2018 Winter Olympics & Native American Athletes

Every two years, countries converge on the selected host city and Olympians compete for the gold. The 2018 Winter Olympics are fast approaching (Feb. 9-25) and will be hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Although my research indicates there are no Native American athletes representing the USA this year, there are several First Nations members representing Canada in the 2018 games, and even as these athletes prepare to compete against the best in the world, other athletes are hard at work training for their chance in the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

In a previous PWNA blog after the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, we celebrated three Indigenous athletes. Today we provide an update on these athletes and what they’re doing as the 2018 winter games approach.

  • Ashton Locklear, Lumbee, was one of three alternates on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic team in 2016. Her teammates stayed healthy throughout the games while she encouraged them, the team earning 4 Golds, 4 Silvers, and a Bronze Medal. Returning home, Locklear hit the gym and competed through the 2017 World Championship finals. In February 2017, Locklear became a Nike N7 Ambassador, one of the “…outstanding Native American and Aboriginal athletes who embody the power and spirit of N7, believe in the power of sport and encourage those around them to do the same.” During the Montreal World finals, an unfortunate shoulder injury required surgery. Recovery and rehabilitation for an injured athlete is equally as grueling as training when healthy, but Ashton’s goal remains the same: to complete at the highest level and earn her spot for the 2020 Summer Olympics!
  • Rickie Fowler, Navajo, was one of four golfers representing the U.S. Men’s Golf Team in 2016. He tied for 37th place out of 60 golfers worldwide and one of his teammates took home the Bronze Medal. During his Rio experience, Fowler said, “Whenever you see someone, you know they’re the best at what they do from their country. It’s inspiring.” Since returning from Rio, Fowler remains on the PGA Tour, competing in more than 45 tournaments and earning an Official World Golf Ranking of 7.
  • Jaimie Thibeault, T’Sou-ke Nation, was a member of the Canadian Women’s Volleyball team in 2016. The opportunity to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics ended in a three-match sweep against Puerto Rico during an Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Similar to Locklear and Fowler, Thibeault returned to her team in Italy to finish the season. For professional volleyball players, many of their opportunities exist outside of their home countries, and upon her summer return to Canada, Thibeault made the difficult decision to retire. Yet, when a club from Indonesia knocked on her door in December 2016, she decided she would return for a short season in a warm climate – celebrating a last chance on her terms. Jaimie now applies the sport that earned her a full-ride college scholarship to the University of Montana, and her career as a volleyball pro, as a catalyst to encourage youth to stay active and empowered through sports.

Being an athlete on any level requires commitment and balance. These athletes and all those representing tribal nations, schools, clubs and even countries give us the chance to cheer each other on in the sports we love – and can lose our voices over!

Help us cheer on our northern First Nation neighbors as they compete at the top of their game in the 2018 Winter Olympics:

  • Spencer O’Brien-Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation (Women’s Snowboarding) and N7 Ambassador
  • Jesse Cockney-Inuvialuk, Yellowknife Northwest Territories (Men’s Skiing)
  • Brigette Lacquette- Métis (Women’s Hockey)
  • Rene Bourque- Métis (Men’s Hockey)
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The Apache Wars

War against indigenous peoples has been happening since before the birth of the U.S. Though the history of wars within the US is generally well known, certain earlier wars are oftentimes overlooked, for example, the Apache Wars.

Though the exact dates of the Apache Wars is debated, the conflict is often said to have started in 1861 and ended in the 1880’s or even 1890’s – the longest war in U.S. history. Some skirmishes are even thought to date back to 1850 or to have occurred as late as the turn of the century.

To start, it’s apparent that encroaching settlers onto Native lands, and relocation of tribes due to the re-settlement of those lands, had a role in fueling indigenous conflict. When numerous southern tribes were relocated into Apache areas around 1830-1850, the typical raids and bonds that occurred among the tribes became more frequent and more pronounced. These relocation-fueled conflicts, along with gold rushes into the Apache homelands and the already uneasy tension between the Apache and Spanish, were key factors in the start of the Apache Wars.

In the beginning, the goal of the Apache Wars was to quell tribal resistance against the occupation of Apache lands. Tragedies happened during the war, including massacres of all Apache able to fight – at once crippling their power and leaving many families broken.

