Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but did you know that an equally heartfelt observation immediately follows it? Feb. 15-21 is Random Acts of Kindness Week, which motivated us to look at ways we can inspire acts of kindness in others, and how those acts of kindness can also benefit the Native American reservations we serve.
- Buying coffee for the person in front of you in the drive-thru is nice, so what if you could provide an entire breakfast for an Elder on the reservation? Many Elders are home-bound and struggle to obtain enough food to get through the month. You can help by donating funds that will support our Breakfast-in-a-Bag service, which ensures Elders age 62 and older can start each day with a healthy meal at home.
- You can open the door for a stranger, so what if you could open the door for a brighter future for Native American students through scholarships? Many students are in the midst of scholarship and college application season, and Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is one of the organizations providing those scholarships to Native students.
- Reading with a child or to a class shares your love of reading, so what if you could help children on the reservation learn even more? PWNA supports literacy for Native youth, providing supplies and incentives to encourage parent-child reading time.
There are many ways to perform acts of kindness throughout your day, so consider how some of those can be updated to include assistance for Native Americans through PWNA’s programming. Whether it’s a gift-in-kind donation like food and water, or a monetary donation to help fund health services or animal welfare, consider how your one act of kindness can have a lasting impact on someone else.
With February designated as Heart Disease Awareness and National Cancer Prevention Month, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is highlighting how these diseases affect American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Minority Health (OMH), cites for American Indian/Alaska Natives:
- Cancer Death Rates per 100,000 – Men (2005-2009): 184.9
- Cancer Death Rates per 100,000 – Women (2005-2009): 135.9
- Age-Adjusted Heart Disease Death Rates per 100,000 – Men (2013): 152.3
- Age-Adjusted Heart Disease Death Rates per 100,000 – Women (2013): 93.9
While heart disease and cancer are leading causes of death for other races, too, there are some striking disparities between American Indians/Alaskan Natives and their Caucasian counterparts in the U.S. OMH reports that Native peoples have higher rates of several risk factors that can lead to heart disease:
- Native/Alaska Native men are 20 percent more likely to be smokers than White men.
- Native/Alaska Native adults are 30 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than White adults.
- Native/Alaska Native adults are 60 percent more likely to suffer from obesity than non-Hispanic Whites.
Similarly, OMH reports that while Native peoples, in general, have lower cancer rates than Whites, they have higher percentages for some types of cancer:
- Native/Alaska Native men are 1.6 times more likely to have stomach cancer than non-Hispanic White men, and more than twice as likely to die from it.
- Native/Alaska Native women are 2.8 times more likely to have, and nearly twice as likely to die from, liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic White women.
- Native/Alaska Native women are 40 percent more likely to have kidney/renal pelvis cancer than non-Hispanic White women.
Health disparities related to heart disease and cancer for Native Americans are exacerbated by a lack of primary health care on many reservations. Preventative health care options are quite often limited to tribal-run wellness programs. Although the Indian Health Service (IHS) administered by HHS provides health services to federally recognized tribes, a shrinking federal budget has IHS treating only the most serious of cases, often limited to those experiencing “loss of life or limb” scenarios. Treatment options are further exacerbated by geographic isolation, limited transportation and impoverishment.
PWNA is proud to partner with tribal wellness programs on reservations throughout the Northern Plains and Southwest, programs that are tackling heart disease and cancer in their communities through screening, nutrition and education, and utilizing PWNA health services, such as Healthy Living and Community Events to boost client participation. The Community Health Program on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, the Jemez Diabetes Program of Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, and about a dozen other partner programs have hosted classes and health runs to raise awareness about heart disease and cancer prevention in the past few years. These preventative efforts may one day prevent those life or limb hospital trips for the people in their communities.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) brings much-needed relief to 250,000 Native Americans each year. That assistance is accomplished through more than 1,000 partnerships on 60 reservations across 12 states. Many of those reservations are located in isolated, hard to reach areas, meaning geography has an impact on the everyday lives of those we serve.
You likely don’t think about how geography affects your daily life, but for the people living on these reservations geography impacts their access to basic amenities, nutritional food, job opportunities, and contributes to a feeling of isolation.
Viewing the interactive map of the 60 reservations PWNA works with, it’s easy to see why assistance is needed.
