time spreading Christmas cheer!

Within a few hours of volunteering, we filled all 800 stockings, but this is only a fraction of the thousands of gift bags and stockings PWNA provides annually to children and Elders. In fact, in 2016 PWNA provided holiday stockings for 11,730 Elders and nearly 27,500 children in reservation communities.

Native American Elders receive gift bags with practical items such as socks, a blanket, batteries, personal care products and other supplies. Some communities gather their Elders, families and children for a community-wide Christmas meal, hosted by PWNA’s Program Partners and supported by Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) and Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA), regional programs of Partnership With Native Americans.

PWNA is always looking for volunteers who want to support those in need, from donating monetary gifts to giving time to help stuff stockings and spread a little holiday cheer. If you’re interested in volunteering with PWNA, visit their website at http://www.nativepartnership.org to learn more.

*Guest blogger Elizabeth Zwerin (center of front row) is a Director with Allison+Partners, a top 15 agency known for integrated communications strategies, social impact and cause marketing.

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Holiday Realities in Remote Native Communities

As the holiday season gets into full swing, most Americans will have gifts and parties on their minds. But for many Native American families living on remote reservations, the holiday season only exacerbates the challenges of everyday life and this kind of celebration is not always within reach.

Did you know that households on reservations are 400 percent more likely than other U.S. households to report not having enough to eat? This is usually tied to the fact that many reservation lands are in geographically-isolated locations with insufficient access to healthy and affordable foods. It’s also a surprise to many that Native Americans face the highest rates of poverty in the U.S., with 35 percent of Native American children affected.

The upside is that the holidays are one more opportunity for Native Americans to continue their lifelong tradition of unity and helping others.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) exists to support reservation programs all year long, and during the holidays, works to ensure Native families have opportunities to share a holiday meal and practical gifts to enjoy. Children and elders alike know there are people who care and remember them.

In 2016, PWNA worked with reservation partners to provide holiday meals for 2,400 Native American Elders, families, and children. Sylvia Aims Back from Sylvia’s Store – the food pantry in Polson, Montana – says they also rely on support from PWNA during the holiday season, when they see a spike in the number of families needing food.

In addition to food, PWNA’s holiday services also include thousands of gifts and stockings delivered to partners for distribution in Native communities. Holiday stockings are filled with practical items; while Elders receive gift bags with items such as socks, blankets and personal care products, excited children find toys, school supplies and more in their stockings. In 2016, PWNA provided holiday stockings for 11,730 Elders and nearly 27,500 children in remote reservation communities.

Find out how you can join PWNA’s efforts to ensure Native communities across the country can enjoy a bountiful holiday free of economic stress, and get started on a bright new year. Download Holiday Realities in Remote Native Communities, and make a meaningful gift through our Plains gift catalog or Southwest gift catalog.

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PBS Documentary on Native American Diets Now Airing

Today, nearly one in four Native American families experience low food security, and on many reservations, residents lack local access to supermarkets or fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods, due to their isolated locations. Lack of access to these foods fuels for Native Americans the highest rate of diabetes in the U.S. Because of this, a return to healthy, traditional diets and a renewed understanding of ancestral foods and practices in Native American communities is being embraced.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), has partnered with Front Page Productions, a full-service, high-definition production company, to share the story of a return to healthy, traditional diets in Indian Country through a new PBS segment that looks at the movement to promote health and fight food insecurity within Native communities.

“Healthy food choices are in abundance for most Americans, but that’s not always the case for our Native American citizens,” said Rafael Tapia, Jr., PWNA Vice President of Programs. PWNA, along with Native American Chef Lois Ellen Frank, PhD and Daniel Vega, Director of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Department of Language and Culture, are featured in the film.

PWNA makes continuous efforts to address food insecurity through provision of food as well as community-based solutions, including nutrition training and on-the-ground support for gardening that assists Native communities in creating new sources of fresh, healthful foods.

