The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving

Last week, we were excited to share with you the ways we’re honoring Native American culture and history throughout November, American Indian Heritage Month. November conjures many images and sentiments for people in the U.S., and chief among them is Thanksgiving. Sharing a meal with family or friends, reflecting on what we’re thankful for, it’s a holiday looked upon with fondness by many.

11-08-16-the-real-story-of-the-first-txIn the spirit of honoring Native history, it’s also important to consider the origins of Thanksgiving as we know it. The story commonly told – and commonly believed – is that pilgrims and Indians sat down for a meal to share their cultures and celebrate the harvest. In reality, the pilgrim story was invented and the national Thanksgiving holiday proclaimed for political reasons.

To learn the real story of the first Thanksgiving, as shared by historians of Squanto’s tribe – the Wampanoags – and the pilgrims in Plymouth Colony, go to, where you can download a compelling curated story that includes:

  • Why the pilgrims really came to America
  • Why the Thanksgiving holiday was really started
  • How Squanto already knew the English language when he first encountered the pilgrims
  • What really happened at “the first Thanksgiving”

Some additional eye-opening questions to ponder about the first Thanksgiving are:

  • Five different states have claimed to be the site of the first Thanksgiving – can you guess which ones?
  • The pilgrims didn’t land at Plymouth Rock – can you guess where they actually came ashore?
  • One element of the first Thanksgiving is true – can you guess what that is?

Some say Thanksgiving is celebrated at the expense of Native peoples, and while America celebrates a day of thanks with feasts and football, many Native Americans continue to live with disparities and economic hardships. You can’t change history, but knowing the real history could change you. Be sure to read “The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving” and learn more in part two, “After the First Thanksgiving,” which we’ll be sharing next week on

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A Letter to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

November 1, 2016

Chairman Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
P.O. Box D
Admin. Bldg. #1, Standing Rock Ave
Fort Yates, North Dakota 58538

The Board of Directors and staff of Partnership With Native Americans are writing to express our support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its efforts to protect water and sacred sites.

We at PWNA honor the self-determination and sovereignty of Native American tribes throughout the U.S. We respect and support the need for each tribe to have a voice in the decisions that impact their land, their natural resources, their sacred sites and their people.

For many years, PWNA has collaborated with programs on the Standing Rock Reservation to improve quality of life for Native Americans by serving immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions. We are continuing to serve these programs and look forward to sustaining these partnerships and cultivating new partners in the years to come.


Kevin Diepholz
Interim Board Chairman

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American Indian Heritage Month: Celebrating Native Culture, Honoring Native History

Today, we recognize the beginning of American Indian Heritage Month, and encourage you to join us in our reflection of the culture and history of the Native American tribes that first inhabited our country. The contributions and cultural impact of Native Americans is significant and diverse, with 567 federally recognized Indian tribes, reservations and pueblos in more than 30 states, nearly 35 state-recognized tribes, and many other tribes now petitioning for federal or state recognition.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is committed to championing hope for a brighter future for Native Americans, and proud to be celebrating Native culture, honoring Native history and exploring everyday realities of life on the reservations. According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the basic standard of living for many Native Americans remains well below the rest of the U.S. and the disparities some communities face are startling in 21st century America. That is why remembrance and aid to such communities is so vital to their well-being.

logo-heritagemonth-circlelogofinal2016-low-resThroughout American Indian Heritage Month, we invite you to expand your knowledge and appreciation through stories on Native culture, history, heritage and wisdom by visiting There, we will be posting curated articles on the first Thanksgiving, as well as what happened after that fateful interaction, and stories featuring some of the Native Elders we serve.

On Nov. 3, go to to hear from Ben Good Buffalo, a resident and citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in southwestern South Dakota. On Nov. 10, we’ll share the stories of Dorothy Smith and Helen Phillips, patrons of the San Carlos Older Adult Center in south central Arizona. On Nov. 22, read about Sara Fills the Pipe, her thoughts on Thanksgiving and her time spent with friends at the Oglala Elderly Meal Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

If you’re inspired by the stories you read, we encourage you to honor American Indian Heritage month by making a contribution today. In addition to providing Thanksgiving meals for thousands of Native Americans each November, PWNA provides immediate support year-round in education, nutrition and health, animal welfare, and emergency relief, and supports long-term solutions such as scholarships, training for emerging leaders and community investment projects to help end the cycle of poverty. Our staff collaborates with existing reservation-based programs to deliver goods and services based on the tribes’ self-identified goals and solutions for building their communities – an approach that has proven to be culturally relevant, respectful and effective.

