PWNA Welcomes New President and CEO Joshua Arce

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Joshua Arce as their new president and chief executive officer (CEO) effective Jan. 6, 2020. Arce will join PWNA in its 30th year as a Native-led, Native-serving nonprofit.

Arce previously served on PWNA’s Board of Directors and will now oversee operations for PWNA. He is a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and brings more than 20 years’ experience in education management, social work and business development to PWNA.

He most recently served as the first chief information officer (CIO) of Haskell Indian Nations University, over 12 years advancing IT infrastructure and services to better meet their mission. Earlier, he worked at the University of Kansas Tribal Law and Governance Center and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Court and served the tribe’s Entertainment Corporation Board.

Arce actively supports the advancement of Native communities, most recently as a volunteer of the court-based Citizen Review Board, a member of Lawrence Memorial Hospital Board’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity committee, and a Board member of the Citizen Review Panel of Kansas for child welfare.

Arce is from Kansas and earned his B.A. in social work from the University of Kansas and then his J.D., specializing in tribal law, applied indigenous leadership, federal Indian law and Indian gaming law.

PWNA’s current president and CEO Robbi Rice Dietrich announced her retirement this month after seven years with the organization. Since 2013, Robbi has been an integral part of championing PWNA’s mission to serve Native communities and she leaves her legacy within the organization. Robbi will also continue to help raise awareness and funding for Native causes.

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Make Your Giving Tuesday and Holiday Giving Go Further

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, there is a heavy focus on consumerism in the U.S. with the deals and discounts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s why the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, or Giving Tuesday, is a time to slow down on shopping and instead use that money to give back. Giving Tuesday is your chance to join in a global generosity movement to support your favorite charity or adopt a new one.

Throughout National American Indian Heritage Month, we’ve been focusing on some of today’s important issues and achievements in Native communities through a new five-part PSA Realities Series with Wes Studi. One of the videos focuses on charitable giving, and the news is often surprising to many. Contrary to popular belief, individual Native Americans are not supported financially by casinos or government entitlements such as free housing, education and healthcare.

Unfortunately, these persistent misconceptions contribute to apathy and low charitable giving for Native causes. In fact, less than one penny of every dollar goes to aid Native Americans — while the need for food, education and other basics in remote tribal communities is higher than ever.

This Giving Tuesday, you have the opportunity to help change the realities that Native Americans face every day and improve life on reservations. Today, and throughout the holiday season, we encourage you to remember Native Americans when you make a donation and to ask your friends to do the same.

For those making holiday purchases on Amazon this year, you can make your purchase more impactful by using Amazon Smile. Just select Partnership With Native Americans as your Amazon Smile charity, complete your purchase and they will donate half a percent of your total purchase to PWNA and support our work in Indian country. It’s quick and convenient, and every donation makes a difference in the lives of Native Americans throughout the country.  

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Recently in Native News

As National American Indian Heritage Month comes to a close, we’re reflecting on some of today’s important issues and accomplishments within the Native American community. Please enjoy a compilation of the top Native American headlines from the month of November. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

New PBS film ‘The Warrior Tradition’ probes history of Native Americans in the U.S. military via USA TODAY

  • “Before Chuck Boers joined the U.S. Army, the Lipan Apache member was given his family’s eagle feathers. The feathers had been carried by his great-great-great-grandfather on his rifle when he was an Apache scout. They also were carried by relatives who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In 2004, Boers had the feathers with him during the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. ‘I felt like I had my family with me to protect me,’ he said. ‘The Warrior Tradition,’ a new film set to air on PBS, examines the complex history of Native Americans in the U.S. military since World War I and how their service transformed the lives for Native Americans from various tribes. Through interviews with veterans and using archival footage, the documentary probes the complicated relationship Native Americans had with military service and how they used it to press for civil rights.”

