Supporting Native Students through the 2019 Combined Federal Campaign

Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) season is upon us and PWNA is pleased to participate for the ninth consecutive year through our American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program. The CFC employee-focused program is the largest and most successful workplace charity program in the world. The CFC online giving period is from now through Jan. 12, 2020. And while there are many reasons to pledge your support to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart, we ask that you consider giving to a Native American-serving cause, such as AIEF.

AIEF supports K-12 and higher education for Native students, including students such as Jack, who remembers the challenge of getting basic school supplies, and Josie, who relied on scholarships for college tuition. The AIEF scholarship committee sensed Josie’s determination from the beginning and knew she would one day significantly impact others — and she sure has. Josie now develops teachers through her insights on fostering educational equity for all students.

If you’re in the federal workforce or the military, you have the chance to make a difference, too. Here are 10 timely reasons you should pledge your support to American Indian students:

  1. September is National Suicide Prevention Month and Native youth have the highest rate of teen suicide in the U.S.
  2. CFC’s Education Week is Sept. 30 through Oct. 4, and Teacher’s Day is Oct. 5, and both Native teachers and students need the most basic school supplies for the classrooms.
  3. World Obesity Day is Oct. 11 and many Native youth are impacted by obesity and diabetes due to inadequate diets and lack of access to affordable healthy foods.
  4. Native American Day is Oct. 14, and more states and schools are now celebrating this occasion instead of Columbus Day.
  5. November is American Indian Heritage Month and Native youth are the future of tribes and the solution to the many challenges they face today.
  6. Veteran’s Day is Nov. 11 and Native Americans serve the military at the highest rate of any population in the U.S. Not to mention, some of our AIEF scholars are also veterans.
  7. Native American Heritage Day is Nov. 29, commemorating nationwide the many contributions Native Americans have made to this country.
  8. December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month and surely there’s no greater gift than that of school supplies.
  9. Giving Tuesday is Dec. 3 and while Americans are largely focused on giving, less than one percent of their donations will benefit Native Americans — the most underserved population in our country.
  10. New Year’s Day is Jan. 1 and your resolution could be bringing resources and hope to Native students in 2020.

Be sure to catch our AIEF video under CFC charity code 54766.

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National Preparedness Month in Indian Country

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognizes September as National Preparedness Month to bring attention to disaster emergency planning. This year’s theme is  “Prepared, Not Scared” – which speaks directly to PWNA’s efforts to better prepare Native American communities when disaster strikes.  

Fires, floods, blizzards, ice storms, hurricanes, tornados, high winds and extreme heat often impact Native American communities – even more so in recent years with the obvious climate change. Yet, despite the frequency of disaster events, tribes don’t often have the resources, staffing or infrastructure to respond accordingly.

Some tribes – especially those that are geographically isolated – often lack local first responders (e.g. fire and rescue teams, emergency medical technicians, physicians) to assist those affected by disasters. It can sometimes be days before outside relief organizations respond to these communities with critical supplies and much-needed aid.

Considering the difficult realities that affect impoverished tribal communities, every day can feel like a crisis. The historical trauma and daily struggle to survive can take its toll on communities even though Native Americans are resilient. What’s more, tribal communities are proactively implementing emergency preparedness initiatives to equip residents to respond when disaster strikes — and PWNA is helping.

In addition to serving as a first responder, PWNA launched a new capacity building program to specifically help South Dakota tribes better prepare to respond to local disasters. Through support of the American Red Cross and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, PWNA worked with several partners and disaster relief organizations to develop a curriculum, recruit expert trainers, and bring outside resources to these tribal communities. The resulting program is endorsed and supported by tribal emergency managers. As a result: 

  • Tribal residents are trained in first Aid, CPR, Automated External Defibrillator (AED) use, weather spotting and sheltering.
  • Individual tribal members (young and old) are specifically trained as Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and equipped with basic disaster response skills, including fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations
  • Several CERT trainees are now sharing the training with others in neighboring tribal communities

Disaster preparedness can serve as a gateway for residents to address other community issues and these recent efforts have united and motivated tribal members to tackle other critical issues in Indian Country, such as food insecurity and mental health. For instance, the Wanblee community on the Pine Ridge Reservation worked with Camp Noah – a camp for kids impacted by disaster – to help Native youth who’d been impacted by the recent devastating flood in their community. The camp provided an avenue for coping, healing and renewed hope.

This National Preparedness Month, it’s reassuring to know we’re implementing a new emergency preparedness model in Indian Country and empowering the tribes to have responders ready and equipped with the skills and tools needed to provide critical relief at a moment’s notice.

