Happy Holidays from PWNA: Remembering Christmas Pasts

Happy holidays! Please join us in remembering children on the reservations and Christmas pasts by watching our Native American holiday video. We hope you enjoy and share it with friends and family.

The music in the video is provided by Lumbee / Tuscarora recording artist Jana Mashonee. The beautiful lyrics are sung in Navajo by Jana, who generously granted PWNA permission to use her music. Jana’s album, “American Indian Christmas,” features 10 classic Christmas songs – including the one in this video – sung in 10 Native languages and accompanied by an orchestra of traditional Native instruments.

Jana is a nine-time Native American Music Awards winner and best pop-recording artist of 2013. Her music has been featured on Discovery Channel and Redbox and she’s previously performed at presidential inaugurations and Carnegie Hall.

Until next year, blessings from all of us at PWNA to all of you!

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Thank You and Happy Holidays

From all of us at PWNA, we’d like to wish you — our program partners, community project leaders, volunteers, donors and organizations who support our work — a happy holiday season. In working together year-round, we’re ensuring a better quality of life for those living in remote, and often forgotten, Native American communities.

Your support is critical to assist our partners in spreading holiday cheer at a time of year that can otherwise be stressful and lonely for some. Across 110 different reservation communities this year, our partners and their volunteers are busy preparing for community-wide meals, distributions of useful gifts and numerous Santa stops. Food and gifts are provided through Northern Plains Reservation Aid, Southwest Reservation Aid and other programs of PWNA.

Holiday meals offer partners a special opportunity to bring community members together and ensure Elders, families and children receive a warm, healthy meal free of financial stress and in the company of others. This year, PWNA will support holiday meals for tribes in the Southwest and Northern Plains, including:

  • Hopi in Moenkopi, AZ
  • White Mountain Apache in Fort Apache, AZ
  • Navajo in Fort Defiance, AZ, Cove, AZ and Shiprock, NM
  • Standing Rock Sioux in Cannonball, ND
  • Cheyenne River Sioux in Howes, SD
  • Northern Cheyenne in Busby, MT
  • Ponca in Norfolk, NE
  • Oglala Sioux in Porcupine, SD

Gift bag distributions are intended to help honor Native American Elders in individual communities. This year, we’re delivering gift bags with essential items for Navajo Elders in Bluff, UT and the remote community of Hogback, NM, as well as the Elders in Pueblo of Pojoaque, NM, the Oglala Elders in Porcupine, SD and Allen, SD, and the Northern Cheyenne Elders in Lame Deer, MT and Ashland, MT, among others.

Our holiday stocking distributions celebrate children and help our partners create positive events in their communities, while providing practical items for families. This year, PWNA will deliver holiday stockings for children in the San Carlos, Hopi, Navajo, Pine Ridge, and Omaha communities, and more. We will also deliver stockings for children on the Crow and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota, the Santee Sioux Reservation in Nebraska, the Nambe and Santa Clara pueblos in New Mexico, and the Cocopah Reservation in Arizona, to name a few. Children in some of these communities will also delight in a visit from Santa as part of our Santa Stop service.

As part of our commitment to students who receive our American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program scholarships, we provide them and their immediate family members with useful holiday gifts with the intent to remove any added stress for scholars and help them focus on successfully completing their first semester.

Our program partners, such as these, can best share how PWNA’s support can impact communities during the holidays:

“I can’t tell you how much our children appreciated the Christmas items you sent us. Many of the children would not have received anything if they had not received the stockings…They were really great. The children especially like the stuffed animals and the coloring books. Thank you very much.” – Mel (Pine Ridge)

“On behalf of our community, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to PWNA and to those who so generously donated the Christmas stockings to our community. Because of your time, effort, hard work and dedication to Native American communities, you have made our Christmas a joyous one to remember. Again, thank you very much.” – Joseph (Yankton)

PWNA is grateful for the many relationships and collaborations that help us brighten the holidays for tribal citizens and enable us to be one of the largest Native American-serving organizations in the U.S. The Native communities we serve have the highest need in the U.S. and everything we do is only possible through the generosity of individuals like you who care about others. We’re fortunate and humbled to have your support year-round and especially through your year-end giving.

