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Leon Hale, Walking in Two Worlds

When I think about the idea of “walking in two worlds,” I consider everything that encompasses. Does it mean that I am two people? Does it mean that I am a fragmented person? Perhaps it means both, or neither. At any rate, I had the honor of visiting with Leon Hale, an elderly man from the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, who now lives in Rapid City, South Dakota. I met him at his home to discuss the concept of “living in two worlds” and what followed was an experience.

Leon Hale, Cheyenne River Sioux

Leon Hale, Cheyenne River Sioux

Leon has health problems and we talked a bit about the dialysis he must have three times a week in order to stay alive. He told me about his heart surgery and shared stories about breaking bones in his legs and arms throughout his life. But, he never lost a sense of optimism about what it all meant. He smiled and was grateful to be “hanging tough,” still moving forward in his life and thankful for the dialysis machine that let him enjoy spending time with his grandkids and pass on the wisdom his grandfather offered to him. We then spoke about the weather and this sparked our deeper discussion of what it means to exist within two very different cultures.

Leon talked about the old ways and how he prays for Mother Earth when he goes to Bear Butte, a sacred site to the Lakota People. He told me he is sad when he thinks about the way the earth has been abused and is struggling to find its own balance again… how the wolves disappeared and now the mountain lions are not living the way they naturally would… how the factors in nature that once controlled the wildlife and the waterways and the forests are all out of balance or no longer exist. I saw in his words a man that understands where we, as Native Americans, come from – how we view the earth and the physical environment around us. I could see the concern in his eyes and his struggle with the way things are and the way they should be when he spoke about nature and our Mother Earth. Two worlds…

Leon then recalled from his youth the way his mother would cook wild game for dinner and the way you need to honor the animals when you take them for food… how hunting was a co-existent way to live with all the creatures of the earth… how hunting was never about sport or dominance over another species. Two worlds…

Copyright Samuvel @ Dreamstime.com Globe Eagle Photo

Copyright Samuvel @ Dreamstime.com Globe Eagle Photo

He spoke about his love for the Lakota language and how it gives him peace and comfort speaking with another Lakota… how he can remember, so clearly, the words of his grandfather and his grandmother… the words they spoke and the wisdom they offered him as he struggled with feeling comfort and peace at home. But, Leon also remembers having erasers thrown at him or rulers slapped over his hands at school for speaking his Lakota language, and the teachers being so forceful and cruel in their ways to change him into someone else. Leon had a special place along the river near his small country school, where he would hide among the bushes and plants and look at the sky and chase the squirrels. And he compared his school experience to the way the Lakota and his grandparents felt about learning and knowledge… about being aware of wisdom and that the language is where it starts… speaking your own language, the Lakota language that to this day gives Leon peace and comfort. He explained that the teaching and the use of language from his grandparents was like an eagle plume. It was sacred and he felt good and alive in what he was learning. Two worlds…

And yet, as Leon reflected over his life, he told me the one thing he would change if he could go back would be to get an education. He said the teachers are much different today than they were in his time… that he has met his grandkids’ teachers and they seem eager to help his grandkids learn… eager to teach them what they need to know in order to exist and succeed in today’s world. But, Leon also understands the importance of teaching his grandkids what his grandfather taught him… to “learn to face the future”… to ‘learn the ways of the others.” I see this as an imperative for Leon, who wants his grandchildren to have it easier than he did… to not struggle as much he did with the idea that he was a Native American being pushed into a world that did not coincide with his own culture.

As I sat and listened to Leon muse about all of these things and more, I realized something. He is living in two worlds still. He knows we cannot go back to the way things were supposed to be… the way they were for millennia before this continent changed populations. And, he knows he can indeed look back to how we existed before and carry that into this new way of living… to sit in a circle and talk as a family… to see it can be a cultural struggle to get an education, yet education can help you succeed in the mainstream world. He knows that each culture offers something new and unique. Two worlds…

As I left Leon’s home, he thanked me in Lakota, and I promised I’d return to hear what he could tell me about anything he wanted to talk about… I left feeling that a person can be two things… that I can be two things. I can be a Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota, descended from and existing because of my ancestors and what they did for me so many generations in the past. I can also be an American citizen that offers his culture to those around him and accepts theirs with understanding and a willingness to face the future… a future that isn’t grim because of how history turned out… rather, a future that is forged one day at a time and can be exactly what I strive to make of it. I can live in two worlds by looking back and looking forward.