An example of this is the Pascua Yaqui tribe (PYT) in Tucson, Arizona, where the Huyapo Bwaa’ame ancestral garden project was created two years ago. This garden project has since engaged the PYT community, reinforcing the importance of incorporating tribal knowledge and culture into new answers to food shortages. Projects like community gardens connect current needs with tribal traditions to better support engagement and sustainability for years to come.

Hosted by actor James Earl Jones, the Public Television segment, “Native American Food Movement,” is airing on PBS stations nationwide. Check your local listings or visit www.nativepartnership.org/PBS, and call (877) 618-0610 to learn how you can get involved and support Native nutrition.

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Recently in Native News

At Partnership With Native Americans, it’s our goal to help you stay informed on the top stories from Native American life and culture from across the country. Below we’ve compiled our favorite stories from the month of November. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Native American Students Fight Discrimination By Celebrating Their Heritage via KUNC.org

  • “Ask students in the Mohawk Club at Massena Central High School whether they’ve been on the receiving end of negative stereotypes, and the answer is quick and sharp. ‘We see that we’re always the troublemakers or that we’re bad kids,” says Amanda Rourke, the club’s president. Member Mallory Sunday adds, “It’s funny because they don’t understand who we are as a people.’”

Five myths about American Indians via The Washington Post

  • “Thanksgiving recalls for many people a meal between European colonists and indigenous Americans that we have invested with all the symbolism we can muster. But the new arrivals who sat down to share venison with some of America’s original inhabitants relied on a raft of misconceptions that began as early as the 1500s, when Europeans produced fanciful depictions of the “New World.” I hear those concepts repeated in questions from visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian every day. Changing these ideas is the work of generations. Here are five of the most intransigent.”

Native Americans use their growing clout to reclaim tribal remains and relics via Los Angeles Times

  • “Nearly a century ago, an amateur archaeologist and showman named Ralph Glidden dug up Native American burial sites on Catalina and other Channel Islands off Southern California’s coast. To him, the human remains and relics were treasures to be displayed in the so-called Indian Museum he opened as a tourist attraction overlooking Avalon Harbor. It was a macabre place — and to Native Americans, highly offensive… What Glidden didn’t use in the museum he sold.”

Native American culture, contributions via Fort Hood Sentinel

  • “Fort Hood joined the nation in celebrating the culture and contributions of Native Americans during a ceremony Nov. 16 at Club Hood. Following years of efforts for official recognition, November has been designated as National Native American Heritage Month since 1994. This year’s theme, Standing Together, illustrates Native Americans’ and Alaska Natives’ profound influence on our character and our culture, Col. Curtis King, commander, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said.”

‘This is not a trend’: Native American chefs resist the ‘Columbusing’ of indigenous foods via The Washington Post

  • “Earlier this fall, Karlos Baca, an indigenous food activist known for cooking beautiful foraged meals using traditional Native American ingredients and cooking methods, was approached by a regional food magazine: Would he like to provide a recipe for their Thanksgiving issue? “Instead of getting a recipe from me, they got three pages of activism,” he says. Baca, along with some other Native Americans who see the holiday as whitewashing the harm colonists did to indigenous people, refers to it as “Takesgiving” or “Hatesgiving.” Typically, he won’t participate in the dinner: “I have a tradition of fasting,” he says.”
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#GivingTuesday and Holiday Meals for Native Elders

Food in abundance and merriment during the holidays is often not the case for Native Americans, especially for communities in geographically-isolated areas where access to well-stocked grocery stores is limited. Food insecurity — an economic and social condition involving inconsistent access to enough healthy food for adequate nutrition — impacts one in four Native families.

Additionally, Native Americans endure one of the highest rates of impoverishment in the U.S., and reservation households are 400 percent more likely to report not having enough to eat than other U.S. households.

To provide a complete holiday meal at home, in remote reservation communities with limited shopping and multi-generational residences, is a financial burden that oftentimes leaves families without a special meal to gather around. To help alleviate the additional stress many Native families experience during the holiday season, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is participating in the Newman’s Own Foundation holiday challenge, in hopes of being one of ten nonprofits that raises the most funds on or ahead of #GivingTuesday and receive a cash prize from the Foundation.