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Q&A: NFL Lineman Eli Ankou discusses #MyCauseMyCleats campaign and why he feels Native Americans are underrepresented

Yesterday we shared part one of our two-part Q&A with Eli Ankou of the Jacksonville Jaguars and why he chose Partnership With Native Americans for the NFL’s #MyCauseMyCleats campaign. Today, we share more of our conversation focused on Native Americans, the social issues affecting reservation communities and what Eli would like to see us all do to raise up Native youth for a brighter future.

Eli Ankou Interview, Part II

PWNA: You mentioned you feel Native Americans are underrepresented in the U.S. Could you share more about this?

ELI: Across North America, they are kind of an underrepresented population in terms of music, sports, pop culture and other aspects. My Cause, My Cleats is one way to bring attention to social issues pertaining to Native American communities. Sports and entertainment are great ways to introduce more about the culture to a broader spectrum of people, and expressing our culture is a great way to connect with people.

PWNA: Are there particular social issues of concern to you?

ELI: It has to do with the lack of visibility, and I think the main issue for me is that there are so many problems that are simply not brought to the attention of the general public. I remember hearing a statistic on women disappearing from reservations, or problems with a lack of water. There are so many different issues and it would be good to give a voice to those issues.

PWNA: And relevant to this goal, is there a certain message you want to send people?

ELI:  I would tell the younger generation, the kids and the teenagers, that you hold the most power on social media, and it’s a great platform to let your voices be heard. Help us get a message out that Native American youth are capable of whatever they set their mind to — it only takes hard work. The more people who are on board with this, the better. We need to help Native communities get on their feet and then pass it on to help others.

PWNA: In other words, you’re asking the youth in this country — Native and non-Native — to help motivate and empower one another, and to raise awareness and resources to benefit Native communities?

ELI: Absolutely.

PWNA:  What are you personally doing to empower Native youth?

ELI:  I am planning on hosting a few football camps and inviting kids from local reservations. It doesn’t have to be tackle football but getting them out to play and gaining a sense that they can do something if they put their mind to it. I want to be able to reach as many kids as possible and look forward to working with PWNA to make this possible.

** We often hear that we need to get the attention of others in order to spread the word about the realities for many Native American communities. Yet, it’s not every day that someone as familiar to the general public as Eli Ankou is passionate enough to use their voice and help the message be heard. PWNA is sincerely honored that Eli believes in our mission and shares in his commitment to empower Native American youth and encourage the generations of tomorrow to help each other.

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Q&A: NFL Lineman Eli Ankou discusses #MyCauseMyCleats campaign and why he’s supporting PWNA

Two weeks ago, more than 800 NFL players took the field wearing custom cleats that reflected a cause important to them, as part of the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign. From youth empowerment to cancer awareness, players chose to champion causes near and dear to them. For Eli Ankou (#54), a defensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars, that cause is supporting Native American communities.

Less than 6 percent of participating charities in the campaign support social equity causes and we were humbled to learn that Eli chose to support Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). We recently caught up with Eli and learned more about his experience with the campaign, his Native American heritage, and why he’s passionate about helping Native American communities. He also shared why he feels Native Americans are underrepresented across North America. Today, we’re sharing part one of our two-part Q&A series with Eli:

Eli Ankou Interview, Part I

PWNA: Is this your first time participating in the “My Cause My Cleats” campaign?

ELI:  No, it is not my first time. Last year, I did a commemoration to U.S. Navy Seals that resonated a lot. This year, I went into a more personal matter. Being Native American myself. I was trying to find a good organization that I believed served a good cause and would give me a sense of purpose.

PWNA: Do you have a military background yourself?