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Mary Mitchell, Walking in Two Worlds

Last week we kicked off our “Walking in Two Worlds” blog series by talking about maintaining physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance in everyday life. Maintaining this kind of balance is critical for Native Americans living one life in two worlds. There is the world of contemporary time and place defined by the mainstream culture, and there is the world of indigenous culture, knowledge and understanding. As I mentioned last week, sometimes the two worlds contradict; sometimes they complement one another.Walking in Two Worlds - Mary Mitchell 1

This week, Mary Mitchell, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a senior at Black Hills State University (BHSU), shares her experience of “walking in two worlds.”

Before moving to Spearfish, South Dakota, to attend college, Mary spent her entire life in the community of Eagle Butte, South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Growing up Mary spent her time volunteering in her community and getting involved in school sports. Being so active and present helped Mary build an empowering network. Through this and her large, supportive, close-knit family, Mary grew up knowing who she was – a young Lakota woman.

When Mary left Eagle Butte, she left nervous, sad and one of only a handful ever to have left the reservation for college. Her life was becoming one that would be spent in two worlds.

Thankfully, Mary wouldn’t have to go it alone. The Bridge Program offered by BHSU’s Center for American Indian Studies gave Mary the opportunity before the start of her first semester to transition into life away from home, while getting connected with other first-time Native American college students. (The Center for American Indian Studies is a long-time Program Partner of National Relief Charities and its American Indian Education Foundation.)

Walking in Two Worlds - Mary Mitchell2Connection, Mary says, is at the heart of her ability to maintain balance while “walking in two worlds.” After participating in the Bridge Program her freshman year, Mary went on to mentor other Native American students entering the Bridge. She also now serves as President of the Lakota Omniciye student organization at BHSU. Lakota Omniciye addresses the needs of Native students and coordinates the school’s annual “American Indian Awareness Week” and its “Lakota Omniciye Wacipi.” The wacipi (powwow) brings in about 3,000 guests from South Dakota and the surrounding states of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota.

Bringing Native American culture to campus is just one of the ways Mary stays connected with her roots. She continues to be active in Eagle Butte, volunteering with the Cheyenne River Youth Project and the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School. Mary also keeps close to her family on Cheyenne River through letters and phone calls throughout the school year.

When Mary faces difficulty keeping her balance while “walking in two worlds,” she remembers the lessons of her Aunt Ione shared at a very early age:  As a young Lakota woman, her life is in the service of her people. Mary humbly carries this knowledge in all that she does, be it volunteering in the community or representing Native Americans at Black Hills State University.

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Walking in Two Worlds

What does it mean for a Native American to “walk in two worlds” and does it apply to other cultures in the U.S.? Well, before I can answer this question, I first need to talk about balance.

I’m going to break myself down to four equally important aspects: There is the physical part, the mental part, the emotional and the spiritual. You are the same. Together, these aspects form the circle of our being, and no one aspect is more important than the other.

But, a circle requires all of its points (or aspects) to be equi-distant from its center point – and in that center point is you, the individual. Thus, we experience the most balance as individuals when we cultivate all four of our aspects. When we neglect one aspect or focus primarily on another, we become unbalanced.

Of course, we bump up against the real challenge of staying in balance as we go about our day-to-day lives. In this contemporary world, there seems little time to focus on the core aspects of self. With this in mind, consider people like Native Americans who must stay in balance while “walking in two worlds.”

Walking in Two Worlds - Rez-PL-Need-Vets 12B-Army (Jerry Headley, Wayne Brown, Ronald Howard, Al Brown, Norman Willow, Martin Blackburn, Tyrel Teran)

Minorities in the United States know that two worlds exist in this country. There is the world of the dominant culture, and in my case the world of indigenous culture. One is very new. The other is very old. One culture landed here hundreds of years ago. The other originated here thousands of years ago, if not longer. Often, one contradicts the other, and sometimes they complement each other.

Regardless, this leaves Native Americans no choice but to walk in both worlds. We have the history of forced assimilation, but we also have a rich history of adaptation to the dominant culture. It is through this adaptation to the best parts of the dominant culture that Native peoples have been able to make a positive impact in their communities. Yet, balancing this requires a strong knowledge and ability to navigate both cultures, a constant striving to maintain an indigenous identity while also coursing the mainstream.

Over the next few weeks, National Relief Charities will feature stories of Native Americans living in two worlds or adapting to the use of technologies prevalent in the dominant culture. Check in next week to learn what living in two worlds means for a Native American college student. In the meantime, leave us a comment below if you have an experience of living in two worlds you would like to share.