Donations made to PWNA from Nov. 21 to Nov.28 will help provide holiday meals for Native American Elders.

PWNA partner Sharon Yazzie of Shiprock, New Mexico says, “PWNA’s help with holiday community meals helps ensure Elders not only have something to eat, but also spend the holidays in the company of others, as relatives cannot always make it home to the reservations, due to distance or circumstance.”

#GivingTuesday is a global giving initiative celebrated annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. With donations made from Nov. 21 to Nov. 28, you can help PWNA fight food insecurity and brighten the holidays for Native American Elders. Visit CrowdRise today to make a donation. (All donations must be made on this CrowdRise page to qualify for additional funding from Newman’s Own Foundation).

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American Indian Heritage Month Recap

This month, schools, organizations and communities across the U.S. are conducting events to mark National American Indian Heritage Month — and we are no different. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) looks forward to this annual observance and this year marked a celebration of Native American students and contributions, which concluded this week. We hope it helped to expand your knowledge and appreciation of Native history, heritage and education.

We appreciate the many thousands of visits to our website, and would like to especially thank all of you who registered on our website or opted in for future updates.

To recap our celebration, PWNA awarded laptops to five Native freshman students who were also awarded scholarships through our American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program. Congratulations to our laptop winners – we hope this important tool will only further your continuing academic success:

  • Roselynne Parker, Chippewa-Cree affiliation
  • Andrea Medina, Zia Pueblo affiliation
  • Hunter Warren, Navajo affiliation
  • Myah Red Horse, Cheyenne River Sioux affiliation
  • Deedra Cadman, Navajo affiliation

PWNA also awarded prizes through random drawings to those who registered and participated in our Native education quiz to answer questions like, why is the freshman year of college more of a challenge for Native American students, and what is the average cost of school supplies on a reservation. Cheers to our daily giveaway winners – we hope the DVDs and other giveaways you won are educational and enjoyable:

  • Linda H., Cassat, South Carolina
  • Carla M., Duncanville, Texas
  • Jessica P., Chicago, Illinois
  • Deborah P. (location pending)
  • David J. (location pending)

The winner of our grand prize, the now hard to find “American Indian Christmas” CD with beautiful and inspirational music is by Lumbee artist Jana Mashonee, was Felicia H. (location pending).

Our Heritage t-shirts and hoodies, which make great gifts, may still be ordered!  Visit www.RememberNativeAmericans.org/shirts and order by Nov. 24!

We hope you will continue to explore the significant and diverse impact of Native Americans on Western society and learn about life on the reservations PWNA serves. Follow PWNA on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit www.nativepartnership.org.

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World Diabetes Day & Diabetes in Native Communities

Diabetes probably affects someone in your life, but what do you really know about it?  Well, heads up. It affects 423 million people worldwide, including about 30 million Americans and 1 in 10 women, and is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. A very serious disease, some learn to cope with diabetes, while others are less able to cope physically or financially.

Split into two categories, Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin, and Type 2 is characterized by the body’s ineffective use of insulin, without which the body cannot properly absorb sugar and low blood sugar (or hyperglycemia) can occur. Health issues related to blood sugar, blood pressure, and even poor healing of extremities can occur from diabetes.

Why bring up these facts on diabetes now? It’s World Diabetes Day and diabetes affects some of those close to me. Remember that 423 million affected? Well, the rate of diabetes in Native Americans is 15 percent, more than for any other race. And why is this?

I’ve personally heard a couple of different reasons. One is “artificial” or processed sugars, or more specifically, the rapid introduction of processed sugar into Native diets during colonization. Some say that our bodies were unable to quickly adjust to this type of sugar and became overly sensitized to it, while also becoming desensitized to the naturally-occurring insulin our bodies had always used. A second reason is the introduction of commodity foods to relocated tribes. Historically, commodity foods were heavy in sugar and carbohydrates, cheap ingredients so distributing them makes financial sense — but the families reliant on commodities were often predisposed to diabetes.