EA:  I do not but I have a few friends who are in the military and I know how much sacrifice it takes for them to be in that position, so I wanted to show my respect.

PWNA: So, you had a positive experience with the cleats campaign last year?

ELI:  Oh, yes, it was a good experience. There was a lot of positive feedback with that particular cause and the cleats. It was definitely good overall.

PWNA: You mentioned your family has ties to the Ojibway. Can you tell us a little more about this?

ELI: My family is from northern Ontario, Canada (near the French River). My grandmother is from the Dokis First Nation (traditionally known as Kikendawt), and she is Ojibway. My mother always raised us to cherish and embrace our culture. Growing up, there was a lot of implementation of the culture into my day-to-day life, and we would go to pow wows pretty much all the time — it was part of who we were.

 (Did you know? Dokis Bay is part of the greater Ojibwe Nation. The reservation community has about 250 residents and roughly 90 homes and is part of the Voyageur route for the week-long cycling tour from Ottawa to Quebec City. Dokis Bay is also home to the important hydro Okikendawt Project.)

PWNA:  Are you a traditional dancer?

ELI:  I am not a traditional dancer but did participate with my family members when the dancers took breaks from competitions at the powwows.

PWNA: You mentioned you were looking for a good Native American charity. What ultimately led you to choose Partnership With Native Americans?

ELI:  I wanted to find an organization that supports Native American kids being active in their communities but that also does more to directly help communities in a material way, more tangible in terms of actual resources. I noticed PWNA supports youth and takes a tangible focus, as well as offering courses and education for sustained agriculture and traditional nutrition.

**Tune in tomorrow for the second part of our Q&A with Eli Ankou, where we’ll discuss more of Eli’s concerns with underrepresented Native American communities and his message to all North Americans.

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Celebrate the Season of Giving

As we begin to embark on our holiday celebrations and look toward the new year, it’s important to remember that the need for charitable donations is constant, not seasonal. That said, nonprofit organizations rely heavily on the donations made during the holiday season as these contributions generally account for a significant portion of their annual charitable revenue. For donors, this is also the last opportunity to donate before the end of the calendar year if you’re planning to claim your charitable deductions on your tax returns.

With the help of your gifts so far, PWNA has been able to aid reservation communities in need throughout the Northern Plains and Southwest all year long. For the holidays, more than 18,000 children and nearly 10,000 Elders will be receiving stockings filled with essentials, making their holidays a little brighter. An equally vital holiday need being filled are the more than 1,700 holiday meals that will be provided to Native American communities with the help of our program partners. These are only a few of the special holiday moments made possible with the help of year-round and year-end contributions to PWNA and our programs.

In the spirit of the season, we hope you’ll remember the critical needs of those living in remote, geographically-isolated Native communities, not only during the holidays but all year long. Your support allows us to continue our work improving the lives of Native Americans and allows you to be among those who fund the one percent of all charitable giving that goes to support Native causes.

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The Importance of BBB Accreditation

A recent article, “Give.org – The Benchmark for Giving,” reminded me of the importance of BBB accreditation to donors, as well as charities. Reporting since the 1920s, the work of the Better Business Bureau (now the BBB Wise Giving Alliance) is more vital today than ever before, bringing donors confidence in the age of online giving. With the holidays upon us, there’s no better time to remind everyone to look for the BBB seal before you select who you give to this holiday season.

It’s easy to feel lost in a sea of online charity ratings, each of them based upon a different premise and often unknown to donors. In the quest to help others, we can forget to ask the right questions, such as whether online charity ratings are truly reliable and based on a charity’s impact track record.

PWNA voluntarily meets the BBB’s 20 Standards of Charity Accountability, increasing donors’ trust in our work. As the “model for effective monitoring and review,” the BBB’s bi-annual process evaluates charities for sound governance, ethics and transparency so donors know the charities that display the BBB seal have been carefully vetted and found accountable.

Over the years, donors who’ve supported PWNA and our programs, including the American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA), Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) and Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR) and more have proactively asked about our BBB accreditation.