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10 Things You Must Start Now to Get Ready for College

So you are a junior in high school and getting ready to go to college. You want to be sure you are prepared or, at least as prepared as you can be, but you are not sure how to get started. You also know that choosing to attend college is exciting but can also be stressful. I am here to let you know that, with a little planning and a lot of support from family, counselors and others, you can keep it exciting and minimize the stress.

10 Things You Must Do - AIEF - School Supplies - 16-Kayleen BlackhawkOver my past almost 9 years with National Relief Charities, I have worked with literally thousands of Native American students… answering questions, listening to concerns, and providing helpful guidance that made their college application process easier.  I had the additional joy of working each year with the students whom we awarded scholarships through our AIEF program. Here are 10 things Native or non-Native students must do to get ready for college:

  1. March-August: You want to be researching colleges in your junior year and deciding which ones you may want to attend. As you research, be sure to jot down whether they require the SAT or ACT test.
  2. March-August: You should know that that some colleges have application fees, but you can apply ahead of time for a fee waiver. You should do this in your junior year well before you submit a college application. The timing varies by school, so early on check into application fees and processing time for fee waivers.
  3. September: You want to register for the SAT or ACT test, or sometimes both, in September of your senior year in high school. The test(s) you take depend on the admission requirements for each college to which you will apply. And when you register, be sure to indicate which schools you want to receive your test scores.
  4. October: You actually take the SAT or the ACT tests in October of your senior year. You may also want to register for the winter test at this point. In my experience, some students have found it helpful to take the SAT or ACT test(s) twice.
  5. October-November: You want to start working on your scholarship applications now. Give yourself plenty of time to complete each scholarship application so as not to impede your funding. The people reviewing the applications can tell when an essay was written last minute.
  6. November: By this time, you want to be mailing applications to any college you are considering attending. You should also have your school counselor send each college your high school transcript up to that point. (The transcript must come from the school, not the student.)
  7. December: You want to retake the SAT or ACT test and have the new scores sent to your target colleges. Make a note of your test dates and arrange transportation ahead of time.
  8. December-January:  This is the time to contact your tribal education office to find out whether you are eligible for a tribal scholarship and how to apply.
  9. January: Depending on your financial situation, you want to start searching for other scholarships. Consider Native American scholarships and others for which you meet the eligibility criteria. As you identify suitable scholarships, be sure to jot down the deadlines so that you do not miss an opportunity for funding.
  10. January: You also want to apply for FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid) in January of your senior year. Online is the quickest way to apply for FAFSA, but if you need to apply by mail, ask your school counselor for a FAFSA form.

By February 1 of your senior year in high school, you should have all of these steps done.

10 Things You Must Do - AIEF-School Supplies-Winnebago 20-Jeremy PaulsenFor additional information, check out our AIEF college guide with detailed information for high school seniors, families and counselors. And, be sure to get an AIEF scholarship application online. They are simple to complete and the deadline is April 4, 2015, so you have plenty of time to write your essay and gather the required materials that need to accompany your application.

I wish you all the very best in this and the coming academic years and in all that you do. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our AIEF program at (866) 866-8642. We are happy to assist in any way we can.

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Staying Warm on the Reservations

How could it be that in 2014 a woman on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota froze to death when the state has grown from the seventh to the third largest of U.S. crude oil producers?

Staying Warm on the Rez - Rez-Need-Signs 23-YatesND (SR)While the death of Debbie Dogskin and the oil boom in North Dakota may seem unrelated, consider the thousands of flares accompanying oil wells across North Dakota. As each one of those flares burn, natural gas is released and often uncaptured alongside the crude oil below. Part of that uncaptured gas is propane. When Debbie Dogskin was found on February 4 last year, she was housesitting for a friend and the home’s propane tank was empty.

At the time, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was under a state of emergency as a national propane shortage had skyrocketed the price of propane to more than $3.50 per gallon. A year earlier, the average price of propane in North Dakota was $1.55 per gallon. According to the Associated Press, some 5,000 homes on Standing Rock rely on propane for winter heating. Many of the people occupying those homes live on fixed incomes.

When this was happening, I was living on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota and the same thing was happening there. Propane shortages and the loss of propane in domestic oil production, combined with off-reservation propane vendors often requiring a minimum order of 100 gallons for deliveries, made a basic human necessity like staying warm unattainable for many of the people of Rosebud.

