The 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee kicked off today with a preliminaries test and that got us thinking about word origins, proper spellings and pronunciations. One of last year’s words was “scherenschnitte,” which is of German descent. The year before that, there was “stichomythia,” which is of Greek descent. We examined words that hit a little bit closer to home and were intrigued to learn about a number of states that have roots in Native American languages.
North Dakota and South Dakota likely come to mind first when considering which state names have Native American origins. They were named after the Territory of Dakota, home to numerous tribes occupying the area. Similarly derivative, Utah comes from the Ute Tribe.
Conversely, Iowa is a result of a number of different spellings and pronunciations of the Iowa Tribe, depending on which European settlers you asked. Aiaoua, Aiaway, Ainovines, Aiodais, Aiouez, Ayaabois, Ayoes, Ayouos, Ayous, and Yoais from the French; Ajoues from the Spanish; and Ioways and Iowaas from the English.
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
Take a moment to consider the language origins of the state you grew up in or where you live now – you might be surprised!
Many of you will be on the road for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. AAA estimates that more than one-third of Americans (35 percent) will travel away from home this year, and 69 percent will take a road trip due to the lower gas prices. This got us thinking about how many people have never visited the reservations and the beautiful opportunities awaiting those who do.
One of our semi drivers, Jim, recently wrote about being on the road to a remote reservation community in New Mexico. He was on his way to Picuris Pueblo, the word Picuris referring to “those who paint.” About 24 miles southeast of Taos, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and influenced by the Spanish, Picuris has 324 enrolled tribal members, but 1,886 residents living in the community. Jim could hardly articulate his sense of wonder at coming over the mountains and descending into the small town before him, with snow-capped pine trees and a stillness that comes only from the absence of bright lights and heavy traffic. After a fork in the road, and deeper into the valley, was a field of buffalo pushing their way through the snow to eat the vegetation below. This is just one of the many wonders you can see on the reservations.
While some reservations have similar aspects, all visitors should remember that each reservation is home to a specific tribe with a specific culture and history. This means that what may be acceptable in one community or at one event may not be appropriate at another. Do some research before your trip. Learning about the history, culture and traditions of the people who live on the reservation you plan to visit will enhance your experience and help you avoid cultural missteps.
If you plan to visit the reservations:
- Treat all residents with courtesy and respect. Listen attentively, and be a respectful observer.
- If a resident offers you food or a meal, be polite and accept it.
- Be aware that alcohol is not permitted on many reservations.
- Be aware of signs about photography, and leave all pieces of pottery and other artifacts where you found them. These are protected by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
- Pay especially close attention to road signs. On tribal lands, you are subject to tribal law enforcement.
- If you are fortunate enough to attend a powwow, feast day or other event, dress in a modest, kempt and appropriate fashion. Avoid attire related to stereotypes, such as fringe or feathers.
Many tribes offer information for visitors on their websites, including events open to the public and rules of etiquette or protocol. Wherever the Memorial Day holiday takes you, let common courtesy be your guide, and if you visit the reservation, post a comment here to share your experience.
Annually held on the second Saturday in May and coming up on May 14 this year is World Fair Trade Day. Started by the World Fair Trade Organization in 2001, millions of businesses, policy-makers and “agents of change” around the globe support this important day. Fair trade aims at promoting economic sustainability, the eradication of poverty and social justice for the world’s most vulnerable populations. For many small and disadvantaged designers, producers and traders, fair trade gives them a better chance at sustainable livelihoods – and this includes Native American vendors.
A special challenge impacting fair trade for Native Americans, however, is “cultural misappropriation.” While this concept has a wider meaning, in this case we are referring to the creation and sale of “Native- inspired” jewelry, artwork, clothing and other textiles by non-Native vendors.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 prohibits sellers from misrepresenting or even implying that a product is Indian-made or associated with a particular tribe if it is not. For some tribes, such as Navajo, the tribal name may not be used, as in “Navajo-inspired.” A true Indian artisan is an enrolled member of a tribe or certified by the tribe as an Indian artisan.
The responsibility remains with each buyer to ensure you are buying authentic Indian-made goods. While it is not always easy to spot an imitation item – especially, but not limited to, jewelry – factors such as price, materials, appearance and markings of authenticity may help. These five tips will help you buy Native-made jewelry:
- Buy from a seller who will give you a written guarantee or statement of authenticity.