I’ve had the good fortune of supporting the BBB’s evaluations of PWNA and have seen how much our organization has learned by voluntarily participating in the accreditation process. In fact, it’s surprising to see that only a few hundred of the 1.1 million public charities in the U.S. make the BBB’s directory of accredited charities, including only five Native American-serving charities.

We recently shared our thoughts on how nonprofit programs help fill the humanitarian gaps not being met by government or for-profit industry, so it’s important to support the effective charities. This giving season, I encourage you to seek out charities with a BBB seal and a demonstrated history of impact. You can also check out PWNA’s BBB accreditation report and our latest annual report and impact report.

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Christmas Season in Native American Cultures

The holidays are here and communities of different cultures from around the world will be partaking in dozens of celebrations. Historically, indigenous people did not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. Yet, like other Americans of diverse cultures, many of today’s Native American families incorporate an array of Christmas celebrations and customs during this festive season.

Some Native Americans question the tradition of Thanksgiving, and others feel the Christian holidays have a checkered place in indigenous culture and instead enjoy their own celebrations this time of year. Many of us, however, appreciate the good spirit in the nature of Christmas and a lot of Native communities across the Northern Plains and Southwest participate in the holiday season.

In fact, approximately 110 reservation communities served by PWNA will receive gifts or meals this holiday season, brightening the holidays for nearly 30,000 Native American Elders, families and children. The programs in these communities offer nutrition support, health screenings, education services and more. As partners of PWNA, they’re able to enhance their services by distributing much-needed items provided to them by PWNA, such as food, blankets, toiletries and holiday stockings to help spread holiday cheer.

Winter weather can be cruel for many reservations and rural communities in general, but the holiday season is recognized as a time of coming together and giving, especially to those who need it most. Although not traditionally ours, after years of new tradition we’ve adopted the Christmas season as a time to join with our families and friends and share in our people and culture.

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Recently in Native News

As part of our continued effort to inform readers of the news and culture in Native American communities across the country, we’ve compiled our favorite stories from the month of November, also American Indian Heritage Month. Stay up to date and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more headlines.

ASU holds panel and preview screening for Native American Heritage Month via Downtown Devil

  • “In commemoration of Native American heritage month, ASU’s American Indian Social Work Student Association hosted a panel discussion and preview screening of the film “Blood Memory.” The film, an independent documentary and outreach project directed by Drew Nicholas, revisits the history of forced separation and the Indian Child Welfare Act during the American Indian Adoption Era. Jerry Dearly, a member of the Oglala Lakota… began the evening with a prayer. Afterwards, attendees were shown a preview of the never-before-seen movie, which followed the story of Sandy White Hawk, the founding director of the First Nations Repatriation Institute. Removed from her Sicangu Lakota relatives at 18 months old, she was adopted by a Christian mission couple.”

Native American Farmers are growing a sustainable market via Civil Eats

  • “Thirty miles south of Phoenix, green fields of alfalfa and pima cotton stretch toward a triple-digit sun. Hundreds of yellow butterflies dance above the purple flowers that dapple the tops of the young alfalfa stalks—to expert eyes, the flowers signal that the plants are heat-stressed and should be harvested soon. Gila River Farms near Sacaton has been growing alfalfa and high-end cotton—which is named after the Pima people who inhabited the Gila and Salt river valleys—for 50 years. That’s a long time by current standards but merely a flash considering that the roots of Arizona’s agriculture reach back thousands of years.”

