Believe it or not, we’re already approaching Back to School season. Where did the summer go?
As families across the country head to the nearby big box store or mall with lists of items to buy – notebooks, pencils, backpacks, binders, lunch boxes – the concept of access to these important items likely doesn’t cross their minds. Oftentimes, it’s as simple as making a list and checking each item off as you shop. But for thousands of Native American students living on reservations, it’s neither simple, nor easy.
Let’s change that.
Annually, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) provides school supplies to aid Native American students in grade K-12. The first day of school is a milestone event, and PWNA believes the excitement of a new school year shouldn’t be tarnished by a lack of supplies.
Join our efforts as we launch our 2016 Student Backpack Drive to raise funds and secure gift-in-kind donations for 26,000 Native American students in need. We are accepting donations through August 12 to provide these students with the materials they need to succeed.
Whether you provide a monetary donation to go toward purchasing supplies, or you’re able to provide a bulk donation, such as a pallet or more of backpacks, notebooks, pencils, binders and other school supplies, you will make a difference by setting Native American students up for a successful school year. And remember, although the backpack drive ends August 12 — in time to meet school schedules — the need to replenish school supplies continues year-round.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is committed to championing hope for a brighter future for Native Americans living on remote and often isolated reservations. Collaborating with our partners in more than 300 tribal communities, we work hard every day toward our vision of strong, self-sufficient Native American communities. We believe the people who live and work in the communities PWNA serves have the solutions to the problems that challenge their quality of life. PWNA’s role is to provide resources and support to these community driven efforts toward lasting change.
In fact, more than 1,000 reservation-based programs know they can count on PWNA as a consistent, reliable resource. Our services are available year-round to address critical needs related to education, health, food and water, emergency relief, holiday support and animal welfare on 60 reservations. PWNA is committed to providing high-quality, useful products, services and grants that reservation partners specifically request to enhance their programs or meet pressing needs in their communities. A sampling of PWNA’s support, which aims at both immediate needs and long-term solutions, includes:
- School Supplies: In 2015, PWNA partners at 82 schools continued to request school supplies for more than 25,000 Native American students. As more students realized the reality of graduating high school, PWNA supported higher education for 306 students through scholarships, emergency funds and tools such as laptop computers.
- Emergency Relief: In 2015, PWNA provided 104,804 pounds of safe drinking water for 14,352 people. We also provided critical supplies to residential shelters for the aged, homeless, disabled and domestic abuse victims, as well as children in trauma.
- Community Gardens: Wanting to embody traditional and cultural ways to unite the community, the Red Paint Creek Community Council sought to build a high-tunnel garden to support self-sufficiency and healthier lifestyles on the reservation. PWNA funded the supplies to construct the garden and get the project off the ground. More than 170 residents participated, donating 1,000 hours to tilling, planting, maintaining and harvesting the garden. This is one of many community gardens PWNA supported in 2015.
- Youth Development: In 2015, with PWNA support, Hopi Residential Youth Development enhanced an existing playground to promote health and wellness, adding benches and four trees, as well as pavers (enclosures) to keep sand and wood chips off the playground. This project is continuing to evolve, with the next phase being a basketball court, soccer field and gardening project for the 675 students who have access to the area.
- Animal Welfare: In 2015, PWNA provided food and other supplies for nearly 80,000 dogs and cats under the care of our animal welfare partners, and awarded a grant to support spay/neuter services through the McKinley Gallup Humane Society in New Mexico. These partners rescue, rehabilitate and place injured or stray animals in foster care or forever homes, ensuring the well-being of animals and healthy, safe communities. They also educate communities on proper animal care.
This and so much more was accomplished in 2015. None of this could have been possible without our in-kind donors, individual contributors and community investors, or our tribal partners who collaborated with PWNA. Together, we addressed critical supply needs in underserved tribal communities and enhanced community-led initiatives focused on nutrition and health, youth development and emergency preparedness. We want to thank all of you for your generosity and dedication to PWNA’s mission. To read more about PWNA’s impact in 2015, take a look at the full report here.