During this conflict, the Apache suffered a loss that went beyond population. The number lost is hard to estimate but some records claim around 900 men died and more than 7000 families were affected by loss of land, homes, family and sustenance. Yet, by the end of the Apache Wars, the Apache were just as well off as any other relocated tribe.

The Apache Wars decidedly ended when Geronimo surrendered in 1886. Known to anyone familiar with U.S. history, Geronimo’s surrender left many discouraged, though it did not stop pockets of resistance fighters still motivated by his words a year earlier to leave the reservations.

The loss of culture that followed was a direct result of the Apache Wars, westward expansion, and the loss of indigenous lands. Ceremonies and traditions became mixed across tribes due to the lack of memory about each tribes’ traditional ways, and Native languages died. These effects are still felt today, though tribes are persevering to recover, share their stories with future generations, and like Geronimo, hold their hopes for the future.

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Recently in Native News

Continuing our goal to help you stay informed on the top stories from Native American life and culture from across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of January. Stay up to date with more articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

The Candidate Who Plans to Be the First Native American Woman in Congress via Broadly

  • “Deb Haaland is running for a seat in Congress representing New Mexico’s District 1. She’s also an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna. If she wins, she’ll be the first indigenous woman in Congress in US history—and reaching that milestone is one of the main motivators behind her campaign. ‘I just felt like my voice—considering the fact that we’ve never had a Native American woman in Congress—might be a voice at the table that Congress has never heard,’ she tells Broadly, ‘I could bring something significant to decision making.'”

At Women’s Marches, a spotlight on missing and murdered Indigenous women via PBS

  • “In cities across the country, families and friends marked the occasion by spotlighting the scores of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and transgender people — cases that, for decades, have mostly gone unsolved. ‘My heart is heavy today,’ said Sarafina Joe, a tribal citizen of the Navajo Nation. ‘I had no idea there were so many victims.'”

For Native Americans, a ‘Historic Moment’ on the Path to Power at the Ballot Box via New York Times

  • “Fights over indigenous voting rights are playing out in the West and the Midwest, a trend that has the potential to tip tight races in states with large native populations, like Alaska and Arizona, and to influence matters of national importance, like the future of Bears Ears National Monument, a conservation area in this county that is at the center of a fierce debate over public lands.”

Probing the Paradoxes of Native Americans in Pop Culture via Smithsonian Mag

  • “Festooned with a colorful collection of movie posters, magazine spreads, supermarket products, college merchandise and more, the towering walls of the 3,000-square-foot gallery space at the heart of the National Museum of the American Indian’s new “Americans” exhibition are initially downright overwhelming.”
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Poverty Awareness Month

January is Poverty Awareness Month, a time when individuals, charities, and large organizations can reexamine their commitment to helping those in need.

There are roughly 40.6 million people living in poverty in the United States, and Native Americans tend to be over-represented within this population. In fact, 35 percent of Native American children live in impoverishment. Additionally, 40 percent of Native Americans live in sub-standard or overcrowded housing, and 23 percent of Native families live with food insecurity.

Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA) is committed on a year-round basis to respecting and supporting the self-determined goals set by Native American tribes, and one of the ways they do this is by partnering with reservation-based programs that are tackling the issues that stem from poverty, such as food shortages, healthy diets to improve quality of life, education and even the lack of emergency response such as fire and EMT services.

Poverty doesn’t only disrupt lives but creates inter-generational issues that perpetuate through families, which makes this work incredibly important.

Food insecurity linked to poverty contributes to health issues such as diabetes and obesity, as many of the most readily available and affordable foods tend to be lacking in nutritional value. This is especially true in remote reservation communities where convenience stores are more prevalent than grocers.

Poverty among children can contribute to missing school, or under-performing in the classroom due to hunger and stress. These educational impacts are multiplied across Native communities, eroding quality of life and healthy futures.

PWNA’s long-term vision focuses on eradicating poverty and its attendant issues by providing aid for over 250,000 Native Americans each year. By supporting immediate impact through meals for Elders and families, school supplies for children, support for health partners and emergency needs, as well as resources for long-term solutions such as community gardens, garden training, scholarships and professional development, PWNA is fueling sustainable gains for generations to come.

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National Soup Month & A Native American Recipe

January is National Soup Month and a reminder that winter is the perfect time for delicious soups to warm the body and soothe the soul. Many nutritious soups are available from local grocers and specialty groups such as our friends at Soup Box Love. The Healthy Meals Resource System of the USDA is featuring many soups this month, as part of their effort to promote healthy meals.