Staying Warm on the Rez - Kaven BegayAlthough many of you may be surprised by this, staying warm in Indian country really can be a matter of life and death or lead to hypothermia. Typically, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assists eligible tribal members with winter heating needs for wood, propane and electricity. However, recent budget cuts at federal and tribal levels have led to temporary closures of tribal LIHEAP offices, limiting the number of people served and delaying help for those with urgent need. When speaking about the budget cuts, Northern Cheyenne President Llevando “Cowboy” Fisher predicted, “I’m afraid it’s going to get worse and worse in future years.” The impact of LIHEAP budget cuts are only heightened by the lack of local winter fuel sources and providers in remote reservation communities.

Staying Warm on the Rez - SNRF-Winter Fuel-Andre Mills 6Knowing that those most vulnerable in reservation communities are often the most affected by harsh winters and social program budget cuts, National Relief Charities provides various forms of heating assistance, according to community needs of the reservations we serve. NRC knows that Native American Elders often heat their homes with wood, wood and coal, propane or electricity, and that about 40% of reservation housing is considered sub-standard for plumbing, heating and cooling. Providing firewood, coal and winter fuel vouchers for propane or electricity is NRC’s way of helping hundreds of Elders stay warm on the Northern Plains and the Southwest reservations.

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Hypothermia and Frostbite

Hypothermia and FrostbiteIt’s January here in South Dakota and the temperatures aren’t bad recently, about 30 degrees—but it can get below zero very quickly this time of year. The wind and the air temperature can plummet, especially at night, and make it difficult to stay warm… especially if you rely on propane for heating, or wood for heating.

Many of us simply can turn up the heat via a digital dial on the wall and voila – the room temperature climbs until it reaches 75 degrees. Things aren’t always that simple on the reservations around the country. For some, staying warm in the winter is a challenge as costs and the lack of winter fuel such as firewood can make warmth arduous to obtain.

I have visited Elders on the reservation in winter, and I can recall one visit in particular where it was downright freezing inside of the home. The Elder was waiting for a propane delivery. In addition, many of the reservations we serve are very rural and remote. There isn’t an urban infrastructure that makes it easy to have the types of heating many of us enjoy.

Hypothermia & Frostbite - CINFor too many, in my opinion, winter on the reservation can be a cold harsh experience. I can remember as a young boy visiting my grandmother on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the wind could get just horrible and gusty and so very cold. You find ways to stay warm – like putting up blankets and plastic over the windows – but it can still get cold… especially when you are waiting for winter fuel.

This very real danger of hypothermia among people on the reservation when propane and wood are in short supply brings me to another point: What is hypothermia, and how is it different from frostbite?

Well, the Mayo Clinic states that hypothermia is “a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature passes below 95 F (35 C).”

Severe hypothermia can lead to frostbite, which freezes parts of the body when they are exposed to extremely cold temperatures. In so many of the isolated reservation communities National Relief Charities serves, the temperature can be well below freezing many days throughout the winter and frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes.

Hypothermia & Frostbite - SNRF-Fuel-After the Blizzard 5-Martha Afraid of HawkWhen coupled with the poverty that exists on these reservations, this makes for a perfect storm. Poverty, lack of local heating sources and sub-freezing temps can lead to potentially life threatening consequences. This is why NRC goes to such lengths to ensure winter safety for Elders on reservations, providing:

  • Firewood and winter fuel vouchers for hundreds of Elders on Northern Plains and Southwest reservations
  • Winter emergency boxes with food, water, flashlights, batteries, scarves, hats, gloves, and winter emergency blankets to get Elders through winter storms
  • Weatherization of Elders’ homes by caulking and putting up plastic around doors and windows to keep out the cold and keep in the precious heat
  • Emergency relief when blizzards and other winter weather create risk for Elders

We recommend keeping a close watch on Elders in your community and ensuring their wood, coal or propane does not run low during the winter. And check out these other tips for spotting the signs of frostbite.

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Native Youth Know How to Improve Public Health & Safety

Native Youth Know - Az Commission logoToday at Arizona’s Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day, five talented and energized youth groups are presenting how they are going to make their communities safer and healthier. With the “Native Youth Know” partnership standing behind them, the five youth groups will receive the funding and support to make that possible.

The Native Youth Know partnership between the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and National Relief Charities is engaging youth-led groups to develop creative solutions around issues of public safety, health and well-being. From the youth of today develop the leaders of tomorrow.