Many Native Americans Can’t Get Clean Water, Report Finds via NPR

  • “For many people, turning on the tap or flushing the toilet is something we take for granted. But a report released Monday, called ‘Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,’ shows that more than 2 million Americans live without these conveniences and that Native Americans are more likely to have trouble accessing water than any other group. The nearest water station for Darlene Yazzie is 9 miles away at the Dennehotso Chapter House — a community center — in the Four Corners region of the Navajo Nation.”  

10 Native American Inventions Commonly Used Today via History

  • “From the tip of South America to the Arctic, Native Americans developed scores of innovations—from kayaks, protective goggles and baby bottles to birth control, genetically modified food crops and analgesic medications—that enabled them to survive and flourish wherever they lived. In fact, early European explorers who reached the Western Hemisphere were apparently so impressed by the achievements of the people they encountered that they felt compelled to dream up stories about Native Americans being descendants of ancient Phoenician traders or a lost tribe of Israel, in an effort to explain the source of their technological prowess.”

5 ways to honor Native Americans during National Native American Heritage Month via CNN

  • “November is National Native American Heritage Month. It’s a time to recognize the many sacrifices, contributions and achievements of Native American people, as well as celebrate their rich and vibrant cultures. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as ‘National American Indian Heritage Month.’  Although the name eventually changed, it started an annual tradition upheld in communities across the United States. For those wanting to participate, here are five ways to honor Native Americans this month — and every month.”

5 Important Issues That Affect Native Americans Today via MSN

  • “Native Americans, who at 6.8 million people make up about 2% of the U.S. population, have faced myriad critical issues throughout history but also in modern life. In fact, this past summer marked the first-ever Native American presidential forum, where Democratic presidential candidates including U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris met with tribal leaders in Sioux City, Iowa, to discuss everything from health care to violence against women. ‘It’s great to finally get a lot of acknowledgment that Native Americans still exist, are still very much a part of civic engagement and not an erased people,’ Elizabeth Day, an enrolled member of the Ojibwe tribe, said at the forum, according to the Des Moines Register.”
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If You’re Traveling This Thanksgiving, Remember To Be Kind

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season in which we reflect on the blessings and gifts we have been given, and the kindness we have received – something we often take for granted. But as we embark on the busiest travel time of the year, let us remember the importance of kindness toward others around us.

It’s easy to forget to be kind and instead focus on our bad day, whether it was a spilt coffee or a late meeting that upset us. However, kind gestures toward others can often minimize negativity and more times than not, those gestures are reciprocated.

The holidays are no exception and in fact offer an even more critical reason to show kindness. AAA projects almost 25 million people will be traveling by air this Thanksgiving and twice as many will be driving to their destinations – that’s a lot of potential missed flights, forgotten items and lengthy waits in TSA security lines or in traffic. However, you could be the positivity others need during these otherwise stressful moments.

PWNA knows firsthand how stressful the holidays can be, even for those who are traveling to or from remote reservation communities with limited access to transportation. When PWNA delivers supplies to program partners in these communities, they show kindness toward those they visit and come across along the way.

The following tips might help make your holiday travels more enjoyable, as well:

  • Pack efficiently and correctly by making a list beforehand and allowing yourself enough time to pack in an organized manner.
  • Allow extra time for unexpected delays.
  • Pack snacks that will travel well (even through airport security) and keep you fueled (nuts and fruits are healthy options that you can easily pack and eat).
  • Be kind to those you come across while traveling.
  • Find gratitude in being able to travel, as not everyone is so fortunate.

On behalf of PWNA, we hope that you’ll travel safely and kindly this Thanksgiving. The memories made are the most important takeaway of our holiday travels and as the wonderful Mr. Rogers once said, “The greatest thing we can do is to let people know they are loved.”

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National Homemade Bread Day and the History of Frybread

November 17 is National Homemade Bread Day, and bread is one food that knows no cultural bounds. However, this holiday is also a reminder of the darker history behind one of the breads that is typically recognized as a traditional Native food, Indian frybread. Frybread was created 155 years ago as a way to survive, and after three generations, a Native American food movement is gaining momentum to put this food in its proper place in history and shift its reputation as traditional Native food.

