November is American Indian Heritage Month: Remember Native Americans

Now more than ever, states across the U.S. are establishing and celebrating a Native American Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day, many of them in place of Columbus Day. On a national scale, November is a time for all of us to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month.

Designated by Congress in 1992, American Indian Heritage Month is recognized annually by federal agencies, nonprofits and other organizations to honor Native American culture and heritage.

This November, PWNA encourages you to participate in our #RememberNativeAmericans campaign and learn more about the myths vs. realities facing many tribes today. Many people believe the U.S. government meets the needs of Native Americans under the treaties — including free housing, healthcare, education, and food; freedom from taxes; and distribution of government checks every month. The reality is that many federal treaty obligations are unmet and almost always underfunded, and many Native families struggle economically.

Join us throughout November to learn more about funding for tribes and help spread the word. Take our Myth vs. Reality quiz to test your knowledge about Native history and the reservations. Take action by Nov. 22 and be entered for a chance to win a giveaway prize drawing.

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Recently in Native News

As part of our continued effort to inform readers of the news and culture of Native American communities across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of October. Stay up to date and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more headlines.

 First-year student, a Native American, promises herself to blaze trail for others via The Harvard Gazette

  • “In the first week of her College life, Eva Ballew ’22, who grew up in a rural town of 3,000 in southern Wisconsin, promised herself always to stay grounded and to do everything she could to blaze a trail for others. Ballew was admitted to 10 colleges, including Dartmouth, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, and Northwestern. To decide among them, the first-generation college student displayed a maturity and perspective beyond her years. ‘When I was accepted to Harvard, I felt it was the first step to the rest of my life,’ said Ballew, the daughter of a Native American man and a Hungarian-American woman. ‘I thought about all the doors that could open not just for me and for my family, but for the Potawatomi children.'”

How is ASU going against trends of Native American college enrollment?  via The State Press

  • “Like many Native American students, Laura Gonzales-Macias was the first in her family to attend college. Born and raised in San Antonio, Gonzales-Macias has ancestral roots to the Tarahumara of northern Mexico. Her parents encouraged her to pursue higher education, so she got her bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Guided by dreams of the desert, Gonzales-Macias continued her education at ASU, where she received a doctorate in educational psychology. Now the associate director for American Indian Student Support Services at ASU, Gonzales-Macias works with current Native American ASU students, many of who are also the first in their families to attend college.”

Three New Mexico trailblazers honored by Native American Hall of Fame via Santa Fe New Mexican

  • “Over the course of her 87 years, Native American activist LaDonna Harris has campaigned to be vice president of the United States, helped return federal land to Taos Pueblo and served on commissions appointed by five presidents. But her proudest accomplishment, her daughter Laura Harris said, has been mentoring Native Americans early in their careers. ‘She believes in replacing herself,’ Laura Harris said. ‘That’s one of her core indigenous values, is to find and nurture the upcoming leaders to take her place.’ The elder Harris, an Albuquerque resident and a member of the Comanche tribe, was among 12 Native American trailblazers — including three from New Mexico — inducted into the newly formed National Native American Hall of Fame on Oct. 13 in Phoenix.”

Native American women candidates seek historic wins in November via The Washington Post

  • “… Though the emergence of so many Native American women running for office has seemed to come out of the blue, it is in many ways the result of seeds planted over the past decade at the community and regional levels. ‘The narrative had been that Native Americans were gone, that we’re invisible, that we’re part of history,’ said Jodi Gillette, a member of the Standing Rock Tribe who served as special adviser for Native American issues to President Obama. ‘Well, we’ve been here all along trying to be seen and trying to be relevant and trying to find ways to address our issues. I rejoice in the fact that we’ve got the visibility and are positioned to help lead and not just be seen, but to represent.'”
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Celebrating Traditional Indigenous Foods

In my nearly 10 years with PWNA, I have met many generous people who’ve shared their time, knowledge, stories and sense of humor, whether it’s around a kitchen table, walking along a garden or foraging. From harvested Ceyaka (mint tea) and Tinpsila (wild/prairie turnips) in South Dakota to pinon nuts in Arizona, food sources are all around us and carry their own stories, flavors and uses.

