The Importance of the 2020 Census for Native Americans

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a nationwide survey to count every resident across the country to ensure equal representation and to allocate seats and guide district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives. Besides providing the U.S. government with an accurate representation of the country’s population and demographics, policymakers at the tribal, federal, and state level also depend on this data to develop policy and programs aligned with the realities of Native communities.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, many Native Americans fall within certain population groups that are considered “hard-to-count,” making them vulnerable to under-representation. Some of the characteristics that make a citizen hard-to-count include poverty level, educational attainment, housing insecurity, age and remoteness.

As a result of inaccurate counting, the needs of Native communities may be misrepresented and the allocation of crucial federal funding for needs related to health, housing, education and more may also be impacted. In fact:

  • In 1990, the net undercount of Native Americans on reservations was an estimated 12.2%.
  • In 2010, Native Americans and Alaska Natives on reservations were undercounted by about 4.9%.
  • In some states, a large proportion of Native Americans live in hard-to-count tracts, including:
    • 78.6% in New Mexico
    • 68.1% in Arizona
    • 65.6% in Alaska
    • 52.4% in South Dakota
    • 49.9% in Montana

Take Action

This year, individuals and families will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census beginning in mid-March. Anyone can help the Census Bureau avoid under-representation of Native Americans in the 2020 Census by becoming an advocate and informing their members of Congress about the importance of providing adequate funds to the Census Bureau to ensure a more accurate count in the 2020 Census.

Those interested in becoming more involved can also join Complete Count Committees, which are established among tribes to educate state, tribal and local leaders about the challenges associated with the Census for Native communities.

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President’s Day: Supporting Native American Communities through Action

Yesterday, America celebrated its founding fathers and the leaders who’ve followed as part of the national President’s Day holiday (celebrated the third Monday in February). While not all presidents have advocated publicly for Native American communities, there are those who have championed tribes and supported policies to ensure fair treatment. Support comes in many forms, whether it be funding, resources, land, or sometimes solidarity when there is an understanding and rally around an issue or need for change. We summarized a few notable presidential acts that have represented positive support for Native communities.

President Calvin Coolidge

President Calvin Coolidge

In 1924, President Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, granting U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans and giving them a political voice and eliminating fraudulent land purchases. This act essentially undid the effects of the Dawes Act of 1887, which allowed for large tracts of land to be taken from Native Americans. (This is unrelated to any changes in tribal lands arising out of treaties between tribes and the U.S. government.)

President Richard Nixon

In 1970, President Nixon returned the sacred lands of the Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo, which had been taken from the Taos Pueblo tribe and given to the National Forest Service in the early 1900’s. President Nixon also increased annual funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs by 214 percent and urged Congress toward self-determination for tribes. In 1975, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act was signed into law by his successor, President Gerald Ford. While this act was not passed until after his presidency, Nixon’s efforts showed that a president could make impactful decisions for Native communities.

President Ronald Reagan

In 1988, President Reagan signed into law the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which regulated the conduct of gaming on Indian lands and afforded numerous tribal communities healthier economies, employment opportunities and the ability to assist other tribes and neighboring communities.

President Barack Obama

In 2013, President Obama signed into law the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, as well as the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act. These laws amended the previously signed Stafford Act, which allowed tribes (as sovereign nations) to be treated as states and request a disaster declaration directly from the President. In the event of an emergency disaster, the act allows FEMA to provide up to 25 percent (or $10 million) of estimated costs for eligible hazard mitigation to a state or tribal nation.

Currently, there are 145 bills in deliberation by the 116th Congress that are associated with Native American rights and advocacy. Arguments could be made for whether past presidents have supported Native American rights and whether these individuals had a direct hand in legislation or simply provided their opinions to support us through advocacy. However, what we do know is that we have many opportunities to take advantage of the efforts made before us and further support our Native communities in the future.

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Q&A with New President and CEO Joshua Arce

PWNA recently announced the appointment of Joshua (“Josh”) Arce as our new president and chief executive officer (CEO). We sat down with Josh to learn more about his upbringing on a reservation, his experiences with tribal communities and his vision for PWNA.

Q: What is your tribal affiliation?

A: My affiliation is the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas. We are a federally recognized tribe with approximately 4,500 members, 600 of whom live in Kansas.

Q: Can you share more about the realities for members of the Potawatomi Tribe?