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Recently in Native News

News listicle icon - blogContinuing with our practice of keeping you apprised of Native news and relevant articles, take a closer look at some of the stories that piqued our interest in October. You can stay up to date with more Native news articles by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

How America’s Past Shapes Native Americans’ Present via The Atlantic

  • “Native American poverty doesn’t fit the image many may have of life on secluded, depleted reservations. Most Native Americans now live in cities, where many are still trying to adjust to urban life; as a group, Native Americans face a 27 percent poverty rate and are still trying to reverse some of the lasting effects of federal policies that have put them at a disadvantage for hundreds of years.”

Columbus Day and what Native Americans really need via Fox News Opinion

  • “This week the city of Denver will become the 14th community in the country to recognize the second Monday of October—previously known only as Columbus Day—as a day to recognize the contributions of Native peoples to the United States. While Denver’s new holiday won’t supplant Columbus Day, the intention is clear. Celebrating explorers like Columbus Day is an insult to American Indians.”

NMSU receives USDA grant to expand agricultural education program to 18 pueblos via KRWG TV / NPR

  • “New Mexico State University’s beginning farmers and ranchers program that helps Native American farmers and ranchers succeed in agriculture has been extended three more years and expanded to include both the eight northern and 10 southern pueblos… The RAIPAP staff is currently selecting the participants from the pueblos of Taos, Picuris, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Nambe, Tesuque, Cochiti, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Sandia, Santa Ana, Zia, Jemez, Isleta, Laguna and Acoma. They are anticipating having 100 participants who will receive training to help them reach their goals for their agricultural operations.”

The Secret Strength of Standing Rock via Yes! Magazine

  • “Since the Sacred Stone camp was founded in April to fight the Dakota Access pipeline, which would cross under the Missouri River a few hundred feet upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, the movement has consistently centered on protecting clean water. But as the occupation grew over the summer, attracting Native and non-Native supporters from around the world, overflow camps were established, and the scope of the movement expanded, as well… the movement is now about much more than a single pipeline. Supporters have connected with different aspects, such as strengthening tribal sovereignty, fighting eminent domain, exposing the social and environmental impacts of the Bakken oil fields, and moving away from fossil fuels.”

Sabine Parish awarded $2.9 million to help American Indian students via The Shreveport Times

  • “Sabine Parish recently received a $2.9 million grant to benefit American Indian students…. ‘This grant gave us the opportunity to bring in some much needed funds to make sure all of our students, and American Indian students for this grant, make it to graduation.’ The Office of Indian Education awarded 32 total grants to recipients in 13 different states. Sabine Parish was one of two parishes in Louisiana to receive the grant.”
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Federal Recognition for Virginia Tribes

In February of 2015, Senator Robert Wittman of Virginia introduced H.R. 872 through Congress, seeking federal recognition for Virginia tribes, and last month the bill passed the House National Resource Committee. The bill affects a little more than 4,000 Native Americans, encompassing the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Monacan, and Nansemond Tribes in the state of Virginia.

These Virginia tribes are state recognized, but not yet federally recognized. If bill H.R. 872 passes, then the tribes would be granted access to rights and laws afforded to all federally recognized tribes, including a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. and eligibility for funding and services from the Bureau of Indian affairs. Among other things, this would include protecting their fishing, natural resources and lands.

can-tribes-be-unrecognizedThese tribes have been working toward federal recognition since 1990, or even earlier — recognition long overdue considering their rich history. The Pamunkey Tribe was the first in Virginia to earn federal recognition, and that only happened last year, on July 2, 2015.

The Chickahominy Tribe has over 800 members today, and has resided on their ancestral lands since the 1600s. The tribe lived alongside the Chickahominy River, where they were close to the English settlement of Jamestown. During the original settlement, the Chickahominy traded food for goods with the people of Jamestown, and later taught them how to farm the lands around the settlement. When the tribe signed a treaty that forced them out of their original homeland in 1646, they were compensated with other land.

Another tribe, the Monacan Indian Nation, is one of the oldest indigenous groups still living on ancestral homelands, and at least as far back as 1607, they lived along the falls of the James River in Virginia. The Monacan Tribe makes up more than half of the state-recognized Native population, with more than 2,000 members; this number may be even higher, as many people were not allowed to register as Native American for the 1930 Census.

Although small, these tribes have some of the strongest roots in the state of Virginia. The passage of H.R. 872 would grant the same benefits to these tribes as to all federally recognized tribes – except Indian gaming would be prohibited. The bill recently passed review by its sub-committee (the House Natural Resource Subcommittee on Indian, insular, and Alaska Native Affairs), in which case it may soon be submitted through the House and Senate for approval.