Traditional indigenous foods are medicine. These foodways have suffered greatly due to colonization and federally-imposed nutrition programs that contributed to Native health disparities. Today though, our communities are renewing indigenous foods through seed banks and exchanges, garden projects and nutrition training to learn how best to use what Unci Maka (mother earth) provides us. Better still, Native chefs are using these foods and highlighting local ingredients that will better nourish tribal citizens.

Almost every gardener I have visited with speaks of the special connection between people and plants. The most successful growers shared that they sing and talk to their plants. Care and intention to cultivate nourishment must be given to grow something that will make it onto our tables and into our bodies. I talked to my plants this season and have been harvesting squash for two months.

The time of year is celebratory for many tribal communities, as they harvest fresh fruits and vegetables from individual and community gardens. During the upcoming holidays, many Native families will prepare indigenous foods, such as Salmon from the Northwest, Minnesota wild rice and walleye fish, blue corn and beans from the Southwest, buffalo and squash from the Plains or Montana berries and wild game.

With the support of Newman’s Own Foundation, PWNA is conducting Native food preparation training across Northern Plains and Southwest reservations and participating in the Native American Nutrition Cohort to collaborate on better food systems. The training includes traditional indigenous foods through foraging, ancestral foods and healthy nutrition, cooking techniques and even knife skill training. For many participants, the foraging lessons have been the most eye-opening; they learn that plants they may have deemed weeds have value as medicine and food, and that food is medicine.

Recently, youth and Elders gathered at a college in Wanblee, South Dakota and found an abundance of food sources right outside the door. They gathered Ceyaka used to flavor salad greens and melons and stinging nettle tea to help with muscle and joints aches. Another group from Chinle, Arizona foraged at Canyon de Chelly for Scarlet Globemallow flowers and Mormon and Navajo teas. The flowers are used for garnish and tea infusion, and the leaves can be sautéed with garlic and salt to accompany hummus.

All these efforts build on ancestral knowledge and traditional indigenous foodways. Many Elders and experts from our Native communities have stories and knowledge to share for the generations to come, and food – good food – locally grown with care.

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Storytelling in Native American Cultures

How did we record history before we understood writing? In most cultures, the only way we remembered the past was through passing on stories word-of-mouth from one generation to another. These stories teach us lessons, give us history, and help us remember where our traditions come from, and in Lakota culture, we hold that you must tell every story just as heard or it loses its meaning.

Storytelling remains an inherent part of many indigenous cultures today. Historic records within tribal cultures consisted of weavings, paintings, drawings, pottery and other artistic mediums, but the important part of reading these recordings is interpreting them the correct way. Most often, the records “visualize” rather than “narrate” the story or event, and this is where some people get the story confused.

For centuries, us Lakota have carried our past through oral tradition, as we call it. These stories tell the origin of entire nations, why animals looked or acted the way they did, and where or how entire cultural traditions originated.

However, it may be in part due to storytelling “as record” that much of our history has been lost, some stories never retold, others forgotten and some dying with the last person to remember them. In today’s culture, we often tell stories through video and audio recordings, instead of hearing it from one’s grandparent or friend. This makes history more easily spread and known, but it also takes away from the tradition of storytelling.

There is meaning in hearing a story that has come to you from generations of past relatives, and there is meaning in passing it on. Now, there are so few who still practice remembering stories with the skill and cadence and fanaticism of a storyteller.

Hearing these stories was always one of my favorite things as a kid. Knowing that I could tell a story or talk about it with someone else was always such a great part of meeting others. When we all have that part of our culture to draw on and connect through, storytelling still unites our tribes across the miles and borders.

If you want to learn more about Native American storytelling, watch “Dream Keeper.” The film features stories from many indigenous cultures and an almost all-Native cast, including Eddie Spears, August Schellenberg, Chaske Spencer, Gary Farmer, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Cardinal Tantoo, John Trudell and more.