A: A lot has changed in my lifetime, but I remember when we had mostly gravel roads. I remember living in a small trailer with no electricity and tribal council assessing how to pay a $9 light bill. I remember using my uncle’s outhouse when I would visit him. Gaming was introduced in the late 1980’s and helped improve many of these conditions, but we still face a poverty rate of about 20 percent.

Q: How did you first learn about PWNA?

A: I knew Nikki Pitre who was – and still is – on the PWNA Board of Directors. We had worked together through the American Indian Higher Education Consortium as my previous employer, Haskell, is one of only two federally funded tribal colleges with all-Native student bodies.

Q: What were you most proud of while serving on PWNA’s Board of Directors?

A: After I visited PWNA’s distribution center in Rapid City, I could see how well-organized and polished the operations were. Both in Rapid City and Phoenix, the staff’s dedication to the organization and its tribal program partners is evident.

Q: What influenced your decision to pursue the role of CEO & President?

A: It’s the dawn of a new decade, and it was a new position that seemed to align with my knowledge, skills and abilities. I evaluated it the same way I would any opportunity but felt I had tremendous support from existing staff, Board members and family to make the decision without hesitation.

Q: What skillsets do you think will be most valuable for PWNA in your new role?

A: Thanks to my experience in IT, I am agile in strategic planning and decision-making for critical infrastructure, such as the network and donor database, which can bring cost efficiencies.

Q: Where do you feel PWNA excels most?

A: Our distribution center operations (warehousing and deliveries) run like well-oiled machines. They process requests efficiently and maintain spotless audits year over year.

Q: What would you say is PWNA’s greatest accomplishment after 30 years of serving Indian Country?

A: Many organizations do not make the 30-year milestone – that in and of itself is an accomplishment. The tenacity of our employees and tribal partners, along with the leadership of our Board and senior team, has set the organization on the right path to continue being a meaningful resource for Native communities, partners and students.

Q: What’s the main thing people need to know about you?

A: Most importantly, I’m a solution-oriented person – it’s easy to identify problems but more important to find solutions. I’m very open, so I make time to listen to feedback or ideas and sort through opportunities.

Q: What is your hope for PWNA going forward?

A: I want to help PWNA grow so we can continue fostering connections to success and support real and sustainable change in tribal communities. From a humanitarian standpoint, I also want PWNA to continue to be recognized as a national Native nonprofit that serves the needs of Indian Country and guarantees a safe and impactful investment for donors.

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Pro Tips for Submitting a Scholarship Application

The start of a new year can be an incredibly busy time for students. January and February are typically when graduating high school seniors are applying to colleges and determining the type of financial support they’re able to receive for post-secondary education. Students already in college are often seeking additional financial support, as well.

Finding the right scholarship(s) for your circumstances can seem overwhelming and stressful but is equally exciting if you’re able to find the right opportunity! Partnership With Native Americans appreciates the dedication of its American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) scholars and works diligently to provide support whenever possible, especially during “scholarship season.”

The 2020 AIEF scholarship application deadline is April 4, but students can score an extra point if their application is postmarked by March 1.

We’ve gathered several tips based on feedback from our scholarship committee to assist students who are seeking to apply for an AIEF or other scholarship this year:

1. Determine whether you are eligible.

Carefully review scholarship guidelines – it’s no fun putting work into something if you aren’t eligible. To be eligible to apply for an AIEF scholarship as an undergraduate or graduate student, you must be:  

  • Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian (student or one parent must be enrolled and able to provide documentation)
  • Attending an accredited two or four-year college or university or technical/vocational school as an undergraduate student, or accepted to an accredited graduate school as a graduate student (online schools, summer programs and ABD do not qualify)
  • Enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student for the entire school year, or a part-time or full-time graduate student (level of scholarship funding is dependent on the number of credits for which you are enrolled)

2. Read the fine print.

Applications vary so be sure to review and respond to all required elements, including supplemental materials, how documents should be ordered and presented, how to submit the application (online vs. by mail), etc.

3. Dedicate time to your essay.

A scholarship essay is arguably the most important part of the application because it’s where reviewers can gain a better sense of the student. Reviewers also note which students follow directions regarding subject matter, length and font size as attention to detail is important. AIEF provides an essay guideline and urges each applicant to expand on the details they provide as it relates to their community involvement form (page 4 of the AIEF application).

4. Ensure your application is complete.

It’s extremely important to ensure all application materials are complete and submitted with all the required supplemental materials. One of the most common oversights from students applying for an AIEF scholarship is an incomplete application – whether it’s a missing photo, a signature, sending your transcripts separately, or opting out of completing a portion of the application. Unfortunately, these mishaps can determine whether a student moves forward in the scholarship selection process.