Federal recognition would be a significant and just win for these the tribes. Some sources estimate 220 or more tribes are unrecognized, and dealing with policies such as recognition has been said to be degrading. A member of the Shasta Tribe of California was quoted as saying, “I’ve been told to my face that I don’t exist, that I’m extinct. It’s demeaning and humiliating. It’s degrading.” The disregard of such tribes seems like the cause of their “disappearance” in today’s age. Federal recognition for any tribe helps them be known by the mainstream for their culture and helps the tribe continue to exist in unity and, hopefully, thrive.

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Honoring Native American Veterans


Not so long ago in Native culture, being a warrior was an integral responsibility of tribal life. Defending the tribe’s land and family, and acquiring the necessary resources, such as through hunting, was simply expected. Today, Native Americans are still defending land and family through their service in the U.S. military.

Next month, on Nov. 11, we observe the 97th anniversary of Veterans Day, Armistice Day prior to the official name change in 1954. As an ally to the tribes, and leading into American Indian Heritage Month – also in November –  PWNA is taking a look at honoring Veterans in the Native way.

Maybe it’s our history of strength and determination that leads Natives to the highest per capita rate of military service, or perhaps it’s the value we place on our homeland. In any case, while all veterans are recognized for their service, most tribes hold their veterans in especially high regard, praising them and honoring them through ceremonies and awards.

Most commonly, Native American veterans are given eagle feathers for their service, a sign of highest respect in many tribes. In other cases, veterans are asked to lead honoring ceremonies, such as opening grand entry at powwows, ushering in the flags of the tribe and country, or even giving an opening prayer. Some of these honorings even focus on resources for veterans, providing workshops, talking circles, health information and cultural activities. The Gathering of Warriors Native Veterans Summit focuses specifically on these topics, as well as providing financial stability and better access to health care.

The service of these veterans does not go unnoticed. Quite recently, the National Museum of the American Indian undertook the responsibility of creating a National Native American Veterans Memorial. This is the first memorial dedicated to Native veterans, and Congress hopes it will invite more Americans to learn about the proud military service of our indigenous people.

Honoring Native warriors and veterans has always been a part of indigenous culture. It keeps the importance of those who protect our homeland close to our hearts, and ever reminds us of the valor and bravery these men and women exhibit to ensure our safety. Equally important, it gives veterans their due for their many sacrifices. It’s important to support our veterans by helping them gain access to important resources that may be needed after the injuries and traumas they endure.

We thank the men and women at arms who defend our nation. Here’s to you for all you do!

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Help us eradicate poverty on the reservations

Each year, on Oct. 17, the United Nations recognizes International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, whichpresents an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and struggle of people living in poverty and a chance for them to make their concerns heard.” While poverty touches lives around the world, in urban centers and in impoverished countries, it’s also affecting Native Americans living on many reservations in the U.S.

There are number of misconceptions regarding the financial standing of Native Americans, including presumptions that Native Americans are “casino rich,” attend college for free and get seemingly endless amounts of funding from the federal government.

The reality is that 35 percent of Native American children live in poverty, 40 percent of Native Americans live in sub-standard, overcrowded housing and 23 percent of Native families live with food insecurity. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) works toward minimizing those challenges every day, by addressing immediate needs like access to healthy food, water and school supplies, and emergency relief during disasters. While supporting these immediate needs, PWNA also works toward increasing reservation self-sufficiency through long-term solutions like scholarships, community gardening projects and training and development for emerging leaders.

8-09-16-international-day-of-indigenous-peoples-img_5195-sm-logoIn close consultation with reservation partners, PWNA listens to the needs of the communities it serves. Instead of swooping in with one-size-fits-all stop-gap measures, PWNA is committed to the long-term well-being of each community, respecting their self-determined goals for their tribes, honoring the reservation programs and initiatives underway.

If you believe in this mission as strongly as we do, we encourage you to honor International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by joining our efforts. Donate today!


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Recently in Native News

News listicle icon - blogIf you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you know we like to stay apprised of Native news and relevant articles. We’re excited to further share what we discover by providing links to this news on a regular basis on our blog. Take a look at information that piqued our interest this month:

Phoenix considers celebrating Native American culture on Columbus Day via AZCentral

  • “Phoenix could soon join a collection of cities that hold alternative celebrations on Columbus Day to commemorate the history and contributions of Native American cultures. City leaders are considering whether to establish Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October. Supporters say the event would promote a more accurate understanding of history and celebrate the city’s large, vibrant Native American population.”

Asked and Answered: A President for Indian Country via

  • “As a candidate visiting the Crow Nation in Montana in May 2008, President Obama pledged to host an annual summit with tribal leaders to ensure that tribal nations have a seat at the table when facing important decisions about their communities. Today, the President hosts the eighth and final Tribal Nations Conference of his Presidency.”