- If the seller indicates your purchase is sterling silver and turquoise jewelry handmade by an Indian artist, ensure your receipt states this information, as well as the value of your purchase. Also look for the 925 stamp indicating real sterling.
- If purchasing at powwows, festivals, fairs or other events, check the event requirements for information on the authenticity of products being sold. If no information is given, ask for an authenticity statement for any items you deem relevant or appropriate.
- While some Native items and souvenirs are inexpensive, remember that authentic, high-quality Indian-made jewelry can be expensive, as it requires significant skills and talents to produce.
- Look for the artist’s “hallmark’ (a symbol or signature) stamped on the jewelry to identify their work.
In support of our mission, PWNA routinely looks for opportunities to work with Native American service providers and vendors. We encourage you to do the same and to think outside of the box about what Native vendors can provide. In addition to art, jewelry, textiles and clothing, Native offerings span retail, software, professional services, office products and equipment, energy, financial services and media, as shown in the Inc 5000 list of top Native American businesses for 2015.
In a world where food deserts, low food security and nutrition-related diseases are common, what could be better than community gardening programs? PWNA reservation partners throughout the Northern Plains and the Southwest are championing and teaching gardening as a sustainable food solution in their remote tribal communities.
To assist these gardening and food sovereignty initiatives, PWNA received a $25,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, the independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist, Paul Newman.
Newman’s Own Foundation (the Foundation) is funding nutrition education for children and families and fresh food access for underserved communities. Since 2014, the Foundation has committed $10 million to U.S. nonprofits that support nutrition programs, and most of the grantees are taking a grassroots approach in helping to solve nutrition problems, one community at a time.
PWNA is using the Foundation grant to help reservation partners stimulate locally grown produce and gardening initiatives, each partner taking an approach that fits for their communities. Here are some of the projects underway:
- Orchard Restoration, Whiteriver, AZ (Fort Apache Reservation)
This project is addressing the overwhelming rate of diabetes on the Fort Apache Reservation by making fresh foods more accessible. Their goals are restoring an old orchard, planting fruit trees, increasing local involvement through a community planting day, then conducting food preservation classes once fruits are available. They are also developing a five-year plan for fresh food access. So far, 40 fruit trees have already been planted in the orchard.
- Sustainable Food System, St. Francis, SD (Rosebud Reservation)
Inside the old veterans gym at St. Francis Indian School, this intergenerational project is creating a sustainable food system with bee hives, a chicken coop and raised garden beds. The group is hoping to harvest 150 pounds of honey and is targeting 50 hives to eventually produce $80,000 in annual income. Of this, 20 percent will go to propane for the Elders during the winter and about 70 percent to the students, who are operating as a small company and making business decisions about the proceeds. The group also has a rooster and 24 chickens, which are laying enough eggs to pay for themselves. The science class is incubating eggs and expecting chicks, and the students are building rain catchers. Garden tilling will begin as soon as weather permits, and a farm-to-school curriculum will involve nearly 700 students in planting and harvesting.
- Greenhouse & Gardening Education, Leupp, AZ (Navajo Reservation)
Gardening is traditional in the Navajo community of Leupp, AZ, so students are naturally curious. In response, Leupp high school teachers are developing a gardening-themed lesson one day a week to teach gardening and engage every K-8 student in planting and growing their own garden in raised garden beds. To integrate a future garden-to-cafeteria component, the group is exploring the requirements for serving greenhouse produce in the cafeteria.
“We are excited to support projects that aim to increase access to healthy foods for under-served populations,” said Kelly Giordano, Managing Director of Newman’s Own Foundation. “In particular, Partnership with Native Americans is doing important work to make an impact in improving nutrition for Native American communities.”
As we approach “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” on April 28, which celebrates parents, guardians and role models, PWNA also honors Community Health Representatives (CHRs), who serve as role models in their tribal communities.
CHRs have a long history of service in Native American communities. An approach funded by the Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) for over 25 years, the CHR Program is 1,400 members strong and serves 250 tribes across the country. As paraprofessional health care providers, CHRs work on behalf of their tribes and communities, conducting community outreach and promoting health and wellness and disease prevention. No job description could ever account for the range of responsibilities CHRs carry out each day. Besides regular home health visits to monitor each clients’ condition, CHRs also provide group opportunities for preventative health care, conduct a variety of health assessments, transport patient for health and sometimes other appointments, and most importantly, serve as the consistent connection between their patients and community resources.