- Turtle Mountain Reservation in north central North Dakota is practically on the Canada/U.S. border. While the reservation has attracted commerce to the area — a Bulova watch factory, casino, industrial park, shopping mall — it’s not enough. One in three resident Chippewas is jobless, and many of the resident tribal members live on $4,681 a year.
- The Rosebud Reservation is located in South Dakota and the remote nature of the reservation means many roads are often in disrepair and transportation options are limited. Unemployment reaches as high as 80 percent due to the lack of job opportunities.
- The Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico is the largest pueblo in the state, with the lowest per capita income. About half of the students are not completing high school, and more than 44 percent of the population is living in poverty.
PWNA is working in partnership with these reservations and others like them to provide emergency services, capacity building services, school supplies for K-12 students, scholarships for high school graduates, health services, animal welfare, food and water donations and much more.
These are only snapshots of the challenges people living on the reservations face, and a glimpse of the impact you can make by donating to PWNA. Help us change these realities and donate today.
Winter. It is a hard time for our relatives on the reservations for many reasons. December, alone, marks the anniversaries of the assassination of Sitting Bull, the mass hanging of the Dakota 38 and the massacre at Wounded Knee. These particular moments and others like them serve as heartbreaking reminders of why many Native Americans face countless hardships during the coldest winter months.
These events are directly linked to the systemic ending of self-sufficiency and a way of life Native Americans relied on for centuries. Now living in isolated communities, severe winter weather is a harsh reminder of the traditional ways of life halted by the reservation system – depriving many tribes of the ability to prepare for the winter months as their ancestors had done for generations.
Instead, the reservation system has created a situation where severe winter weather can leave households and families cut off from the basic necessities, many of them hard to come by even without the cold. Access to food and water, transportation, and propane or firewood for heating is notably more difficult in remote locations. The combination of isolation, substandard housing and extreme cold over long durations leaves some people such as an Elder living on a fixed income to choose between food and heat. Elderly, disabled and otherwise homebound members find themselves at risk when cut off from the basic resources they need. Some turn to burning clothes and furniture to stay warm when firewood becomes unavailable.
With warmer weather months away, we need to remember those most at risk during the many cold nights ahead. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is doing our part by providing emergency services for Native American Elders, including firewood and winter fuel vouchers; home weatherization services; winter emergency boxes with food, flashlights, batteries and blankets; and emergency relief when disaster strikes. You can help, too, by donating today to help fund these vital services.
Any parent with children at home on winter break can attest that “back to school” is just as important of a phrase in January as it is in August or September. For students seeking post-secondary education opportunities, January is also a critical time with college applications getting down to the wire, as well as financial assistance and scholarships.
As a group that is underrepresented in post-secondary education, Native Americans face a number of challenges, including the ability to gather the resources to pay for tuition. Contrary to what many believe, college is not free for Native Americans; these students need to obtain acceptance and the financial means to attend college just like everyone else.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) seeks to minimize these challenges by providing scholarships for Native American students and recently connected with MoneyGeek.com to provide tips and best practices for increasing Native American students’ chances at securing scholarships. Topics included what information to include in scholarship essays, making scholarship applications stand out from the crowd, whether to apply for multiple scholarships, when to start applying for scholarships, the importance of volunteer work for winning scholarships and other valuable advice.
PWNA’s 2016 scholarship applications are available online, with a deadline of April 4:
An important element of the scholarships PWNA awards is the focus on selecting students who are more in the middle range in terms of academic ranking, but who demonstrate a dedication to furthering their education while overcoming obstacles — students such as Vaughn V. Vaughn suffered grief and extreme depression after losing his first son. His perseverance and desire, however, to pursue a career as a government-to-government mediator focused on environmental threats to tribal land and communities made him a PWNA scholarship recipient.
If you’re a Native American student or know of a deserving applicant, we encourage you to learn more by reviewing our scholarship applications. Want to help? Contribute to our scholarships program by donating today.
In this country, New Year’s is a time of reflection and resolution — a time of promises we make to ourselves about a better future. Yet, much of what we resolve to do, and even take for granted, actually represents real and difficult challenges faced 365 days a year on the reservations served by Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA).