U.S. to pay 17 Indian tribes $492 million to settle long-standing disputes via Washington Post

  • “The Obama administration has settled lawsuits with 17 Native American tribes who accused the federal government of long mismanaging their funds and natural resources. With these settlements, the administration will have resolved the majority of outstanding claims, some that date back a century, with more than 100 tribes and totaling more than $3.3 billion, according to the Justice and Interior departments. “This is an important achievement that will end, honorably and fairly, decades of contention that not only sapped valuable resources, but also strained relationships,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates.”

As School Starts, More States Focus on Native American Students via KTOO Public Media

  • “On the Spokane Indian Reservation, in eastern Washington, a group of about 40 public school teachers gathered last month, in a field of reeds that stretched as high as their heads. Before harvesting the reeds, or tules, to make mats, they prayed. Later, they left tobacco as a gift. By learning the rituals of the Spokane tribe, the teachers of the Wellpinit School District hope to connect the culture to their lessons to get their students – almost all of whom are indigenous – to be more engaged. In Washington and across the U.S., Native American students struggle more than any other student group to attend school consistently and graduate on time. But this year more states — especially those with large Native American populations such as South Dakota and Washington — are trying to help by training teachers, working with tribes to create policies and programs, embedding culture in lessons, and giving more money to schools with many Native American students.”
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“Accessibility for All” Holds Meaning on World Tourism Day

Today is World Tourism Day, recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.” Tourism is something many Native American tribes are familiar with, particularly in the U.S. and even more specifically tribes on Historic Route 66.

9.27.16-World-Tourism-Day---Rez-Need-Church-3-Supai-crThrough this year’s theme of “Tourism For All: Promoting Universal Accessibility,” UNWTO is inspiring everyone to “experience the incredible diversity of our planet and the beauty of the world we live in.” We encourage you to consider this and the many wonders that can be seen when you visit an Indian reservation.

We also encourage you to remember to be discerning in your purchases of Native American goods, should your travels bring you to Indian Country. “Native-inspired” does not mean Native-made and we previously posted some guidelines to follow when you’re wondering about authenticity.

The UNWTO’s broader theme of accessibility is one we wholeheartedly support. Accessibility – to nutrition, education, health care – is a challenge faced by many Native Americans living on the reservation, due to geographically remote and isolated locations. Also, many Elders have physical limitations that keep them homebound. Partnership With Native Americans addresses these needs through a number of services, at the right time, in the right way, made possible with the help of donors, collaborators and reservation partners.

Whether you’re planning a weekend road trip, or a multi-country, globe-trotting adventure, we wish you safe travels and accessibility to all the joyful experiences and perspective travel has to offer.

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Charity Evaluator Groups Recognize PWNA

Today we have good news to share: PWNA recently received our newest recognition from several well-respected groups that evaluate nonprofits, and we are excited to share these honors with you.

9.20.16-badgesPWNA is now a Platinum GuideStar Exchange Member.
The GuideStar Exchange is a network for voluntary exchange of nonprofit information. Annually, this information is used by nearly 7 million individual, corporate and foundation donors. GuideStar offers Bronze, Silver, Gold and now Platinum membership levels. In our seven years as an Exchange member, PWNA held Gold status for several years, embracing maximum financial transparency to donors. PWNA recently achieved Platinum status by adding annual results metrics to our profile, conveying our focus on measuring progress and results. This allows donors such as you a way to compare our key results year over year, and a more concrete way to understand our impact, rather than evaluating solely on financial ratios.

PWNA is a 2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit, our 7th consecutive annual award.
As a result of solid customer service and programs effectively aligned with the needs of our reservation partners, PWNA has earned a 2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit award. This rating is based on independent reviews about working with us, as posted on the Great Nonprofits (GNP) website by our partners, donors, suppliers and corporate or nonprofit collaborators. Monthly, 360,000 donors read Great Nonprofits reviews.

PWNA is a 2016 CFC-participating charity, our 6th consecutive year of approval. 
Did you know only 1 percent of the 1.5 million charities in the U.S. are approved to participate in federal workplace giving through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), and that PWNA is one of them? The CFC is the largest workplace giving campaign in the U.S., including all federal employees and the military. To participate in the CFC, PWNA undergoes an annual application process, certification of services provided to each community, and a three-stage approval by Independent Charities of America, a charity federation and the federal Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. Pledges for the 2016 CFC will begin this November. Our CFC charity code is 95225, and we are listed this year in the CFC catalog under our education program name, AIEF.

 Our staff, board members and volunteers are passionate about supporting our Native American partners’ community-led initiatives to achieve a better quality of life. We are proud to have achieved these ratings, along with our continuing BBB-accreditation, to help share our story with the world. We will be displaying these acknowledgements on our website at and hope to see you there.

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