In supporting long-term gains for tribal communities, a key initiative offered by Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is our Four Directions Development training (4D). Through 4D, we are building capacity among grassroots leaders who want to make a greater contribution to their tribal communities. We developed this training as a direct result of feedback from our reservation program partners, and here’s what one participant has to say about it:
“As a participant of the first Southwest cohort of the Four Directions leadership development program provided by Partnership with Native Americans, I was able to learn and apply various skills needed to work with the people on the reservation.
For instance, I learned that, in order for people to work together, there must be a positive atmosphere and everyone must have a purpose in the project. I also had the opportunity to become aware of issues that take place on the reservation. One that stood out was “lateral violence,” which is the hurt and manipulation that people do to one another within a community for personal gain. Lateral violence exists on the reservation and is not tolerated in most work places in San Carlos.
I learned a lot from Vicki, my cohort “Key” (mentor), a leader within her own community and someone who knows what it’s like to work for the people. Vicki was able to coach me though developing a small after-school program within my community. Her approach and insight was invaluable, and my organizational skills and thinking have improved noticeably thanks to her techniques.
Using what I learned through 4D and Vicki, I was able to co-organize a new and active community group, “The Ni’gosdza’n Project” (TNP) on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The project’s purpose is to provide the community with the education and information to live a sustainable lifestyle. While living in this digital world, TNP is about reconnecting the people to the land.
Through TNP, we are currently working after school with students from the Twin Mesquite Community. They are learning about recycling, zero waste, gardening and healthy physical activities, which is the Apache Way of Life.
The skills I discovered and strengthened in 4D helped make the TNP program possible and are impacting the youth in my community. Thanks, PWNA!”
— Christy Sangster-Begay
In 2015, 42 people actively participated in 4D, each one identifying and achieving both personal and professional development goals. We wish Christy and our other 4D grads great success in applying their new skills to future endeavors!
Summer is here! In recent years, the summer temps have only been rising. While we can be indoors in the comfort of air conditioning, some of our furry friends are not so fortunate – especially animals of the reservations we serve.
PWNA partners care about quality of life on the reservations and this includes our four legged friends! Through our animal welfare program, Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR), we collaborate with tribal partners to help hungry and injured animals, and alleviate their hardships. Recently, PWNA and RAR received recognition from BlogPaws at their annual conference, which this year was held in Phoenix, Arizona.
A global community connecting pet parents and pet brands for the good of all pets, BlogPaws has shown a tremendous interest in our work and supported RAR in our endeavors toward animal welfare. At the conference, BlogPaws made a helpful donation of $2000, and many vendors at their conference made their own contributions by giving more than eight pallets of products, including food, toys and other supplies we will distribute to our RAR partners across 10 reservations in the U.S. You can learn more about the BlogPaws conference and RAR in this article by Christy Caplan.
Speaking of Christy, we would like to join her in reminding readers you can do your part to help pets. Heat stroke is a risk over the summer, especially to outside animals, and it’s good to remember what your dog or cat looks like at its comfortable “baseline” temperature. Christy shares tips on recognizing heat stroke, and what to do about it. A few of the warning signs to watch for include:
- Nausea and panting
- Wobbliness or weakness
- Increased salivation or heart rate
If symptoms continue after attempts to cool the animal, a vet may be in order. Icing the animal should be avoided. The Humane Society adds these helpful tips for animal care on hot days:
- Limit exercise to prevent overheating.
- Never leave animals in a vehicle unless the air conditioner is running.
- If kept outside, ensure animals can access adequate shade and water.
- Consider a homemade treat like peanut butter pupsicles for dogs!
As you enjoy the summer, please keep your pets in mind and strive to keep them as comfortable as you and your other family members.
PWNA receives a Grant from the Walmart Foundation for Nutritional Impact in Native American Communities
Today, we’re excited to announce that Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) has received a $258,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to help fund programs that support nutrition and healthier living on the reservations PWNA assists across the country.