My father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2001. I remember when he used to collapse due to blood pressure issues, and a specific instance when he was hospitalized because of it. In his own words, “It took me 14 years to do anything about it. One day I just realized that if I didn’t start managing my diabetes a lot better, I wouldn’t live to be very old… One day I just woke up and said, ‘I can do better.’” Since then, my father has improved his dietary choices, exercise and regimen of medication. With the 3 critical aspects of diet, exercise and medication, his diabetes has been much more manageable since 2015.

On World Diabetes Day 2017, PWNA applauds the International Diabetes Federation for raising awareness of diabetes and championing the right of women, and everyone, to a healthy future and taking action today to change tomorrow. PWNA also applauds its reservation program partners such as the Special Diabetes Program at Sells Indian Hospital, the Ohkay Owingeh Wellness and Diabetes Program and the Acoma Diabetes Program, and is supporting their diabetes health fairs and conferences this month.

High carb foods, high sugar foods and highly-processed foods all contribute to diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle only worsens the condition. While many might see the disease as crippling, it doesn’t have to be. Type 2 diabetes is preventable, and can be managed with small steps and mindfulness, whether that is walking a mile a day, having fewer desserts, or choosing healthy foods and gardening to ensure your diet includes fresh produce. If you or someone you know is suffering with diabetes, take heed that you can manage it, and that diabetes can kill. As my father reminds me, “I can remember some friends that, after these 14 years, aren’t around anymore” due to diabetic complications.

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From Purple Heart to Master’s Degree: Journey of a Native American Veteran

November is a significant time of recognition for tribes throughout the United States; it encompasses National American Indian Heritage Month, as well as Native American Heritage Day on the Friday after Thanksgiving and, of course, Veteran’s Day. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is marking these important dates with some recognition of our own, including a spotlight on Native students and education through our Heritage Month campaign, and today sharing this story on a Native American student who is also a veteran and a scholarship recipient through PWNA’s American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program.

Lawrence Wright, Jr., a Native American from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, 3rd Battalion 7th Marine Regiment (3/7), Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, enlisted, served 3 tours in Iraq and earned a Purple Heart, all before attending college.

Lawrence began his 1st tour in Karbala in 2002. He returned stateside in 2003 only to begin training for a 2004 deployment in hostile zone Husaybah near the Iraqi and Syrian border. There, his unit sustained many casualties and Lawrence sustained shrapnel and explosions from enemy mortar fire. Evacuated by MEDEVAC for 6 months of rehab, a piece of shrapnel remains embedded in his shoulder. Lawrence’s 3rd tour of duty began in Ar Ramadi, where he faced two close calls with IEDs and was shot at by sniper fire. In September 2004, Lawrence was awarded the Purple Heart, and continued serving until 2006 as Lance Corporal.

Once home in the U.S., Lawrence continued to support public safety. He completed the Indian Police Academy, FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center), and then graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. To support counter-terrorism, Lawrence is now pursuing a Master’s in Emergency Management and Homeland Security at Arizona State University.

His Veteran’s benefits exhausted, this year Lawrence turned to AIEF and other scholarships for help funding graduate school. He shares, “Most tribes have very little funding to assist their tribal members… AIEF has helped me a great deal. We need more support, resources and scholarships like AIEF for the Native youth.”

Veterans Day is a welcome reminder of the unity and spirit of our indigenous peoples, still honored for the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group in the U.S. And Lawrence remembers this year-round. “A big part of my motivation comes from my brothers [Marines] who sacrificed their lives in Iraq. I try to make something of myself… that’s how I honor them.”

 PWNA thanks Lawrence Wright, Jr., Native American veterans, and all veterans everywhere for their service and sacrifice for this land and country. For those of you participating in the Combined Federal Campaign, look for Lawrence and our AIEF video under CFC charity code 54766.