NRC-logo-for-TwitterToday, we would like to acknowledge and congratulate the five recipients of the “Native Youth Know” grants and the solutions they identified for tribal communities throughout Arizona:

  1. Based on the Hopi Reservation, the Hopi Junior and Senior High School student government will develop a park and recreation area to serve the youth and adults living in the school’s housing complex. By enhancing this area, the student government will increase access to places where people of all ages can become more active and improve health and wellness.
  1. The Native American Music Fund from the Fort Defiance and Window Rock communities on the Navajo Reservation has a track record for promoting music and raising funds for guitars and pianos, which were given to Navajo youth. Using the Native Youth Know grant, they will host three Teens for Music workshops in three Navajo communities, including music lessons and performances from local and known musicians.
  1. Elsewhere on the Navajo Nation, the fifth and sixth grade classes at the Little Singer Community School are resolved to revitalize and enhance the school’s efforts toward nutritional values. They will promote nutritional, environmental and cultural well-being through renovation of a school greenhouse and development of a sustainable garden.
  1. On the Pascua Yaqui Reservation in Guadalupe, middle and high school students in the Lutu’uria Youth Group are collaborating with college students from the Yonokame Group to address issues rooted in historical trauma and loss of culture. They will address the issues through teachings of Yaqui history.
  1. The Miss Pascua Yaqui Program in Tucson is committed to educating youth and the community about their ancestral diet as well as edible plants and fruits harvested from the environment. They will organize teaching by Elders and develop a community garden to grow the plants and trees essential to the Yaqui ancestral diet.

We congratulate these Native American youth for taking a leadership role and contributing in creative and positive ways to the safety, health and well-being in tribal communities.

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The Controversy over Keystone XL Pipeline

There is still much talk about the Keystone XL Pipeline and the controversy surrounding the construction of this transcontinental oil behemoth. Some argue for its construction as they say it will create pipeline jobs and boost local economies from Canada to Mexico, while others say no price tag can cover the harmful emissions and catastrophic effect the pipeline will have on the environment.  Then many Native Americans feel that besides an environmental risk, the Keystone XL Pipeline is in direct violation of treaties.

On February 19, 2014, a Nebraska district judge struck down a law that allowed the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed through Nebraska, saying it violated the state constitution. However, on Friday, January 9, 2015, the Nebraska Supreme court reversed the lower court ruling, clearing the way to begin pipeline construction.

A pending decision by Congress and their moves with this project may yet delay construction of the pipeline. The 114th Congress of the United States is still weighing their options on how to proceed, and we will all soon learn how this will play out at a national level.

In the meantime, we should all be aware of how the Keystone XL Pipeline will affect Native Americans. Beyond the environmental issues, and the politics, and the prediction of creating thousands and thousands of jobs, there exists that one remaining detail…. that tribes and the treaties the U.S. government has made with tribes must be given the lawful respect they deserve. The companies involved and the U.S. government need to consider this with the tribes directly.

Pub. by Tar Sands Blockade, http://bit.ly/XL-or-treaties

Pub. by Tar Sands Blockade, http://bit.ly/XL-or-treaties

Already, many of the tribes have spoken and expressed major concern about the safety and energy efficiency of this pipeline. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has expressed their opposition to this pipeline, as well as the potential for further damage to the environment and to Native lands, should there be any further ruptures of oil in the future. NCAI asked that the U.S. pursue sustainable energy solutions and look at clean energy alternatives as a way to move forward and reduce dependency on “the world’s dirtiest and most environmentally destructive form of oil – the ‘tar sands.” I feel this is a fair request.

No matter how this plays out, I hope the officials and decision-makers listen to the tribes in both Canada and America and consider what the Keystone XL Pipeline will really do for the citizens of the United States… all of the citizens. This question stands quite apart from that of generating profits for TransCanada, major oil sand producers like Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp and investors including those in the U.S.

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Indian Reservations to Visit in Winter

Have you ever wondered about visiting an Indian reservation or tribal recreation area in the winter? There are many options open, but here are five in the southern and southwestern United States that may surprise you.