If you have a question about the AIEF scholarship or process, please contact PWNA at 1-866-866-8642 or visit our FAQ page. We hope this information is helpful as you embark on completing your scholarship applications!

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Recently in Native News

The start of 2020 is well underway, and Native Americans are already making headlines in top outlets across the nation with important news topics. Please enjoy a compilation of some of these standout Native American headlines from the month of January. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

8 of the biggest misconceptions people have about Native Americans via INSIDER

  • “As one of the very few Native American people working in the entertainment industry, I’m used to being asked bizarre questions about my culture and upbringing. Growing up on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in Washington state, I was ill-prepared for how little your average person knows about Native issues. For context, according to a recent study by the Native run nonprofit IllumiNatives, 87% of United States schools don’t cover Native American history beyond 1900. And that fact isn’t more apparent than when a grown adult — who went to college and should really know better — asks me if I was born in a teepee. To head some of these questions off at the pass, I’m here to clear up some of the weirdest and wildest misconceptions people have about being Native American in the 21st century.”

The 2020 Census starts tomorrow. Will Native Americans be undercounted? via The Hill

  • [On] Jan. 17, census workers [began] trekking through some of the most remote parts of the country to carry out a constitutional duty — a count of all people, citizens and non-citizens, living in the U.S. The 2020 census will begin early in Alaska, one of the few places where the count is still taken in person, in order to reach an indigenous community that has historically been undercounted. Alaska and New Mexico were the most undercounted states in the last census, and their Native American populations account for a significant portion of those uncounted people. And since census counts are used to determine both federal funding and the number of legislative representatives for states, this will limit the resources available to these communities. In New Mexico, Gov. Lujan Grisham established the Complete Count Commission in April 2019 to ensure a more complete count in 2020.”

Native American curriculum rolls out in Oregon via The Columbian

  • “This month, Oregon’s Department of Education finally rolled out the first pieces of new statewide curriculum on the history and culture of Native Americans in Oregon after lawmakers passed Senate Bill 13 in 2017 with the hope of remedying years of incomplete or inaccurate teachings. This school year is the first time districts are required to implement the change in classrooms — but the curriculum is not yet available for all grades. Because the department is ‘behind,’ it decided last week to do a soft rollout this year with a hard implementation starting this summer, said April Campbell, the advisor to deputy state superintendent on Indian education. But despite the delay in full implementation, local educators are excited for the positive impact the new curriculum will have on Native communities in local schools when it arrives.”

New York Celebrates Native American Community And Artists via Forbes

  • “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. People of every nationality, race, religion and background know this to be true of New York City. That includes Native Americans. When thinking of America’s Indigenous people, few call to mind images of Central Park, Brooklyn or the subways crisscrossing the five boroughs, but of course, like everywhere else in America, Native people are there. In acknowledgment of this presence, the Museum of the City of New York presents ‘Urban Indian: Native New York Now’ through February 15. The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of American Indian Community House, a non‐profit community organization that improves and promotes the well‐being of Native Americans residing in New York.”
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Strengthening Native American Youth in Arizona

The 25th annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day held Jan. 15, 2020 at the Arizona State Capitol brought together tribal and state leaders, organizations serving tribal communities, and citizens of the 22 tribes in the state. This annual event pays tribute to the history and culture of American Indian peoples and their contributions to the prosperity and cultural diversity of the U.S.

Legislative Day began with a joint-protocol session hosted by the House of Representatives, with floor privileges extended to tribal leaders alongside their representative(s). This year’s speakers included Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Vice Chairman of the Havasupai Tribe Matthew Putesoy and Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris.

The sixth annual Native Youth Know (NYK) Forum, a special initiative for young people, invited more than 140 Native American youth to the Capitol to come together and voice their concerns, challenges and opportunities to make changes in their communities. The forum was established in 2015 by Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), in collaboration with the Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations, to give Arizona Native youth living in reservations, urban and rural communities an opportunity to connect, communicate and identify their shared concerns, foster intertribal collaboration and promote positive change.

The inaugural forum in 2015 served as a guide for forums and youth projects in subsequent years, after participants voiced their concerns in Indian Country, from preservation of culture and self-identity to resources for economic development, substance abuse, domestic violence, bullying and increased rates of suicide.