Frybread is typically made out of white flour mixed with water, baking powder or yeast and a sprinkle of salt, which is then deep-fried in oil or lard. It can be eaten alone or with powdered sugar, honey or other toppings. Frybread is also used in Indian tacos with beef, and depending on the cook, a mixture of cheese, lettuce, and beans might be placed on top of the flat fried bread.

Most Americans consider frybread a traditional Native food, and while this may be true given its origins, it is not an accurate description of its historical roots. The Navajo created frybread in 1864 when the U.S. government initiated the reservation system and food commodities for the tribes after disrupting their way of life. At the time, the Navajo who had been living in Arizona were forced to make the “Long Walk” and relocated to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico — a treacherous 300-mile walk that led to hundreds dying. In fact, ethnic cleansing in the U.S. led to many tribes being removed from their ancestral homelands, and the history of frybread is directly linked to this trauma and the Native fight for survival. In later years, boarding schools adopted frybread as a part of the meals served to Native children, and it is even served in present day.

Such commodity “food” was unknown to the Navajo since their traditional foods consisted of fresh vegetables, fruits and lean meat such as venison. Processed foods were not consumed by the Navajo people, and therefore, conditions such as diabetes were not a factor in their lives. The consequences of a commodities diet include high rates of diabetes, cardiovascular, and other life-threatening health issues that can be traced back in U.S.-Native history. Ultimately, processed food was just one more method used in ethnic cleansing, yet the Native people were able to take this threat and instead use it to survive. This incredible story is one that should be remembered each time we bite into a freshly cooked piece of fluffy frybread topped with honey.

Today, Native people are turning back the clock and seeking a return to their ancestral diets. Most tribes have stories or beliefs about their foods and those stories are woven into the fabric of their respective societies. Food was and is considered sacred, even a medicine, and consuming food is more than a physical experience to feed their hunger, but rather a holistic experience for their spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being. Think of some of your family’s favorite dishes and the memories of making those dishes together. Hopefully, these memories bring back feelings of connectedness, joy, family, love and gratitude — much more than simply eating.

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PWNA Celebrates Heritage Month and Hosts Reception to Commemorate Partner Wes Studi

For nearly 30 years, we’ve recognized November as National American Indian Heritage Month. This November, we encourage you to join Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) in the #PWNA4HeritageMonth celebration by watching our new videos about life on the reservations and participating in our giveaways.

As part of American Indian Heritage Month, we’re also reminded to celebrate the countless contributions and achievements of Native Americans and consider what more we can do to positively impact tribal communities.

Wes Studi, legendary actor, PWNA partner and advocate for social change on behalf of Native communities
Wes Studi, legendary actor, PWNA partner and advocate for social change on behalf of Native communities

Recently, PWNA proudly celebrated one of these special individuals – legendary actor Wes Studi. Wes made history on Sunday, Oct. 27 as the first Indigenous actor to receive an Honorary Oscar, at the 11th annual Governor’s Awards hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. The Governor’s Awards – also known as Honorary Oscars – signify lifetime achievement within the film industry and Wes was among four recipients this year, alongside Geena Davis, David Lynch and Lina Wertmüller.

Following the recent announcement of our partnership with Wes, PWNA hosted a special private reception for Wes on Saturday, Oct. 26, to commemorate his achievement in film. More than 50 guests joined Wes at Paramount Studios to toast to his accomplishment. PWNA’s Chairman of the Board Christina Kazhe thanked Wes for his years of advocacy to bring attention to the critical issues in Indian Country on behalf of Native American communities.

Celebrating legendary actor and PWNA partner Wes Studi at a private reception to commemorate his Oscar and film career

Those in attendance partook in a special screening of our new PSA series developed with Wes to help break misconceptions and raise awareness of the realities of life on reservations. Wes stressed the importance of sharing this PSA with audiences as many people are unaware of what’s happening in Native communities, and correcting the misperceptions is a critical step in enacting long-term solutions and social change

Notable guests included actors Tantoo Cardinal, Sherie Blake Foster, Q’orianka Kilcher, Heather Rae and Dawn Jackson, along with directors Chris Eyre, Gregory Nava and Valerie Red-Horse.