  1. Mescalero Apache: Indian Rez to Visit in Winter - skisIf you’re up for cold weather, snow sports may be just the thing. Ski Apache is a premier ski destination in New Mexico operated by the Mescalero and known for its year-round beauty. This recreational paradise turns white in the winter, making skiing and snowboarding the activities of choice, with elevations of 5,400 to 12,000 feet. Its highest peak, Sierra Blanca, is sacred to the Mescalero people. The tribe also operates the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino. The reservation is 720 square miles and home to the Mescalero, the Chiricahua and the Lipan Apache. Read more
  1. White Mountain Apache: The tribe’s Office of Tourism on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation hosts adventurous outdoor recreation, including rafting the Salt River Canyon, camping and hiking in the pristine White Mountains, Apache Trout fishing (species not found elsewhere) and world record elk hunting. In the winter, the fun shifts to skiing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, sleigh rides and ice fishing. The Sunrise Park Resort is a premier ski destination in Arizona and known for its winter and summer activities and year-round beauty. The tribe also operates the luxurious Hon-Dah Resort Casino and Conference Center. Read more
  1. Blackfeet: Indian Rez to Visit in Winter - ice fishingThe Blackfeet Indian reservation is 1.5 million acres in Montana. It borders Alberta, Canada to the north and Glacier National Park to the south, with an easy drive from there to Yellowstone National Park. The tribe operates a recreation area known as Blackfeet Country, with unmatched scenic beauty (and sometimes high winds). The recreation area is a winter and summer playground for snow sports, ice fishing (permits and ice house rentals are nominal), hiking, camping, horseback riding, boating, picnicking, swimming, rodeos, water sports and cultural events. The tribe also operates the Glacier Peaks Casino and Hotel. There is also a nine-hole golf course in nearby East Glacier. Read more
  1. Seminole: Indian Rez to Visit in Winter - rodeo 3If cold weather is not your thing, consider heading south to Florida. The Seminole are hosting a championship rodeo this month, a qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The rodeo will be hosted at the Seminole Youth Ranch Arena in Immokalee, FL. The other two rodeos in this 3-part series have been held in Lakeland and Wauchula, FL for years. Top-name contestants and up to 10,000 rodeo fans are expected. Although rodeo is a pro sport, this one has a lot of entertainment and specialty acts, making it different from other rodeo events. The Seminole Tribe is building a new four-story, 110-room hotel at the Seminole Immokalee Casino, which they hope will open in time for the rodeo. Read more
  1. Pascua Yaqui: The Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation is located in metropolitan Tucson. If you’re a golfer, you may want to visit the Sewailo Golf Club, just south of the tribe’s Casino Del Sol Resort. The tribe hired Notah Begay of Navajo and Pueblo descent and PGA fame to “help carve the world from the high Sonoran Desert.” Sewailo means “flower world” in the Pascua Yaqui language. This challenging golf course runs 7,400 yards from the championship tees, with 5 tee boxes on each hole to accommodate players of all ability levels. The resort has earned the Forbes Four-Star Travel Guide Award. Read more

** If you visit one of these areas, please come back and share your experience. If you’re looking for something more mainstream yet culturally-focused, try the National Museum of the American Indian with locations in Washington, DC and New York City that are open year-round.

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Native Americans Giving Back: Jana Mashonee

It’s December 25, 2014. Across the globe families have gathered and gifts have been exchanged in celebration of the Christmas holiday. Resolutions are quickly being made while there is still time. With the end of one year and the beginning of another soon upon us, there is no better way to conclude our Native Americans Giving Back Series than by featuring a one-of-a-kind artist: Jana Mashonee (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina).

In my mind, Jana is synonymous for this time of year. If you watched our holiday video above, you know what I’m talking about. The song featured in the video is a rendition of “O Holy Night” sung in Navajo, from Jana’s album “American Indian Christmas.”

This NAMMY award-winning album gives listeners ten classic Christmas songs beautifully sung in different Native American languages. Jana generously allowed NRC to use her work in support of our holiday video and giving projects.

In further support of Indian country, Jana established the Jana’s Kids Foundation to support Native American and Aboriginal students through academic, athletic and art scholarships, awarding her first scholarship in 2006. In addition, Jana’s Kids Foundation strives to improve literacy among Native American children through a “Reading for Life Program.” This program provides culturally relevant books and motivational seminars to encourage reading among Native American children.

Giving Back - christmasbells10At only 34 years old, Jana Mashonee has achieved a lot as a performer and philanthropist. She’s been nominated for two GRAMMY awards, received nine NAMMY awards, performed at the American Indian Inaugural Ball for President Obama and sang for Laura Bush at the First Lady’s Luncheon, to name just a few of her contributions. Her humanitarian efforts align with much of what we do at National Relief Charities through our AIEF program.

NRC would like to recognize Jana Mashonee for her support of Native Americans everywhere and to thank her again for supporting our holiday services. Like all the artists and performers featured in this series, Jana is truly a Native American giving back.

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