While many of us vow to lose weight or eat healthier, families on the reservations are facing a completely different kind of challenge. Will I have enough food to feed my family? Will this food be healthy enough to provide nutrition rather than just calories? Will the food I can afford lead to obesity or diabetes for my children? Will I be able to get the grocery store an hour or more away? Think about what kind of resolution you might actually make in the face of this challenge.
While some of us vow to strive for better grades in school, many students on the reservation might hope for something much more basic. Although it varies by community, up to 70 percent of Native American students drop out of high school due to economic and other struggles affecting them, their families and their communities. Faced with this reality, it would be a hopeful resolution to stick with it and graduate high school no matter the obstacles.
While those among us vow to find a better work-life balance, tribal members living on the reservations instead struggle with a lack of available jobs. Joblessness impacts a high portion of families throughout PWNA’s service area. Even among those with jobs, 29 percent of Native Americans who work full-time live below poverty level, affecting 43 percent of Native American children.
Continuing our work with reservation partners and donors, PWNA can help change these hardships. We’ve recently written on this blog about giving the gift of food. We see hope in more Native students applying for college scholarships. In recent years, the portion of Native students with a college degree rose from 11 percent to 13 percent. With continued commitment and high-impact support focused where our tribal partners need it, quality of life on the reservations can and will improve and a resolution found to the struggles they face.
As we close the books on 2015, we are grateful, humbled and hopeful. Thanks to passionate donors, partners and volunteers, we have addressed a number of challenges faced by those on the 60 Native American reservations we serve. Whether you donated a gift-in-kind product for our 100-day supply drive for #NativePartnerHope, or you contributed to our #GivingTuesday Newman’s Own Foundation challenge, or you contributed to a program service close to your heart, you are the reason we can do all the good that we do.
In addition to all the good you allowed us to do this past year, we also started an exciting new chapter for our organization with a name change to Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). You made this transition with us, and along the way, we were able to increase awareness about our cause and the work being done to help more than 250,000 Native Americans.
Since you shared your philanthropic spirit with us, we wanted to share some of our highlights from 2015:
- In the first six months of the year, we provided food for nearly 72,000 people, emergency relief for more than 24,000, educational supplies for more than 15,000 students, and more.
- In first half, we also published our annual report sharing with you the impact you helped us achieve in the previous year: 2014 Annual Report – PWNA Media Center
- In July, PWNA announced its new name, website and the start of a 100-day supply drive: Proud of our Partnership With Native Americans – PWNA blog
- In August, PWNA provided 20 pallets of water to reservation partners affected by the Colorado River EPA spill: Navajo Nation hurt by toxic spill – AZ Family 3-TV (Arizona)
- In November, PWNA provided a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video to news stations to share information on challenges faced by Native Americans: Native American Heritage Month: The Realities of Hardships and Life on Utah’s Navajo Indian Reservation – KCSG-TV (Utah)
- Also in November, PWNA shared ways to recognize American Indian Heritage month: Ways to celebrate, remember Native culture – Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada)
- In December, PWNA invited you to participate in #GivingTuesday to help us reach a goal of $10,000: Give the Gift of Food This #GivingTuesday – PWNA blog
We invite you to reflect on the past year with us and to share in our vision for a promising 2016!
Looking back over the last 12 months, food sovereignty has been a major focus in sustainable community development across Indian country. Increasing the availability of healthy, locally produced foods on the reservations has also been a leading focus for Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). In 2015, PWNA was excited to support numerous community-led health and nutrition initiatives under our Community Investment Projects service.
We would like to share how one of our health and nutrition partners – Kunsi’s Garden at Enemy Swim Day School on the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeast South Dakota – made a significant impact in 2015.
The Kunsi’s Garden project began in 2006 as a learning garden, supporting math, literacy, science and nutrition education through project-based learning in a culturally responsive environment for preschool through eighth grade students. The garden was named in honor of a respected Dakota elder who loved sharing her passion for plant life with children.
Kunsi is the Dakota word for grandmother – and grandmotherly love permeates throughout Kunsi’s Garden. It is most evident in how the project leader, Ellen Robertson, interacts with students, staff and fellow volunteers. A certified South Dakota Master Gardener, Ellen also serves as Administrative Assistant for Enemy Swim Day School.
As a cancer survivor, Ellen knows firsthand how good nutrition and time spent gardening can benefit emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. She passionately shares this knowledge with the students at Kunsi’s Garden.
