You Wanted to Know: How Can I Help American Indians?

Question:  How can I help American Indians?


It can be very frustrating for nonnative people to know how best to reach out to Indians or to help address the problems in Indian country. Sometimes it seems safer and easier not to teach about Indians, not to learn more and more deeply about Indians, and not to advocate for change. But Edmund Burke had it right: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’

(Credits:  Treuer, Anton (2012-05-01). Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, published by Borealis Books.)

I believe most thinking people, people with any sense of justice, are moved by the disparities in quality of life and the human suffering that exists in many parts of Indian country.  It is positive when people are moved and ask the question, “How can I help?”  I think it is important to take action on the impulse to help AND to take action in an informed, humble way.

It does not seem that it should be difficult to become more informed, but the author (Treuer) is right. In regards to learning more about our treatment of American Indian people, it can seem safer not to learn more. It is a difficult history and can challenges some closely held beliefs about the foundation of our country. It may seem easier to look away – but being informed about American Indian people, the history of their struggle, and what their current efforts are to change conditions is important to being an effective helper.

I mentioned humility is important in helping. I have sometimes seen well-intended, but uninformed or arrogant efforts to help cause problems for the very people who were supposed to be helped. It is also important that help is provided in a manner that supports the dignity of the people receiving it. The attitude brought to helping makes a difference.

I have had the privilege of living and working in Indian country for many years, learning from strong and resilient people who suffer the effects of poverty. I have learned that the poverty that exists in Indian country is the result of colonization and a history of abhorrent federal policies. It has been a blessing to be exposed to the rich and beautiful culture that continues to hold people strong and connected to one another. It has also been important for me to learn that American Indian people already know what solutions are needed to move their communities along. I understand that my role, and the role of all of us at NRC, is to listen to those community-based solutions and support the initiatives with the resources people lack. We approach the help we provide in an informed, respectful, and humble manner.

So, if the last question in this series – How can I help American Indians? – has struck you, don’t resist the tug. Learn what your role is in the solution. 

Contest - Everything You Wanted to Know book coverSuggested Ways You Can Help

1. Treaties, history, federal policies, BIA or Indian Affairs, federal recognition, tribal sovereignty, labor laws, voting, stereotypes, and prejudice.
2. Native American authors, contributions, Veterans, success stories, news documentaries, and reservation profiles.
3. Living conditions where we work such as disparities in Indian country, food deserts, nutrition, traditional foods, diabetes, healthy living, education, and housing.

  • Talk about what you have learned.
  • Follow media focused on Native concerns, such as Indian Country Today.
  • Challenge stereotypes, and respect and appreciate those you want to help.
  • Advocate for change in oppressive policies toward American Indians.
  • Learn about nonprofit services in Indian country and find one you care about.
  • Look for ways to be part of the solution in your home community.
Facebook Comments
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Humanitarian and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Posted November 1, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    whoah this weblog is excellent i like studying your articles.

    Stay up the good work! You realize, a lot of individuals are
    hunting round for this information, you can help them greatly.

  2. Posted November 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Hello! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my
    new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Carry on the great work!

    Feel free to visit my web page: bobsweep robotic vacuum cleaner and mop
    rogue (

  3. Posted November 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi to all, I can’t wait to watch this documentary. Thanks for sharing this film with everyone!

  4. Patsy Brooks
    Posted November 21, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    To learn the real truth about Native Americans is a good first step. US gov’t has done them wrong. And what the gov’t does in the name of it’s citizens does not represent what citizens would want, if only they knew the truth, saw the truth. The gov’t wants Natives swept under the rug and out of the news, like the current Dakota Access Pipeline fight to protect natural resources and native lands, what is left of them. I cry many nights that this goes on day after day in such a “civilized” country as the US. Many people who do care are afraid to take a stand. Our country has become to violent. I pray for change and I am so hoping our Youth will bring it about, and stay strong. Yes, we are still here. Seneca Iroquois, NY.

  5. Cynthia Sims
    Posted November 21, 2016 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I too am feeling that”tug” I prayed for wisdom, prayed to find answers to find who I am and how I can get involved, to help make a Difference, to help those in need I have native blood running thru my veins, I have been feeling that pull, the need to educate myself, to be a part of the fight for our rights, the movement, the fight at standing rock has brought out something in me. I want to do more, want to learn more, want to help in any way I can. Thank you for your website and your blogs, my prayers are being answered and this right here is one way I know they are being answered! Thank you!

  6. Terry Knight
    Posted November 22, 2016 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to learning more.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

Please be considerate of other visitors. Inappropriate language will be deleted. You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>