Remember to visit throughout the month of November for the latest updates, including:

  • New videos and DVD giveaways every Friday (Nov. 1, 8, 15 and 22) and Nov. 26
  • Bonus giveaway on Nov. 27
  • Five ways you can help

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Recently in Native News

Native American issues are gaining more national attention as cities across the country recognize Indigenous Peoples Day and celebrate Native American traditions, culture and art. Please enjoy a compilation of our favorite Native American headlines from the month of October. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

Why more people are celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day via PBS News Hour

  • “Increasingly, Columbus Day is giving people pause. More and more towns and cities across the country are electing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day as an alternative to – or in addition to – the day intended to honor Columbus’ voyages. Critics of the change see it as just another example of political correctness run amok – another flash point of the culture wars. As a scholar of Native American history – and a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina – I know the story is more complex than that. The growing recognition and celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day actually represents the fruits of a concerted, decades-long effort to recognize the role of indigenous people in the nation’s history.”

Studi stars in PSAs focused on reservations, need for giving via Cherokee Phoenix

  • “Cherokee actor Wes Studi is partnering with a national nonprofit organization for video public service announcements to ‘raise awareness of realities on the reservations’ and spur giving. The goal, Studi said, is to ‘increase awareness and show that supporting Native-led causes is the only way we can create change. We are trying to get away from the misconceptions … about Native Americans,’ Studi said. ‘What we really want to address is foundation funding and just general, overall giving, which has absolutely dropped.’”

The Native American Designers Behind Ginew Are Redefining Americana via GQ

  • “If you’ve been following fashion the past few years, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in vaguely Native American design. Whether it’s the avalanche of Southwestern-printed Patagonias on Grailed or the explosion of sterling silver and turquoise jewelry decorating the wrists and belts of menswear dudes (or even the goods of luxury brands like Dior, with its oblivious campaign for ‘Sauvage’)—Native American style is everywhere. In fact, it’s gotten so popular that last year, Pueblo and Zuni artisans went to court to force non-Native brands to stop illegally using their name on counterfeit goods. And the problem isn’t just that traditional Native designs are being watered down or used inappropriately, but that many Native designers and craftspeople have been left out of the boom.”

Preserving Native Food Traditions via Sierra Club

  • “Sean Sherman was 13 years old when he started working in restaurants. He started as a busboy, but by 27, he was an executive chef in a restaurant in Minneapolis, well on his way to a promising career. But a few years in, Sherman—a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe—says he had an epiphany: Native American foods were sorely underrepresented across the restaurant industry. He asked, ‘Why? And what can we do about that?’ Now, Sherman dedicates his career to restoring Native American foodways in his work as a chef, educator, and author. In 2014, he launched a catering and food education business called The Sioux Chef, with co-owner Dana Thompson. He’s since won a James Beard Award for best American cookbook and a James Beard Leadership Award.”
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Winter on the Reservation: Would You Choose to Heat or Eat?

Late October marks the return of cold weather, awakening us to early morning chills, frost on our windows and in some regions the first snowfall of the season. Cooler temperatures are manageable, and often enjoyable, for the average person in the average home, especially when you have cozy sweaters, running water and heat at the flip of a switch. Yet, the change of seasons is not as cozy for many people living on remote reservations across the U.S.

Many Native American Elders are at risk in their own homes, every single day. And winter is no exception. Winter storms in the Northern Plains and Southwest leave communities, such as Cheyenne River, Navajo and Hopi, without access to food, water, transportation and firewood.

Poverty brings its own kind of chill, adding to the winter risk. PWNA serves reservations across nine priority states, focusing on communities with the highest need in the U.S. Winters in the Northern Plains often come early and last longer, leaving Native American Elders in impoverished communities more susceptible to the risk and costly realities of winter. Even without a storm, running out of firewood or being unable to pay the electric bill is all too common in remote communities.