The grant will be used to address the critical needs of Native Americans who suffer from the highest poverty rates in the U.S., yet receive less than one percent of the nation’s charitable giving. Funds will support enhanced food distribution, nutritional education, community garden projects, cooking and canning training and a mobile nutrition and training unit for tribal communities in the Southwest region where PWNA currently provides other services.
PWNA sought the grant from the Walmart Foundation to advance a variety of essential nutrition services that will help improve health through higher quality foods and training. The funding will support – and expand – existing services offered by PWNA through its regional offices in Phoenix and Rapid City, S.D. PWNA transports food and supplies from these locations to remote tribal communities in the Northern Plains and Southwest regions of the country, every week, and funds community investment projects to increase food sovereignty.
Specifically, PWNA will use the Walmart Foundation grant to:
- Provide thousands of children nutritious snack and juice service through food pantries
- Distribute emergency food supplies for thousands of people through food pantries
- Provide fresh produce distributions at eight Elder Nutrition Centers
- Support ten community garden projects and provide garden training
- Conduct canning and healthy cooking training in 15 communities
- Equip a mobile nutrition and training unit for use in Southwest communities
PWNA CEO Robbi Rice Dietrich added, “We expect to increase availability of healthier food options through this grant by providing additional resources and funds to support new and existing community gardens. By working through food pantries and other partners, we hope to learn more about the community assets and resources available to sustain these projects beyond the life of the grant period.”
“The Walmart Foundation is pleased to support the efforts of PWNA to improve the diets in Native communities and increase the knowledge and availability of healthy foods,” said Carol May, Program Manager for the Walmart Foundation. “Helping improve the health of Native peoples through better nutrition is something with which we are proud to help PWNA.”
Many of the Native American youth and the elderly who live in communities served by PWNA reside in food deserts. This contributes to poor diets, health issues and lack of awareness of proper nutrition and food choices. The Walmart Foundation grant will encourage and empower elders and youth to improve their nutrition and eating habits. For more information follow up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit our website www.nativepartnership.org.
From near extinction centuries ago, the buffalo now makes another mark on history as President Obama declares it the United States National Mammal. Signing in new legislation on May 9 that established the historic animal as a national symbol, the American Bison now takes its rightful place alongside the American Bald Eagle – both valued in Native American culture.
This is a major milestone for the iconic and ever-important buffalo, known to some tribes as tatanka. Considering its history and its significance especially to Plains tribe, we’re taking this opportunity to provide some historical context for you, starting with this bison timeline:
More than 200 years ago, a move to have the bison recognized as a national animal would have been unsupported. Herds once estimated at up to 60 million or more animals plummeted in 1884, to as low as 328 bison in the wild. The near extinction of the buffalo was the culmination of hide trading, hunting, and even intentional slaughter to put pressure on the tribes, as well as loss of natural habitat due to westward expansion. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that by 1872, up to 5,000 bison were being killed each day. George Catlin, an American painter and traveler once stated that 150,000 to 200,000 robes were sold a year, equating to the slaughter of more than 2 million bison a year for the hides to make these robes. He expected bison would become extinct by 1840.
This would prove to be an issue to many Native American cultures, specifically in the Plains region of the United States. Many of these tribes relied on the buffalo to fulfill a range of needs such as food, clothing, warmth and tools like eating utensils, weapons and water containers. In Sioux culture, the buffalo was a symbol of both strength and fertility. It was hunted regularly for its materials – yet the tribes never hunted more than they needed for survival. The near extinction of this unique animal put strain on Plains tribes to relocate away from their ancestral grounds toward less occupied areas and eventually contributed to their relocation to Indian reserves.
The buffalo only started to recover after protection laws were put into place in 1894 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Secretary of the American Bison Society in 1919 released a statement saying there were 2,048 bison protected by the United States in Yellowstone and other reserves, and the Canadian government had roughly 4,250 under protection, bringing the total captive bison to nearly 6,300 – compared to the mere 1,000 reported in existence in 1889. This was the first glimpse of recovery for the bison and it would slowly improve as the number placed in nature reserves allowed them to thrive.