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Supporting Strong Native Women as Emerging Leaders

This October, PWNA is launching its inaugural 4 Directions Development Program (4D) for Strong Native Women, supporting the development of strong female leaders throughout Indian Country. The cohort commences this week in Santa Fe, New Mexico with 12 women who will partake in training sessions through March 2019.

4D training is an ongoing long-term solutions service that PWNA piloted in 2012 to help develop emerging leaders in reservation communities we serve, proactive individuals seeking to increase their knowledge and skills as community leaders. As part of the program, participants engage in a six-month training that includes personal and professional development, self-identified goal-setting and mentorship. All 4D program costs, including meals, lodging and travel for training, are covered by PWNA.

This year, PWNA sought to establish the first 4D all-women cohort, made possible through a grant from the PepsiCo Foundation, which invests in partnerships and programs to support at least 1.5 million girls and women becoming more workforce ready in the coming years. In addition to funding, members of PepsiCo’s Native American employee resource workgroup (known as RISE) will volunteer as mentor-advisors for the 4D participants. Many RISE members also mentor student scholars of our American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program.

Each of the female candidates participating in the inaugural cohort of 4D Strong Native Women applied for the program and upon selection, committed to attending all training sessions and completing all aspects of the program. Participants will attend their first session on Thursday, Oct. 11 where they’ll learn about leadership styles, traditional leadership, lateral violence and self-care. Additional areas of development to be addressed in future trainings include public speaking, grant writing and financial education. Program facilitators will also customize sessions based on any needs identified by individuals or the group.

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Recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day

The second Monday of October is federally recognized as Columbus Day. Marked a national holiday in 1937, the day is set to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in the 15th Century. However, this ‘holiday’ has become the center of controversy in recent decades, asking individuals to question what really happened when Columbus ‘discovered’ America.

Columbus was an Italian explorer who set sail in 1492 determined to find a direct water route to Asia. Instead, he accidentally stumbled upon the Americas and was credited with ‘discovering’ the New World, which was already known and inhabited by hundreds of tribes. His voyages led to the eventual conquest and colonization of the Americas and brought displacement and suffering to many tribes, including enslavement, disease and the death of millions of Indigenous people.

For generations, U.S. history text books have revered Columbus as a hero. However, this is insensitive to those whose ancestors were here long before Columbus arrived, and for many Native people, this ‘holiday’ serves as a reminder of the loss and genocide he brought with him. To celebrate this seems to dismiss thousands of years of culture, history, thriving societies and contributions that originated solely with the Indigenous peoples on these shores, pre-Columbus.

Dozens of individual cities and states across the country have done away with Columbus Day, instead reclaiming the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. This newly recognized holiday celebrates the contributions, customs and traditions of Native Americans, reminding us they were here long before Columbus and the settlers they showed how to survive in the ‘New World.’

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Native History: The Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867

October marks a significant milestone in Native history – the anniversary of the US-Indian Conference of 1867 that culminated with the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty.

The “Medicine Lodge Treaty” commonly refers to the three treaties signed between the U.S. government and the Great Plains tribes that had settled in Medicine Lodge on the Kansas prairie, a sacred area to those tribes. The conference took place 70 miles south of Ft. Larned at the cusp of the Medicine Lodge River and Elm Creek, after a failed peace treaty earlier that spring. It is estimated that 5000-15,000 tribal members were in attendance.

The Medicine Lodge Treaty was intended to establish rules to end conflicts and bring peace to the region, albeit by relocating the tribes to reservations in Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) and away from European settlers. For half a century before, Kansas, Nebraska and lands westward had been deemed unsuitable for settlers, so the U.S. had tried relocating all American Indians to one giant Great Plains reservation in an area known as the Great American Desert. However, Native Americans naturally began nomadically roaming the Plains beyond this unnatural boundary, and the U.S. found that threatening to further settlement, resulting in the Medicine Lodge peace talks.