Supported during the 2015 growing season by a small coalition of nonprofits including Partnership With Native Americans and Sisseton Wahpeton College Extension, along with community volunteers, Kunsi’s Garden expanded from six up to 18 full days of summer gardening activities. Each day offered eight 50-minute sessions with hands-on learning for the 187 science, math and nutrition students enrolled at the school. In addition, Ellen was able create temporary job opportunities for two adult garden volunteers who assisted during the summer classes.
With this in mind, and gardening season behind us, we want to acknowledge Kunsi’s Garden at Enemy Swim Day School as a high-impact food partner of the year and we are looking forward to our continuing partnership in 2016.
Christmas is almost here and countless individuals and families are preparing for the tradition of gift giving, planning food specifically for the season, or taking this time to reflect back on the year and assess their lives in order to move into the New Year with renewed enthusiasm and purpose. This is also a time to think of others.
On the many Native American reservations we serve, Christmas celebrations also take place. PWNA provides supplies and assistance for Native Americans — U.S. citizens — living in some of the most remote, isolated and economically distressed areas of this country. Many of these communities are challenged by a lack of jobs, housing, transportation, access to basic services and numerous other challenges to quality of life. Think about your own lives: How would a lack of income or access make this holiday season even more difficult for you to enjoy?
Regardless of the present hardships, though, the holiday spirit is alive and well in Native communities. The holiday spirit is manifesting in people coming together to share food and traditional stories, help one another and give thanks for another year of life.
PWNA supports this special time for our partners across the Southwest and Northern Plains reservations. This year, through PWNA Holiday Services, we are providing:
- Holiday stockings for more than 23,400 Native American children across 34 reservations, and rumor has it that Santa will be visiting reservation communities as well to share in some of the celebrations
- Food for 2,300 people at Christmas community meals, including delicious turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing
- Holiday gift bags for more than 12,400 Native American Elders, filled with practical items such as first aid kits, smoke detectors, blankets, gloves, socks, personal care items and nonperishable food
I have been fortunate to see the impact PWNA Holiday Services have on the lives of the individuals and communities we serve. Recently, I attended a Thanksgiving community event and helped serve the meal at an Elder Nutrition Center (ENC) of the Navajo Nation. After everyone was served, the Elders invited staff to sit with them and share in the celebration. I sat by an Elder who shared how grateful she was for the support PWNA provided to the ENC. “I was looking forward to this gathering, I live alone and my children are far away and cannot be here for the holidays. I appreciate the meal, but I am more thankful about being able to visit with others in my community,” she said.
PWNA is only able to give holiday gifts such as this because of the support we get from our donors. Please know that your presence is felt during moments just like this, and your kindness is always remembered — even by those you have not met.
We’ve shared with you our participation in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to promote philanthropy and generosity around the world. And from Nov. 24 to Dec. 1, we joined the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge, where we were eligible for up to $10,000 in matching funds.
While we didn’t reach our goal of $10,000, we appreciate all that you gave and our partners will still benefit greatly from the nearly $5,000 Newman’s Own Foundation is providing in matching funds. But we still need your help. The reality is that the needs of the reservations we serve are continuous, no matter the time of year. As you begin your holiday shopping and consider what charitable contributions you want to make during this season of giving, consider Partnership With Native Americans as your top choice.
No matter your charitable goals and desires, there is an immediate or long-term need that can be addressed through PWNA:
- Holidays: PWNA provides gift bags or stockings for more than 50,000 children, teens and Elders during the holiday season
- Hunger: Provide gifts-in-kind like water and food items
- Education: Donate school supplies for K-12 students or a monetary donation for post-secondary scholarships
- Animal welfare: Donate dog food, bowls, etc. to help large populations of animals on reservations
- Partner training: Help equip reservation partners with the skills and capacity building needed to make an even greater contribution and impact in their communities
- Emergency relief: With the harsh winter approaching, many of those we serve on reservations need help with winterizing their homes, getting enough winter fuel for home heating and other emergency services.
Whether your passion is animals, children or education, there is a place for your generosity within PWNA’s work. Donate today and help us move closer to that #GivingTuesday goal of $10,000. Our Crowdrise page is still up and accepting donations, or you can donate today on the PWNA website.