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American Indian Heritage Month: A Celebration of Native Education and Heritage

National American Indian Heritage Month is celebrated throughout the month of November and acknowledges the many tribes throughout the country. Native Americans have made a significant and diverse impact on Western society, and this month of reflection is an opportunity to expand your knowledge and appreciation of Native history, heritage and education.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is proud to work with more than 300 Native American communities annually to support positive futures for Native Americans living on remote and often impoverished reservations. As part of its recognition of Heritage Month, PWNA is awarding five additional laptops to Native students who are pursuing their freshman year in post-secondary education and receiving 2017-18 scholarships through its American Indian Education Fund program.

“Only 13% of Native American students hold a college degree. By assisting Native students through our laptop giveaway – and our scholarship program – we hope to give more American Indians and Alaskan Natives the resources and encouragement they need to complete college and succeed as future leaders,” says Robbi Rice Dietrich, President/CEO of PWNA.

At Salish Kootenai College (SKC) in northwestern Montana, out of the 800 to 1000 students enrolled, only 10-15% have laptops.

“A lot of the students can’t stay on campus in the evening because of transportation, or they can’t come back to campus to study because they have families. They don’t have computers at home or even Internet service,” said Jackie Swain, Director of Financial Aid.

Her colleague Ellie McLeod, Director of Scholarship Acquisition and Distribution, spoke to the importance of financial aid in securing education for Native students.

“I don’t know what our students would do without funding… Scholarships are critical for the success of our Native students,” she said.

PWNA also works to more accurately inform the public about life on the reservations, and invites you to grow your knowledge of Native history, education, and heritage by participating in its Native education quiz and random daily drawings this month. With 567 federally recognized Indian tribes, reservations and pueblos in more than 30 states and nearly 35 state-recognized tribes, Native American history and culture is as diverse as it is expansive.

To learn more about Native history and heritage, and join PWNA for Heritage Month education and giveaways, visit www.PWNA4hope.org.

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Recently in Native News

Partnership With Native Americans makes it our mission to help you stay informed on the top stories from Native American life and culture from across the country. Below we’ve compiled our favorite stories from the month of October for your enjoyment. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

This Healthy Diet Has Stood the Test of Time via Bon Appetit

  • “Why isn’t the indigenous diet all the rage today? It’s hyperlocal, ultra seasonal, uber-healthy: no processed foods, no sugar, no wheat (or gluten), no dairy, no high-cholesterol animal products. It’s naturally low glycemic, high protein, low salt, plant-based with lots of grains, seeds, and nuts. Most of all, it’s utterly delicious. It’s what so many diets strive to be but fall short of for lack of context. This is a diet that connects us all to nature and to each other in the most direct and profound ways.”

Students learn to cultivate plants for Native American traditions via The Davis Enterprise

  • “These students — with connections to Native American tribes in California, Nevada, Hawaii and New Mexico — learned how to grow culturally important plants for a large-scale environmental restoration project on Maidu land in Plumas County.”

Project Aims to Increase STEM Access for Native American Students via The Journal

  • “Native Americans make up 1.2 percent of the overall U.S. population, yet only account for just 0.4 percent of all engineering bachelor’s degrees, Sandia National Laboratories reports. The University of Montana is looking to remedy that situation with the help of a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.”

5 Young Native Americans On What Indigenous Peoples Day Means To Them via Huffpost

  • “Other places have also established holidays to celebrate indigenous peoples, from the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Aug. 9 to the Day of the Indian, celebrated in countries like Mexico and Brazil on April 19. And some other U.S. cities ― like Denver, Seattle, and recently, Austin and Salt Lake City ― as well as states like Vermont and Hawaii, will also be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Guilty Pleas Entered in Sweeping Indian-Art Fraud Probe via U.S. News

  • “A New Mexico art gallery owner and a jewelry supplier have pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges in the sale of fake Native American jewelry that was manufactured in the Philippines, representing the first conviction in a sweeping international investigation.”
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