The three separate treaties signed with five tribes at Medicine Lodge included one on Oct. 21, 1867 between the U.S. and the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache, and two a week later on Oct. 28, 1867 with the Cheyenne and the Arapahoe. The tribes ceded familiar lands and hunting grounds, in exchange for allotted reservation lands. They also unknowingly gave up their freedom to leave the reservation or practice their religion and traditions yet doing so was considered a breach of treaty.

Like so many times before and after, this only led to broken treaties with further reductions of land and freedoms. In the 1903 legal battle of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (187 U.S. 553), Kiowan Chief Lone Wolf claimed defraudation of land due to misrepresentations by the interpreter and lack of required votes. Congress found the treaty was void because it was not ratified by the required three quarters of the male tribal members. Then President William McKinley stepped in and allowed whites entry and settlement on the disputed lands, and the Supreme Court closed any further appeals or arguments on the case.

If I can share one key point to remember, it is the lasting impact of the Medicine Lodge Treaty and all treaties. Apparently, there came a point when the U.S. government decided it was okay to dehumanize us and evict us from our homes through our lack of understanding, and when we came to understand, loopholes or acts of Congress were put forth and treaties were broken. Much of this is the root of mistrust and the challenges affecting Indigenous peoples today.

October also reminds us of several other unfortunate events in Native history:

  • On Oct. 5, 1813, Tecumseh, a Shawnee Chief widely regarded as a fighter for the rights of tribes, fell in battle, a casualty of the War of 1812.
  • On Oct. 5, 1877, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Tribe surrendered to the U.S. at Bear’s Paw near the Canadian border declaring, “from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
  • On Oct. 31, 1941, Mount Rushmore was completed with the figureheads of four presidents. The monument remains controversial to this day and is often seen as a mockery of the Black Hills sacred to the Lakota.
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Recently in Native News

As part of our continued effort to inform readers of the news and culture of Native American communities across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of September. Stay up to date and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more headlines.

 Sioux Falls’ first ever Native American Day Parade to bring traditional dancing, regalia downtown via Argus Leader

  • “One of the men responsible for getting Columbus Day changed to Native American Day in South Dakota will be honored during the first-ever Sioux Falls Native American Day Parade next month. Tim Giago, a prominent member of the South Dakota journalism and Native American community who was paramount in working with Gov. George S. Mickelson to make Native American Day a state holiday in 1990, will be the grand marshal of the 2018 Sioux Falls Native American Day Parade on Monday, Oct. 8. The parade, to start at 10 a.m. on 14th Street and Phillips Avenue and work its way north along the city’s traditional parade route, will highlight both modern and historical Native American cultures from South Dakota tribes, said parade organizer Richie Richards.”

Texas A&M receives grant to help repatriate Native American artifacts via The Eagle

  • “Texas A&M University has received a grant as part of a $1.64 million National Park Service effort to return ancestral remains and sacred objects to Native American tribes and organizations. ‘This is an opportunity to engage in good-faith collaboration and proactive engagement with Native American groups and tribes,’ said Heather Thakar, the project’s director. Thakar is an assistant professor of archaeology and the curator of the Anthropology Research Collections. ‘The ultimate goal is to facilitate consultation that increases successful repatriation to Native American groups,’ Thakar said.”

NCAIED Announces 2018 Native American “40 Under 40” Award Recipients via Native Times

  • “The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (The National Center) is pleased to announce its 2018 class of “Native American 40 Under 40” award recipients. Nominated by members of their communities, this prestigious award is bestowed to individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership, initiative, and dedication and have made significant contributions in business and their community. The National Center is celebrating the 10th anniversary of these awards.”

Native American artist leads community art project via Methow Valley News

  • “A Native American (Kiowa-Choctaw) artist, Judd is known for art that combines iconic Native American images and lore with modern pop art. He works in a variety of art mediums from acrylics to Rubix cubes and specializes in engaging communities in collective art pieces. He is known for writing and directing award-winning movies and music videos. Judd’s visit to the Methow Valley is sponsored by Methow Arts, as part of a regional program that will take place during coming months called “Beyond the Frame,” which explores what it means to be native in North Central Washington.”
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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month


Each year, Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) recognizes the contributions and celebrates the cultures of more than 57 million Latino Americans, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. population. Notably, Sept. 15 marks the day of independence for five Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate independence days within the heritage time-frame.