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Labor Day and Native American Employment Disparities

Yesterday, Americans celebrated Labor Day – a public holiday that honors American labor and the work of individuals that supports the economic development, prosperity and well-being of our country. This holiday also reminds us to consider how Native Americans fare in the U.S. labor market.

While the current employment rate in the U.S. is more than 60 percent, job and income disparities on Native American reservations have always existed, and not much has changed in recent years. The numbers speak for themselves. The unemployment and impoverishment levels on reservations can be traced to federal policies impacting socio-economic conditions.

Unemployment exceeds 40 percent on some Native American reservations. More specifically, two thirds of the 27 counties with a majority Native American population have higher unemployment rates than the national average. Many of these counties are in North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska. And in certain communities such as on the Pine Ridge Reservation, unemployment can exceed 80 percent.

Contrary to widespread belief, casinos do not employ all Native Americans, not all are as profitable as one might expect, and not all tribes operate casinos. Housing shortages also create additional problems. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has reported a lack of funding to build enough homes for Native Americans, despite U.S. treaties and agreements with tribes. As an example, a 1,500 square-foot home that may be suitable for a family of four in mainstream America often houses several generations on a reservation.

Unemployment also goes hand in hand with impoverishment. In fact, more than 30 percent of Americans who were unemployed in 2017 lived in poverty. Unfortunately, this is all too common in Indian Country and understandably so, considering the lack of jobs and access to other opportunities for economic independence. With the remote location of many reservation communities, transportation is also critical to finding work. A known contributing factor is the lack of access to capital or credit for on-reservation citizens. “Credit deserts” as they are called have resulted in rampant predatory lending companies preying on Native citizens.

These conditions set up a daunting, vicious cycle for Native Americans… because long-standing unemployment means poverty, which often means lack of access to education for the next generation, which typically leads to lower wages and fewer career opportunities, and therefore a higher likelihood of unemployment.

As more employers invest in diverse and inclusive workplaces, we hope they will consider contributing to the economic development and progress of Native Americans to foster a new generation of American labor and build a brighter future for all Americans.

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Recently in Native News

Native Americans have been making headlines this month across the country for their contributions to society through Native art and culture. We’ve compiled a few of our favorite Native American news headlines from the month of August for your enjoyment. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

Summit equips Native youths, communities for healthy living via Rapid City Journal

  • “Native American teens got a summer camp-style crash course in weaving traditional Lakota culture and timeless skills into a healthy 21st century lifestyle. The second Native Youth Food Sovereignty Summit immerses kids in lessons about nutrition, cooking, Lakota culture, health and life skills. About 40 kids, ages 13 to 17 from the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge reservations, were chosen by their community leaders to attend the invitation-only summit. The teens spent July 29-31 at Storm Mountain near Rapid City learning how to cultivate positive physical and mental health.”

Native American powwow a colorful celebration of culture via Cheyenne Edition

  • “The 11th annual Colorado Springs Native American Intertribal Powwow celebrated American Indian culture and heritage through colorful [outfits], and traditional dance and song. More than 2,000 people from throughout Colorado and neighboring states attended the cultural sights and sounds celebration Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Events Center. For Diane Reynolds, the powwow was the perfect vehicle from which to learn about the nation’s native peoples.”

Joy Harjo’s New Poetry Collection Brings Native Issues to the Forefront via Smithsonian

  • “Seeing Joy Harjo perform live is a transformational experience. The internationally acclaimed performer and poet of the Muscogee (Mvskoke)/Creek nation transports you by word and by sound into a womb-like environment, echoing a traditional healing ritual. The golden notes of Harjo’s alto saxophone fill the dark corners of a drab university auditorium as the audience breathes in her music… She first expressed herself through painting before burying herself in books, art and theater as a means of survival…”

The Artistic Achievements of Native Americans Through the Ages via Hyperallergic

  • “It was a big deal when the Metropolitan Museum of Art began displaying work by Indigenous artists in its American Wing in 2018. As Hyperallergic wrote at the time of the acquisition of Charles and Valerie Diker Collection’s 116 works by Indigenous artists: ‘Frequently in American museums, Indigenous art is excluded from the visual narrative of this country,’ and ‘in spaces like the Met’s American Wing, often the only images of Native American people and culture were by non-Indigenous creators.’ The acquisition and subsequent 2018 exhibition sought to correct that discrepancy in the Met, as well as locate work by Indigenous artists firmly within the context of ‘American art.’”
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Native Youth Convene to Participate in Second Food Sovereignty Summit

Last month, Native American youth from five tribes convened in the sacred He Sapa (Black Hills) for PWNA’s second Native Youth Food Sovereignty Summit. The summit afforded a shared platform where program partners, staff, and alumni who were previously trained by PWNA could mentor the students on wellness, nutrition and Native traditions, and volunteers could help chaperone.