About four in ten Native Americans also live in substandard, hard-to-heat homes with incomplete plumbing and utilities and no funding to repair leaky roofs and uninsulated windows. Simultaneously, about half of Native American grandparents, living on fixed incomes, are also responsible for raising their grandchildren. This means more food to purchase and more use of utilities in the home. So, for many, winter often comes down to making the difficult decision: Do you heat or eat? What would you choose?

PWNA’s Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) program gives struggling Elders a hand-up for getting through winter. NPRA provides winter fuel vouchers or firewood – depending on what the Elders and program partners request – and  winter emergency boxes that provide essential supplies for winter survival, such as socks, gloves, hats, blankets, nonperishable food, batteries and flashlights.

It’s terrible to imagine having to choose whether your family will have ‘heat’ or food to ‘eat’ when both are critical for survival. Your choice is much easier – you can choose to help Native American Elders today by donating to NPRA and contributing to winter warmth on the reservations.

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Recognizing National Animal Safety and Protection Month

October is National Animal Safety and Protection Month — a time to recognize the important measures that should be taken in order to protect animals and pets. It’s also a time to support organizations with a mission to take care of animals and promote their safety and welfare. Many do not realize the issues and risk that animals living on reservations face every day or the associated risk to community health, which is why one of PWNA’s programs focuses on supporting and fostering reservation animals.

Across the Navajo Nation, there are an estimated 1,500 stray dogs and cats roaming around without a home, but the real number may be as much as four times higher. Other reservation communities face a similar challenge. While many people see these animals and want to help, they do not have the proper resources to do so. Thankfully, there are some actions that can be taken in order to prevent and save these animals from facing such severe conditions.

We encourage everyone to take the pledge to treat all animals humanely by doing the following:

  • Provide necessities for these animals such as pet food, blankets, toys and treats
  • Support mobile spay and neuter clinics
  • Care for stray and orphaned animals, with the goal of adoption into loving homes
  • Spread the word by telling family and friends about stray animals and overpopulation on some of the reservations

PWNA’s Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR) program supports reservation programs focused on animal care. RAR provides foster care kits with food, bowls, leashes and more to support our partners in rescuing and rehabilitating dogs and cats and finding them forever homes. Another service within the RAR program is Pet Promise, a spay and neutering fund to help subsidize spay and neuter services, vaccinations and preventive medicine for fleas and ticks. Join the 4,616 people and counting who have taken the pledge to protect reservation animals and treat them humanely by visiting the PWNA website and signing your name. You can also contribute to the fight to help rescue these animals by donating to Reservation Animal Rescue.

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PWNA Partners with Legendary Actor Wes Studi

Last week, PWNA announced a new partnership with award-winning actor Wes Studi during a press conference at the third annual Native American Cultural Celebration hosted by the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Arkansas. With the partnership announcement also came a sneak peek of our new public series announcement (PSA) series that we developed with Wes around the widely held misconceptions related to Native American people, history and funding.

The five-part “Realities Series with Wes Studi” includes an accurate portrayal of life on the reservations and dispels long-held myths that continue to impact Native communities today. Throughout the series, Wes discusses history and treaties, realities on the reservation, education, casino economics and charitable giving to Native communities, some of which reside in third-world conditions.

Both PWNA and Wes feel passionate about bringing attention to the critical issues and disparities that Native American communities face every single day and we hope that, together, we can increase positive outcomes for our reservation partners.

Wes is an admired actor and producer who is known for his work in major films, such as Dances with Wolves, Avatar, The Last of the Mohicans, The New World, Geronimo: An American Legend and A Million Ways to Die in the West. As a Cherokee American citizen, Wes has advocated for Native communities over the years to bring attention to the critical issues in Indian Country.

Later this month, Wes will be recognized for his lifetime achievement with an Honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. PWNA, with the support of Paramount Pictures, is also recognizing Wes for 30 years of legendary moments in film.

We encourage you to check out our complete PSA series with Wes today and learn just how critical it is to support Native American causes.

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