The history and roots of Latino Americans are as diverse as their makeup. The 2010 Census Form asks those of Hispanic or Latino origin to identify as Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, according to the parts of the world from which their ancestors hail. Latinos today inherit their background from America’s indigenous peoples, as well as Spanish explorers and Africans who were brought to the “New World.”

Hispanic cultural traditions, values, beliefs, aspirations and life pursuits are at the heart of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. I grew up in a small Native American village in Southern Arizona that was part of broader, culturally-rich community and fostered a deep appreciation for this diversity. We were surrounded by mostly Chicano neighborhoods, and often people identified members of my tribal community as Hispanic, Latino or Mexican. To us, this was not a slight. Many of our people spoke Spanish, as well as English and our Yaqui ancestral language. For as long as I can remember, our Hispanic neighbors have been present during our tribe’s ancestral ceremonies.

As we interacted, we introduced ourselves by way of name and community. Understanding one’s self and identity doesn’t separate us from others but rather helps us understand that the roots of our Hispanic brethren are interwoven with our Native history and ancestry. The sense of connectedness and pride in family, community, culture and self only contributes to the greater good for community and country.

In my view, the timing of celebrating our Hispanic ancestors in Sept. and Oct., and our Native heritage in Nov., is no coincidence. Dia de Los Muertos, a tradition honouring our ancestors and ancestry since time immemorial, is celebrated in festivals throughout Oct. and Nov. by both Hispanic and Native peoples in the U.S. and other countries. These celebrations are often known as Day of the Dead.

I’m honored to celebrate the countless contributions of the Hispanic peoples and I hope you will join me in championing these diverse cultures as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

P.S. We’d like to give a quick shout out to Steve at for sharing their digital image!


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National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

PWNA truck drivers deliver year-round to the reservations.Professional truck drivers are often overlooked as a vital part of the U.S. economy and infrastructure. Without their services, we would be limited in our ability to access even the essentials such as food and health products, not to mention limited in our choices and our ability to operate businesses beyond the local reach of customers. And for many Native Americans living in remote reservation communities, truck drivers are often the bridge between limited goods and no goods at all.

This week, we’re taking a moment to recognize National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (Sept. 9-15) in honor of the 3.5 million professional men and women who safely deliver critical goods and resources over our nation’s highways. PWNA specifically thanks the many drivers who make serving our program partners on remote tribal lands possible. We are proud of our drivers and know their commitment enables us to continue to be a reliable resource to our partners on the reservations.

Truck drivers are the ambassadors and front line of service in PWNA’s quest to improve the lives of 250,000 Native Americans, annually. Each week, we deploy a fleet of tractor trailers and box trucks from our warehouses in Phoenix, Arizona and Rapid City, South Dakota to deliver supplies to tribal communities spanning a 12-state region.

Truck drivers often start their day before sunrise with loading times as early as 4 a.m. to ensure they’re on the road in time to complete deliveries while adhering to the 11-hour delivery window allotted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

PWNA drivers travel more than 200,000 miles throughout the year in rugged terrain and fueling their deliveries can cost as much as $95,000. Deliveries continue throughout the winter months, and some reservation roads are unpaved, adding wear and tear to the vehicles and limiting the number of providers who can reach these areas.

“Waking up to bad weather is always a challenge when you drive a truck for PWNA,” recalls Jim Perry, one of PWNA’s drivers for the Southwest.

The need for supplies and services only heightens when weather and road conditions change, and the supplies PWNA drivers transport make all the difference for those tribal communities that may be otherwise left without access to needed supplies.

Like all PWNA drivers, Jim knows the importance of his deliveries. “Regardless of inclement weather, PWNA is a consistent resource to the tribes and my work is at the heart of our mission — getting critical products to those in need.”

And despite the long hours and variables, our drivers such as Jim keep their spirits high. “It’s simple. I’m proud to drive for PWNA because I’m part of something that is good.”

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