This year, concerns about the lack of youth opportunities, the decline in Native language speakers and cultural knowledge, and limited resources were identified as top priorities needing attention. One participant said, “resources on the reservation are different than other communities. We don’t have as much so we see the struggles with youth and the parents. Jobs, services, even stores – if you go to buy something there isn’t much on the shelves.”

The 2020 session ended with an exercise in ideating how youth can make a difference in their respective communities and bring awareness to the concerns they discussed at NYK. Organizers pledged to summarize the forum discussion and share it with tribal, state and community organization leaders and service providers to provide a better understanding of the youth perspective.

Over the past six years, PWNA has responded to the annual forum by funding five youth-led community projects, hosting two statewide youth leadership trainings and conducting a statewide ‘food as medicine’ session. NAU also supported two business plan competitions and helped fund four plans that positively impacted Native communities. Future activities will be formulated based on recommendations made by Native youth at the 2020 forum.

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The Realities of Winter in the Northern Plains

With winter well underway and the start of a new year upon us, there’s no better time to revisit the importance of severe weather preparedness. For people living on remote reservations in the Northern Plains, winter storms often prevent access to necessities such as food, water and warmth, so understanding how to prepare for these conditions and access relief is crucial.

Word of disaster needs in remote tribal areas is often slow to reach the mainstream, which can result in a delayed response or no response by outside resources to tribal emergency needs. To help mitigate this issue, PWNA is a first responder for the reservations in its 9-priority-state service area, and it is involved in various partnerships and initiatives to help improve tribal relief efforts.

Unfortunately, Native American Elders on remote reservations are often the ones most hindered by severe winter and weather due to a lack of transportation and the physical challenges of navigating emergency situations. In an effort to bring emergency resources directly to Elders during harsh weather conditions, PWNA offers the Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) program to Native program partners in the Northern Plains. A donation to NPRA will help provide critical supplies to Elders who need them, including bottled water, emergency blankets, winter fuel and more.

In addition to their NPRA program, PWNA partners with the American Red Cross to strengthen emergency preparedness and response initiatives on reservations. The collaboration aims to help reservation communities prepare for extreme weather conditions and provide more immediate and localized response to emergencies during blizzards, floods, hurricanes and other conditions. This partnership is so vital that PWNA and the American Red Cross signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to outline their aims and approaches in working together.

As part of the American Red Cross partnership, the two organizations will continue coordinating deliveries for immediate disaster response and collaborate on numerous safety initiatives, including a home fire campaign, expanded emergency preparedness programs, and caregiver and training on CPR/AED training (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation/Automated External Defibrillator) services in tribal communities. Please consider making a donation to NPRA to help support those who are suffering from the effects of severe weather this winter. To inquire about first responder support on Northern Plains and Southwest reservations in our service area, call 800-416-8102.

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Poverty Awareness Month

January brings renewed hope and an opportunity to positively impact those most in need. During Poverty Awareness Month, we are reminded of the current state of poverty in America – particularly for Native Americans.

It is estimated that 38.1 million people lived in poverty in 2018, and 17.3 million of those people lived in what is classified as ‘deep poverty,’ with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty threshold in America. Considering jobs are scarce in Native communities — largely due to reservation land being held in trust by the U.S. government and layers of federal, state and tribal regulations in play for business investment — it’s not surprising that more than 25 percent of Native Americans in the U.S. are living in poverty, representing the highest poverty-stricken group in the country. And the highest rates of poverty are in South Dakota and Arizona among many of the tribal communities PWNA serves.

These numbers should serve as an alarm to raise concerns about these impoverished communities, who often go without access to fresh produce and safe drinking water. In fact, 58 of every 1,000 Native American households lack plumbing, compared with 3 out of every 1,000 white households. Many Native American reservation communities are also USDA-designated food deserts.

PWNA collaborates with reservation partners to deliver food and water to remote communities, including foods for senior centers that prepare hot meals for elders, and food boxes for pantries that serve an increasing population of families in tribal communities. Many Elders live in food deserts where the nearest grocery store can be up to an hour away, so PWNA provides staple foods and fresh produce for nutritious eating, as well as emergency food boxes to address shortages in some communities.

PWNA is also addressing poverty in Indian Country through participation in programs such as the Native American Nutrition Cohort sponsored by Newman’s Own Foundation and capacity building, including Mobile Nutrition Education and Train-The-Trainer (T3) projects, that educate communities on local gardening and foraging, food preservation, and healthy cooking with local food sources and indigenous recipes.   

This January, consider those who may be less fortunate and remember there’s always more we can do to support those who need it most.