Today, half a million bison inhabit the U.S., some wild, some semi-domesticated and cross-bred, and all all positively hopeful and unexpected. While the bison may never again number the masses they once did, their population growth over the last 100 years is a testament to their resiliency and place in history as the United States National Mammal.
“Get your kicks (on Route 66)!”
While the historical route is known by most in the United States as one of its first highways, it was more famous for its classic portrayal of popular culture. Route 66 served as a major migration path in the 1930s during the dustbowl, as well as a popular route for tourists, both American and foreign. The highway spanned hundreds of rural communities, all unique in their own ways and many capitalizing on their own strengths by serving as pit stops, tourist locations, and vacation destinations along the route. With more than half the route cutting through Indian country, perhaps one of the most recognizable icons along Route 66 was that of the stoic American Indian.
Several tribal communities endured the tourism of the route, mostly small communities not then in the best of economic conditions. As travelers passed through, they would encounter reflections of the marketing images shown along the route – its billboards with warriors and tipis. Tribal members often donned war bonnets and held games or traditional-seeming ceremonies for passersby, living up to the stereotypical Hollywood imagery and tales, to bring needed money into the community. Numerous tribes sacrificed this in favor of the needs of their people.
As Lisa Snell, publisher of Native American Times in Tahlequah, Okla. explains, “Because of the socio-economic conditions, what do you do? You take the job, you put on your buckskins, you put on your war bonnet and you have your picture taken. You do the job,” she said. “That’s been perpetrated through today. It’s still that image we have. It’s lingering.”
Some of the most recognizable tribes along Route 66 include the Navajo, Zuni and other pueblos. Each of these tribes commercialized their specialties, including food, pottery and jewelry, and staged shows open to the public. Maybe one of the more memorable elements brought to Route 66 were the roadside Navajo jewelry stands (not the Navajo fireworks stands Hollywood put into the mix in the film “Joe Dirt”). Through this, each tribe uniquely brought some of the nostalgia to Route 66, especially since some of the imagery borrowed from techniques tribes had used for hundreds of years.
Despite these images so popular at the time, all must seek to recognize and honor the true culture of these tribes. A partnership between the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association and the National Park Service, working with numerous tribes along the route, is doing just this – bringing light to true Native American culture through a project called “American Indians and Route 66.” The project recently unveiled a guidebook, highlighting new and classic locations along the route, and re-educating travelers on the tribes by accurately showcasing some of their unique practices, history and contributions to the region and the U.S.
Many of us will be celebrating Father’s Day this coming Sunday, whether it’s honoring our own fathers, husbands or brothers, or being recognized by our own children on this dad-centric day. It comes as no coincidence that as we focus on men this time of year, we also focus on their health. June is Men’s Health Month, seeking to increase awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of diseases in boys and men.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites heart disease and cancer as leading causes of death among men in the U.S. This includes the Native American men that Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) serves on the reservations, some of whom have a lifespan 20 years less than the average male due to their remote locations and limited access to proper nutrition and health care.
PWNA’s health services support hundreds of reservation programs that address preventative care, home health visits and health education initiatives for tribal members. This includes supporting programs that focus specifically on men’s health, such as:
- A men’s cancer class in South Dakota
- A men’s health conference in Arizona
- Residential care for men living in shelters for veterans, the homeless, disabled, etc.
As you celebrate the men in your life this month – and encourage their health – consider making a donation to PWNA’s health services in their honor. Increasing access to health care is an impactful way to participate in Men’s Health Month, as well as a critical service to those living on remote reservations isolated from mainstream care.
Did you know that long before doctors began practicing medicine in the United States, Mexico, Canada and South America, medicine was successfully practiced in these same countries? These early practitioners were called healers, medicine men or women, and shamans, and they were known for their ability to use herbs, energy, touch, sacred objects and often spiritual ceremonies to help those with mental, physical and emotional ailments. Times have changed, but the need for contemporary and traditional medicine has not. We need both – Native American doctors and medicine men or women – and this is a concern to both the Native and the health care community.