To truly understand the complexities and responsibilities a CHR manages, and to appreciate the valuable service and support they provide, you would need to follow them around for a day. PWNA did this, and here we share our glimpse of a morning in the life of one CHR and the myriad of needs she addresses.
6:15 a.m. — Picked up Sherry and transported to dialysis. Husband suffered his stroke earlier in week and she is afraid her needs are causing his health problems. Family has been trying to get assistance to have wheelchair ramp installed for several years (PWNA provided a new ramp and flooring). Couple needs follow up with housing and other resources to see what assistance is available. Took Sherry home; son met us and carried her back into the house. Son reported his father probably wouldn’t be released from hospital for a week or so, and additional transport would be needed.
10 a.m.— Arrived at Elderly Nutrition Center to set up a make-shift screening table for blood pressure and glucose screening with the Elders, while also creating the opportunity for them to discuss their own health risks and concerns with a trained Health Educator. Several Elders were already at the center and visited while the table was being set up and the congregate meal was being prepared. One Elder shared that she has several grandchildren living with her and the first aid kit (provided by PWNA) would be helpful for all the bumps and scraps they get while playing; she never had a fully equipped kit before now.
Complicating the work of a CHR is the reality that the health care system on American Indian reservations is beyond deficient. Shattered treaties and failed federal policies set the stage for routine underfunding of health care, leaving the Native population riddled with health disparities. A report released in 2004 by the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, “Broken Promises: Evaluating the Native American Health Care System,” spotlights per capita health care costs across populations. Fiscal gaps clearly exist in U.S. health care funding levels: $5,000 for general population, $3,803 for federal prisoners and $1,914 for American Indians. These disparities are a factor in why tribal communities are taking a preventative approach to health care, and CHRs play a central role in this effort.
CHRs are trusted servants in their communities, the ones people turn to when they need guidance or help, or someone to advocate for their needs. In celebration of their dedication and service, PWNA honors CHRs for being role models and committing themselves to improving the health and welfare of their neighbors, families and tribal nations.
With Earth Day approaching on April 22, it’s timely to think about what the earth provides for us. A home. Food. Water. It’s easy to take these gifts from Mother Earth for granted. But many Native Americans living on remote and geographically isolated reservations don’t have that luxury. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) understands that these are vital needs in some Native American communities, and that health and self-sufficiency are equally vital.
To assist self-sufficiency efforts, PWNA works directly with reservation partners to support long-term solutions that address health and hunger, while building up sustainable resources in their communities. In Pine Ridge, S.D., PWNA partnered with the Little Wound Face Program and Lynn Dubray to deliver healthy cooking classes to parents. The parents who were already active in the Face program identified the need to address the health of their community through healthier cooking and eating. PWNA developed a curriculum for the group, which included meal plans, menus and train-the-trainer sessions, and the parents modified the curriculum to take advantage of locally-available foods. The lead project coordinator also completed train-the-trainer sessions to gain and pass along sustainable knowledge to future participants, ensuring this critical step toward self-sufficiency continues to grow and flourish.
In Fort Belknap, MT, PWNA partnered with Red Paint Creek Community Council and Hannah Has Eagle to help build a high-tunnel garden that is contributing to the community’s self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, while supporting a healthier lifestyle through access to fresh produce. Continuing the momentum after their first harvest, the Council organized seed-saving events to promote re-planting this season.
Knowing that there is high interest and sustainable gains through gardening and other healthy community-led opportunities, PWNA is looking forward to partnering with several organizations in 2016 – keep checking back as we announce more!
“Nake Nula Waun – I am always prepared, anytime, anywhere, for anything.” – Albert White Hat (Sicangu Lakota)
Albert White Hat brought back this Lakota expression about 25 years ago while teaching at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation. From time to time, I hear people use the expression but have never before thought about it in relation to emergency preparedness. Yet, in the context of our partnership with the American Red Cross North Central Division, Nake Nula Waun makes sense.
Living freely on the Northern Plains, the Lakota practiced preparedness as a means of survival. Resource rich summers inevitably led into resource scarce winters. Preparing things like pápa (dried meat), braided and dried timpsila (prairie turnip), and wastunkala (dried corn) in the summer and fall equated to survival during the harsh months of winter encampment.
With the rise of the reservation system in the 1800s, inconsistent federal policy has somewhat diminished Native Americans of their natural process and ability to plan and prepare. Yet, Native Americans survive to this day — out of resiliency, a key trait of Native peoples that is often overlooked and underestimated.