Each of the meals provided during the summit emphasized healthy food choices inspired by traditional Native ingredients, such as using ground buffalo to reinvigorate typical entrées like chili, meatloaf and nachos. Breakfast at sunrise also consisted of healthy superfoods, including oats, berries and chia seeds.

The overnight program commenced with a group dinner and evening hike to a naturally sloped amphitheater, where several interpretations of stories told for generations were shared around the campfire. The following day, the group broke into four teams with eight presenters and tackled an aggressive itinerary, including:

  • Life Celebrations: Yvonne Decory and Eileen Janis from Pine Ridge led an exercise in assessing resources and being a good neighbor and relative. Participants created their own community by identifying the resources needed to support their citizens and discussed difficult encounters they face daily and the impact of bullying. As part of this discussion, students were empowered to become change agents and support one another.
  • Foraging: Daniel Butcher and Austin Red Dog from Cheyenne River led a foraging hike, where they showed students how to identify wild foods and medicines available in the homelands of the Oceti Sakowin (Lakota, Nakota and Dakota tribes of the Northern Plains). They used locally found herbs to brew different teas for participants each day and highlight their healing properties. Instructors also slow-cooked foraged burdock, plantains and mint soaked in coconut oil and beeswax to create natural lip balm that was then placed in small tins and given to each student.
  • Portion Control: Emily Good Weasel (Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Community) and Maretta Champagne (Pine Ridge, PWNA emergency partner) presented on the “Science of Sugar” and provided easy, teen-friendly ways to introduce portion control into their daily lives. For example, teens learned that a cup of chokecherries is the same size as a baseball and an ounce of salad dressing is the same size as a AA battery. They also measured the amount of sugar consumed in their morning cereal and were shocked by the results. (“I had no idea my favorite cereal had so much sugar!”)
  • Storytelling: Phyllis Swift Hawk and Monica Terkildsen (Pine Ridge) employed storytelling to feature the tales of tinpsila (wild turnips harvested in summer as a mainstay of Native diets) and sacred animals (sources of protein, tools and warmth). This helped the youth link these stories to both nutrition and culture.

A friendly game of “Chopped” Indigenous style capped off the day as alumni and youth paired up and faced off against one another to claim the winning prize for making something delicious and edible with not-so-appealing ingredients (e.g., canned menudo and dill pickles).

This special gathering on their ancestral homelands was free from televisions, cell phones and social media, offering instead quality time spend amongst good people who shared their ancestral knowledge with a younger generation in hopes of carrying these traditions to others in their communities. PWNA has expanded nutrition support and nutrition-focused experiences such as the youth summit with support of the Newman’s Own Foundation, founded by the late actor Paul Newman.

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Legend of the Full Sturgeon Moon

For generations, Native Americans have marked cycles of the moon to signify certain times of the year. In August, we welcome the Sturgeon Moon – also known as the Green Corn Moon, the Red Moon and the Grain Moon. The full Sturgeon Moon (occurring on Aug. 15 this year) marks the time for noted ease in catching fish in Great Lakes area. Ironically, this year’s Sturgeon Moon is in the sign of Pisces, which is often symbolized by two fish.

The legend of the moon varies across tribes; however, something all tribes seem to have in common is the use of a lunar calendar. Tribal winter counts were done by using the lunar calendar to record notable events throughout the year — and each moon signified something different for each tribe that named it.

One of the Lakota names for the moon is ‘Hanhepi Win’ (meaning Night Woman). And according to legend, ‘Nunda’ is the Cherokee name for both the sun and the moon. Some say the sun and moon are related as brother and sister; others say they are lovers forced to chase each other back and forth across the sky, while some still say they are simply balls thrown into the sky after a great game.

Traditional full-moon names can also signify the harvest time of various crops for indigenous people in America and around the world. August, for example, is seen as the time to harvest barley, corn, fruit, and other grains. 

The significance of a moon can also vary widely depending on geography and season, which may be confusing for those who did not name the moons and may even have contributed to the introduction of standardized timekeeping, such as the Gregorian calendar. Still, much of the history for these cultures around the world is marked based on the names of the moons by which they lived.