Partnership With Native Americans understands the health concerns affecting Native peoples – we work weekly with hundreds of health partners on reservations in 12 states. The diabetes, cancer, cardio vascular, and morbidity rates are staggering, and we hear of these challenges directly from the providers, our partners, working to remedy them. Disparities in health care funding and access is also a concern; one that is tied to the number of Native American doctors and health care professionals.
As cited in this article, “The film Medicine Woman by Princella RedCorn portrays the life of the first Native American doctor—Susan La Flesche Picotte—an Omaha woman who became a doctor in the late 1800s. She rallied for basic health care and was a passionate prohibitionist. She practiced medicine at a time when very little was available to doctors like herself.” This is a remarkable story of the first Native American doctor dating back to the late 1800s, yet still today, similar challenges exist – access to a quality education, higher education resources and a viable support system to help Native American students pursue their dreams of becoming a doctor or health care professional.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), “in 2004 and 2005, 465 American Indian and Alaskan Natives applied for medical school in each of those two years. By 2011, this number dwindled to 379. Furthermore, the numbers of American Indian and Alaskan Natives who are first-year medical students is even smaller. In 2004, there were 202 first-year Native medical students. By 2011, there were 157, with 2009 registering the lowest number of Native students at 153 in this particular study.”
The American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), a program of Partnership With Native Americans, supports aspiring and talented students seeking a degree in the medical field. For example, Sydney S. is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The Cheyenne River Reservation is home to about 4,000 people and encompasses two of the poorest counties in South Dakota. Sydney received an AIEF scholarship to support her goals, sharing, “I want to use my degree to be a part of the next generation to address health needs. I’ve witnessed the staffing shortages at the local Indian Health Service facility on our reservation.”
Citing “disproportionately higher levels of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and accidents experienced by Native people and first-hand recognition that South Dakota Native Americans live in the poorest countries in America,” Sydney continues. “My passion is to serve and provide holistic care to the people of our ancestry. There is a strong belief that Native Americans serving Native Americans is a critical component in addressing the key health care issues that weigh so heavily on our people.”
There is a misconception in the United States that all Native Americans get free health care and are taken care of under the treaties – this is not true. The next time you have a medical need or visit your doctor for a regular check-up, remember many Native Americans in need of these same services are living in areas where adequate health care facilities and doctors is a need yet to be met.
Memorial Day weekend is often considered the unofficial start to summer and now that it’s behind us, summer break is on the minds of many children – and their parents! Summer may call for some rest and relaxation, but maintaining some aspects of the school day is just as important to keep young minds learning and growing ahead of their next grade level.
Partnership With Native Americans works with many tribal partners to ensure children living on the reservation get access to opportunities to fuel their physical and mental growth.
PWNA partnered with Hopi Residential Youth Development and Hopi Junior/Senior High School students on the Hopi Reservation to create a gathering place accessible even when school is not in session, while simultaneously promoting health and wellness. The class added benches and four trees to an existing playground, as well as pavers (enclosures to keep sand and wood chips off the playground) with PWNA support. This project provided a positive youth activity, supported skills development through project leadership, and empowered youth to know they can make a difference. The project continues to evolve, with the next phase being a basketball court, soccer field and gardening project.
In South Dakota, PWNA partnered with Rosebud Sioux Tribe Veterans Affairs for a youth project focused on repairing bikes and teaching youth how to ride them and ride safely. This project supported a healthy youth activity and empowered “earning” through participation. To help launch the program, PWNA donated bikes and bike helmets, which the youth would earn upon completion of the program. Thirty youth participated from three communities: Rosebud, Mission and Two Strike on the Rosebud Reservation. Earning the bikes will make the youth more mobile and the focus on repairing their own equipment encourages self-sufficiency. Due to its initial success, the program is ongoing and looking at future interests, such as teaming up with a local Boys and Girls Club, starting a soccer ball initiative and putting together a cross-country ski club.
Don’t toss aside thoughts of school supplies and backpacks just because school’s not in session for the summer. PWNA is already thinking about how critical your donations and support will be to our efforts this fall to ensure students on the reservation are prepared for the new school year. More on that in the coming weeks!