Building on this inherent resiliency, our community investment project funded by the Red Cross is aspiring to re-strengthen the preparedness of reservation communities inevitably faced with modern day disasters and emergencies. We are collaborating directly with local teams on the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Reservations and working together to identify community assets that can be employed or activated during a time of disaster.
By coming from this asset-based community development perspective, and working with communities wanting to adopt this level of planning, our community partners are forming new relationships between tribal programs and private organizations and working closely to identify resources and determine how best to address emergency needs.
As this networking and sourcing continues, our partner communities are organizing themselves to function more efficiently during a disaster event – drawing on ready emergency operations plans, emergency kits and training. The end result of these efforts will be a community-wide readiness to respond to a disaster event, until outside disaster aid and PWNA’s emergency services arrive.
The month of April got us thinking about what the general public sees as true, versus the actual truth. Don’t be fooled. There are a number of traditions in the Native American culture that have been caricatured and/or misunderstood by the American public, so we wanted to highlight a few that could use correcting.
Misunderstanding: Native American beading is just decorative
Correction: Native Americans have utilized beads in a number of ways throughout the years, including for trade, storytelling, gifting, recognizing status and incorporating meaning into traditional dress – each tribe using them in their own way. Beading is so woven into Native culture, that it is taught and practiced in schools in order preserve Native heritage. Near Halloween last year, we shared this insightful video from BuzzFeed, in which Native Americans tried on and discussed “Indian” costumes, which often contain feathers or beading.
Misunderstanding: Medicine Men are “shamans” who are psychic or give psychic readings
Correction: For the Cherokee Nation, their website explains that “the knowledge used by medicine people comes from other medicine people who came before them and handed down their ‘medicine’ to chosen ones. They train for many years and the medicine formulas, songs and other rites are handwritten in ledgers which have been handed down over time.” For the Cherokee, shamans are not psychic; rather, they consult with Traditional Cherokee on medical issues and life dilemmas, and advertising or profiting from these services is not accepted. Please note this information applies only to this one tribe’s beliefs and is not representative all tribes.
Misunderstanding: All Native Americans are mystical or share the same spiritual beliefs
Correction: Often, the American public makes sweeping generalizations about the spiritual beliefs of Native Americans, including that all tribes share the same beliefs or religion. Yet tribes, on their own websites, refer to a variety of religions and some Native people practice several spiritualities that do not seem in conflict with one another. While there is no one “Native American religion” common to all tribes, the Native American Church does practice Native spirituality and rituals and is present on numerous reservations. Location, community and beliefs unique to a specific population all contribute to the wide range of spiritual practices of Native Americans — just like they do for everyone else.
Partnership With Native Americans cares about quality of life for Native Americans and respects their self-determined goals for their tribes. We see through the misunderstandings and work with those we serve, providing consistent aid and services that our reservation partners request. Help us continue this aid; donate today.
Today is World Water Day, “an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.” Observed annually since March 22, 1993, we join the United Nations in its concern for safe, sufficient and reliable water sources.
While access to water has been a challenge for years for those living on remote reservations, the safety of water sources — or lack, thereof — has recently been in the headlines. The EPA spill of 3 million gallons of wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers contaminated the water of 100,000 Navajo people in July 2015, and more recently, the contamination of the Flint, Mich. water supply exposed residents to dangerous amounts of lead.
On the Navajo Reservation, it is common to see residents hauling large vats of water to their homes. For many residents, this is their sole source of water for drinking, cooking and all other needs. A 2006 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Navajo tribal programs found 22 percent of the residents haul water exclusively, 53 percent haul water sometimes, and the water in hauling residences had a higher incidence of coliform contamination. In areas where deep wells supplying drinking water were contaminated, the water samples collected from 296 households showed three percent exceeded safe water standards for uranium, and eleven percent exceeded safe drinking water standards for arsenic.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) recognizes the need its reservation partners have, and while we continuously provide relief through gift-in-kind donations of bottled water, we know it’s an ongoing struggle and increase fundraising efforts when crisis strikes— allowing for hundreds of pallets of water to be delivered to the Navajo Nation this past summer. International Labour Organisation (ILO) is also working to provide clean water to indigenous peoples, focusing on rural Nicaragua and Panama.
And what can you do?
Learn more about what is being done, worldwide, to increase access to safe water, then learn how you can take action to help those in the communities who need it most. PWNA works closely with reservation partners to provide the right goods at the right time and in the right way. Your contribution can be part of that.