Did you know there are many delicious Native American soups like green chili stew, dried corn soup and dry meat soup? Or that soups were part of the ancestral diets of indigenous peoples inhabiting North America?

Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D., is a Native American Chef and Owner of Red Mesa Cuisine. In the PBS segment on the Native American Food Movement that is now airing (check your local listings), Chef Frank reminds us that traditional Native American foods are nutritious and delicious, and that a return to an ancestral, plant-based diet is a way to reclaim health and wellness in Native communities.

Chef Frank is from the Kiowa Nation on her mother’s side, and has spent the past 25 years documenting the way of life and food habits of Native American tribes. She immersed herself in Native American communities, allowing her to accumulate traditional and contemporary recipes that speak to the simple ingredients Native Americans had access to from the beginning.

Three foods that many Native communities ate in the past include corn, beans, and squash, known as “the three sisters,” and Three Sisters Stew is one of the many recipes Chef Frank recommends and utilizes in her nutrition training. Here’s the recipe, which goes great with tortillas:

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Olive oil cooking spray to coat cast iron pot
2 cups chopped fresh Roma tomatoes or
(1) 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with basil
3 cups cooked tepary beans (brown or white) (1.5 cups uncooked)
2 cups cooked corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
2 cups green zucchini squash, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons dried red mild chile powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the cast iron or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, sauté for 2 minutes until translucent, then add green bell peppers and sauté another 2 to minutes. Cut each of the whole tomatoes from the can into 8 pieces (a large dice) and add them to the onions and green bell peppers. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the zucchini squash and sauté for another several minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the beans and the cooked corn and stir well. Bring the chile beans to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Stir in the dried red chile powder and salt. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Serve hot with No fry bread, or homemade corn or flour tortillas.
Serves 8 to 12

PWNA is pleased to collaborate with Chef Frank and other Native food experts, to support gardening and training on healthy cooking and eating in Native communities, and to support the national effort to promote healthy meals during National Soup Month.

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Fueling Support for Elders Through Severe Winter Weather

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) serves many Native communities dispersed throughout the country, and none experience a harsher winter than those on the Northern Plains. For these communities, winter brings with it not only frigid temperatures, but severe wind chills and storms that can damage power lines and lead to outages, contaminate water sources, and leave many families displaced from their homes.

Amplifying the hardship, winter in the Northern Plains can last up to seven months — with the first snow often seen in October and the last in early May. In the later months of winter, many Native American Elders living on fixed incomes struggle to stay warm. When money for fuel has run out, some Elders may have to make the difficult choice of buying winter fuel or food.

PWNA’s Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) and Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) programs work diligently to ensure a safer winter for Elders who require additional assistance for heating. Donations to the NPRA winter fuel program help provide firewood and winter fuel vouchers. Bulk donations of basic winter essentials like blankets, coats, hats, gloves and socks can also help, as these are often in short supply in the most remote and geographically isolated reservations of the Northern Plains.

In recent years, PWNA and NPRA delivered winter warmth to Elders of the Crow Creek, Lower Brule and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota. For 2018, PWNA is providing firewood and winter fuel vouchers to Elders on the Rosebud Reservation. Although most of the Elders in this community use electricity, propane and firewood use is increasing as more residents seek ways to warm their homes.

If you want to help Native American Elders stay safe and warm, join PWNA and NPRA by donating or sharing on social as we spread the warmth this winter.

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A Native Perspective on New Year’s

It’s New Year’s once again – the more recognized one, that is. Throughout 2017, various cultures, tribes, and countries marked New Year’s in their own ways. For me, I was taught that our tribe’s Sundance marks the new year. Praying for those around you, giving thanks for the past year, and grounding myself to my values, these traditions make sense to me for the holiday.

But, New Year’s can mean a lot of things. I find that its meaning changes over time, depending on what happens, who I’m with, or how I’m feeling. It marks a change in many things, most notably the calendar, but to me, New Year’s is always exactly what it needs to be: a change in goals or plans, a time to learn or refocus, and a time of new beginnings.

Personally, I recognize many opportunities to celebrate the start of a new year or resolution. Birthdays mark the beginning of a new year, as can a marriage anniversary and other milestone events. All of these focus on different parts of our lives, have their own merit and contribution, and deserve to be recognized.