Butler County school board votes to phase out ‘stereotyping’ Native American mascot via Cincinnati Enquirer

  • “A Butler County school district that has spent more than a decade debating a controversial Native American mascot will alter its name. The Talawanda Board of Education voted 3-2 Monday night to change the district’s mascot name from “Braves” to “Brave” and phase out its associated imagery. The decision came more than five years after Native American students in the district first requested such action be taken, according to a report by the “Talawanda Branding Committee,” whose members studied the issue and presented findings to the school board…”

Brass students embrace Native American culture with immersive project via Kenosha News

  • “Fifth-graders at Brass Community School went right to the source for an immersive project last week on Native Americans. Instead of mimicking stereotypes often seen in old movies or television shows, the students learned how Native Americans [live] and [work] from experts in the field. Teacher Andrea Bell-Myers consulted with David O’Connor, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Native American coordinator, as well as the Indian Community School in Milwaukee and a pair of Brass teachers with Native American ancestry before undertaking the project.”
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Giving Tuesday: Three Reasons to Remember Native Americans

With so much going on this time of year, it’s easy to overlook the needs of those around us. Giving Tuesday, recognized on Nov. 27, marks the charitable start of the holiday season, following two of the busiest shopping days of the year – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – as well as national Native American Heritage Day. Giving Tuesday reminds us to give back to others through charities, organizations and events this holiday season.

Nonprofit programs go to great lengths to provide humanitarian aid and fill the gaps not being met by the government or for-profit industry. They do everything from providing services to the disabled to giving shelter to the homeless to supporting education and food banks.

For PWNA, Giving Tuesday is a reminder of gratitude for caring donors and their support for Native American families in need. With less than one percent of charitable giving going toward Native causes, I join PWNA in encouraging you to remember Native Americans in your holiday giving this year. While there are many reasons to give back to Native peoples, here are three important ones:

  1. Education: Programs that support Native students, such as the American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), are essential to ensuring Native youth have access to college funding so they can better their lives and improve the quality of life in their communities. Without scholarship funding, many Native students would be unable to attend college. In fact, lack of access to higher education is one of the biggest issues facing many Native communities today.
  2. Joblessness: Many reservation communities are small and remote and don’t have enough jobs for community members, so families face hard times. Those who find themselves in this situation are often unable to relocate yet are still in need of food, clothing and other basics and this is often more stressful around the holidays. PWNA has programs that provide aid in the form of food and clothing, as well as disaster relief, holiday stockings and supplies for animal care and rescue.
  3. Cultural Preservation: There are more than 500 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. (and many more not federally recognized), and some of them are at risk of losing their cultural Identity. Nonprofits such as PWNA and others provide supplies and resources to assist Native programs that are nurturing and preserving indigenous cultural traditions, history and languages. This is critical to keeping our history alive, strengthening our cultural identities, and promoting healthy Native communities.

This year, don’t let your holiday giving default to the usual suspects. Instead, we hope you’ll give to Native-serving charities such as PWNA that support the impoverished communities here in our own country. Participating in Giving Tuesday is the perfect time to remember Native Americans. You can make a gift today at www.nativepartnership.org/pwnagivingtuesday.

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Pledge Your CFC Support to Remember Native Americans

November celebrations embrace Native American Heritage Month, national Native American Heritage Day, Veteran’s Day and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).  For federal and military employees pledging your CFC support for charities in the coming year, and others interested in Native education, what a great way to remember Native Americans.

This month we’re recognizing Native American Heritage Month, and today we’re sharing this story on a Native American scholar assisted through the American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), a program of PWNA.

Originally from Chinle, Arizona, Alison Watson is Navajo. She attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, earning a B.S. in Biology, with minors in Chemistry and Anthropology. And today, Alison is pursuing her Ph.D. at University of Arizona.

She shared that a little sibling rivalry to see who can get their master’s first keeps her going. When she can’t make it home to see family, she remembers education and passing it on to her people is worth it.

In her words: “My dream of college would not have been possible without AIEF. Their scholarships helped me – I was not distracted by financial burdens at school – and this also helped my parents and siblings. I am so grateful for the past four years of AIEF support. Ahe’hee (thank you in Navajo). I hope you will remember Native students like me need and appreciate your support.”

PWNA applauds Alison Watson as a committed student and role model for Native American youth. For those of you participating in the Combined Federal Campaign, look for more on Alison and our AIEF video under CFC charity code 54766.

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