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2019 Year in Review

As the New Year approaches, we’re pausing to reflect on this past year at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). In 2019, we continued to be resilient, despite the evolving impact of the tax law change on nationwide giving and the fact that less than one penny of every dollar donated in the U.S. supports Native causes. Regardless, we continued to serve people living in remote reservation communities and remained committed to improving nutrition, education, emergency response and capacity building in Indian country.

We look forward to continuing our purpose of championing a brighter future for Native American communities in 2020. For now, here’s a recap of our readers’ favorite blog posts of 2019:

We’d also like to remind you that nonprofit organizations rely heavily on donations made this time of year. If you’re thinking of making one last tax-deductible donation today (postmarked by midnight), we hope you will contribute to PWNA so that we may continue our life-changing work with Native Americans in the new decade.

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Recently in Native News

With the end of 2019 near and the start of a new decade upon us, news around Indian Country continues to make national headlines. Please enjoy a compilation of some of the most noteworthy Native American headlines from the month of December. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

The Little Shell Tribe will be the newest Native American group recognized in the US via CNN

  • “After decades of trying, a group of Native Americans will receive federal recognition for the first time. The recognition for the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians is a result of an amendment that Montana legislators put into an annual defense authorization bill. The U.S. Senate passed the bill Tuesday by a vote of 86-8. President Donald Trump has said he would sign the bill. ‘Our ancestors are smiling today because this fight is over,’ tribe Chairman Gerald Gray said Tuesday. ‘The Little Shell Tribe can now continue forward in ensuring that our future generations will thrive and that our traditions and cultural values never disappear.’”

Long-awaited Native American museum in Oklahoma has new name, expected to open in 2021 via USA TODAY

  • “The long-awaited American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City is getting a new name. City and tribal officials announced Thursday the facility will be called the First Americans Museum. Museum officials say the old name was unwieldy and that the term ‘Indians’ is historically inaccurate. Construction on the 173,000-square-foot facility began in 2006 but was delayed for years after the project ran out of money and the Legislature refused to allocate more funds. An agreement was ultimately reached in 2016 between the city, state and tribal nations to finish construction. The museum will be located along the bank of the Oklahoma River just south of downtown Oklahoma City, and aims to be a world-class showcase for Oklahoma’s American Indian heritage and will house artifacts the tell the history of the 39 federally recognized tribes located in the state.”

Seattle launches new community for homeless Native Americans via The Hill

  • “The levels of homelessness across the U.S. are surging, but nowhere is it as prevalent as along the West Coast. While California is the first state that comes to mind, Seattle also has a sizeable population of housing-vulnerable citizens. Consistently ranking among the top 10 most expensive cities in the U.S., Seattle has officially acknowledged its homelessness rate is a crisis. Digging deeper, the data reveal an unsettling fact:  the Native American and Alaskan Native population have the highest rates of homelessness in Seattle. While Native Americans and Alaskans make up just 1 percent of residents in the Seattle area, approximately 6 percent of that ethnic group are without shelter. Though it is a painful irony considering the city itself is named after late Native American Chief Seattle, the trend is not altogether surprising, with Native Americans nationally suffering significant health disparities and safety issues in comparison to the rest of the country.”

Native American women tackle high rate of maternal mortality via The Spectrum

  • “As the sun begins to set on a blustery fall day, the rugged buttes of Navajoland glow red in the soft light and swift gusts spiral dust through the air. About 40 women, most draped in traditional dress, stand in a circle as Melissa Brown, an indigenous midwife, asks the group to reflect on the day just ending — and the mission still ahead. ‘We have talked about being safe here. That is our goal,’ she tells them. ‘We’re going to cry, and we’re going to laugh. And that’s OK.’ One by one, the women share a word that best captures how they feel: Happy. Safe. Joyful. Supported. Sovereign. Brave. Then one sings a hymn in her native tongue.”

‘The Force Is With Our People’ Connects Indigenous Culture To A Galaxy Far Away via NPR

  • “Artist Duane Koyawena is piloting a custom R2D2 unit in front of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Ariz. It’s life-size and has all the signature bleeps and squawks of the original. But its appearance has a unique Southwestern spin. ‘When I was thinking about it, I was like … wouldn’t it be cool to see an R2 that’s decked out [and] looks actually like a pottery?’ he says. ‘So along with that comes the designs, and so the tans and the reddish burn marks from when they fire their pottery.’ At first glance the traditional Hopi maroon-and-tan patterns are a surprising look for the famous droid. But Koyawena says it makes total sense for R2.”
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