Sometimes, the mainstream New Year’s celebrations do not make sense to me. (Why is kissing on New Year’s a thing?) I think New Year’s is kind of funny, as are all celebrations when you look at them too closely. Take the Sioux. We pass down our stories, traditions, and beliefs, and mark our New Year’s by self-reflection, prayer, thanksgiving, and good times. Perhaps more than most, we enjoy the company of our family and friends over a lot of things. Even playing games or watching a movie, one can become too stressed to enjoy oneself, and sometimes being able to do nothing is equally good.

No matter what New Year’s means to you, have a happy end of the year and celebrate safely. Don’t spread yourself too thin, and remember it’s a good time for looking back and looking forward. At the end, that’s all anyone tries for: reflection on the last year, and prayer for another good one. What will you do better this year?

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2017 Year in Review

2017 was an exciting year for Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), one where we continued our mission of supporting positive outcomes in Native communities throughout the country.

One of our better memories of last year came in December, when we partnered with Front Page Productions to create and release a short documentary on the return to healthy, traditional diets in Indian Country for PBS. This segment also highlighted the movement to promote health and food insecurity within Native communities.

We also explored topics such as the legend of Pocahontas, featured a moving story of a Native American veteran’s journey from war to earning his master’s degree, and celebrated Indian Heritage Month with a laptop giveaway to Native American students.

Finally, we wrapped the year with our annual holiday services, including providing holiday meals and present-filled stockings for children and Elders in our program partners’ reservation communities.

These were some of your favorite blog posts of 2017:


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Happy Holidays, and Thank You

On behalf of PWNA, we would like to wish our program partners, volunteers, donors, and organizations that support our work a happy holiday season. Our year-round efforts are made possible because we have all come together with the shared goal of serving others.

PWNA has been serving Indian country for 25+ years, primarily working on 60 reservations in 12 states through collaborative and cooperative community-based relationships. Through our on-reservation program partners, we are able to impact the lives of approximately 250,000 Native citizens each year.

I am grateful to be part of PWNA’s Programs team that oversees services out of Rapid City, SD and Phoenix, AZ. Out of the 40,000 square foot distribution facilities located at each site, PWNA serves approximately 1,000 reservation partners, focusing on health and nutrition, animal welfare, education, and emergency services, as well as holiday support. In order to fulfill our commitments to Native communities, our drivers, who we consider our ambassadors, drive about 300,000 miles annually and deliver more than 5 million pounds of goods to our partners. We are proud to be one of the largest Native American serving organizations in the United States.

PWNA is thankful for the opportunity to be of service, and in 2017 we most recently provided or plan to provide the following seasonal support:

  • Nearly 110 winter fuel vouchers
  • 600 winter emergency boxes for Elders in need
  • Community-wide Thanksgiving meals for 8,065 participants, and take-home meals with enough food for 30,564 people
  • Community-wide Christmas meals for 1,305 participants
  • 11,000+ stockings for children of all ages, plus 2,775 baby bags for those age 3 and younger
  • 5,865 holiday gift bags for Elders
  • Through our Hug-a-Bear service, gifts for approximately 826 children in crisis
  • 22,585 activity books included in 8,740 holiday stockings for children of all ages, plus stockings for 350 children at Santa Stops

Our goal is to improve the quality of life for Native citizens living in some of the most remote and resource-challenged reservations in this country. Through our program partners who provide direct services to their communities, we hear about Native citizens doing the best they can to build better lives for themselves and offer our support.

Although they do not consider themselves leaders, each year we learn about individuals making a difference in their community. Often they are the teacher, administrative assistant, parent, youth, elder, caseworker, tribal employee, healthcare provider, volunteer or student. Sometimes, these citizens who are contributing good things to the communities go unnoticed because their goal is to serve and not to get recognition. PWNA is honored to know many of these individuals and we look forward to continuing to work side by side with them to serve in more than 300 communities.

Our ability to provide resources and support to these vital workers is only possible through the generosity of people who care about others. PWNA is supported by the financial and time commitments of both donors and volunteers, and we are blessed to have your support.

In closing, “Nau Wepul Tu’i Hiapsi,” which translated means “Together with One Good Heart.” This reflects the people who work, support, and are served by PWNA.

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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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