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Honoring Native Veterans on National Code Talker’s Day

August 14 is National Navajo Code Talkers Day. Established by President Reagan in 1982, this day recognizes the service of the Navajo Code Talkers and their vital contributions during World War II (WWII). The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers of the 382nd Platoon, USMC have passed, but today we remember them and preserve the honor they brought to themselves, their people and their country.

The original Native American Code Talkers served the US Army during World War I (WWI) and included Choctaw, Comanche, Hopi and Cherokee veterans. In the early 1940’s, WWI veteran Philip Johnston recalled the value of these code talkers and their languages and suggested the U.S. Marines use a similar communications strategy in WWII. After previewing the language, the Marines recruited the entire 382nd Platoon to develop and memorize the Navajo-coded language, which became one of many Type-One codes that translated English to construct a coded message.

Native Americans hold the distinction of the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group in the U.S., something instilled in us as warriors from our not-so-old ways. In times of war, many Native Americans were drafted, but many also volunteered, and some even lied about their age – some as young as 15 –  in order to be able to serve.

By the end of WWI, more than 25 percent of the Native American male population was active in the military, and their contributions are credited for many key victories in the war. By WWII, an estimated 44,000 Native Americans served their country, and more than 400 of them were Code Talkers.

The Navajo Code Talkers contributed significantly to the WWII war effort and were a major resource in the capture of Iwo Jima island from the Japanese. However, for years, many Americans did not know about the Code Talkers’ critical contributions. It wasn’t until 1968 that the Navajo Code Talker operation was declassified.

Today, there are few Code Talkers left to thank in person, but we will always remember the security they brought us. We appreciate their service and cultures, knowing our world could have been much different if not for the sacrifices they made. To those left, we thank you. To those gone, we remain grateful and know you still watch from afar.

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The History and Significance of the Pueblo Revolt of 1690

This month marks the 339th anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt of 1690 — an uprising of the Pueblo Indians against Spanish colonizers in present-day Santa Fe that marked a historic win for indigenous human rights and independence. Today, we recognize these indigenous ancestors as we share the history and outcome of this monumental point in history.

When the Spaniards arrived in present-day New Mexico in the 1500’s, the Pueblo people were subjected to successive waves of soldiers, missionaries and settlers who sought to destroy the pueblo way of life. In the years to follow, several violent confrontations severed the relationship between the Spaniards and the Pueblos, including the Tiguex War of 1540 and the Acoma Massacre of 1598.

The first permanent colonial settlement was established after the Acoma Massacre. Approximately 40,000 Pueblo Indians inhabiting the region were forced to assimilate, and those who did not oblige were often tried in Spanish courts and condemned to death, severe punishments, and slavery. They were also forced to provide tribute to colonists in the form of labor and restrictions to their fertile farmlands.

With colonization also came the establishment of theocracies by Franciscan priests in many of the Pueblo villages. During this time, more than 7,000 Pueblo Indians were baptized into Catholicism and their traditional Indian manifestations and customs were outlawed.

Unfortunately, drought swept the region in the late 1600’s, leading to increased frustration by Spanish settlers who raided the Pueblos’ food supplies and other resources to maintain order of their colony. Conflicts escalated, and the Spaniards arrested several dozen Pueblo medicine men, accusing them of practicing sorcery and sentencing them to death. Several prisoners were released once the Pueblo leaders heard this news and intervened, including Pope, a Tewa medicine man who helped shift the fate of the Pueblo peoples.  

On Aug. 10, 1680, Pope carried out his long-awaited plan to revolt against the Spaniards, with support from the Northern Pueblos, the Pecos Pueblos, and the Zuni and Hopi peoples who resided in nearby lands. Over the next few days, the Puebloans pillaged the Spanish settlements and removed 21 of the 33 Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico. By September, Spanish settlements ceased to exist in the state and the remaining Spaniards were escorted to El Paso.

From that point forward, the Puebloans in New Mexico self-governed their tribes and worked to re-establish some of their previous ancestral traditions. While drought continued to destroy Puebloan crops, they remained united in working together to prevent the return of the Spanish for the next two years. However, that period of independence, a defining moment of freedom and rebirth of their traditions, was short-lived, and the Spaniards eventually re-gained control of the area as part of a peaceful agreement in 1692. Although the influence of the Spanish can still be seen today, 19 pueblos are now federally recognized as sovereign nations.

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Recently in Native News

Throughout the nation, Native Americans are continuing to receive recognition and attain success in classrooms, art exhibits, social policies and more. Please enjoy a compilation of our favorite Native American news headlines from the month of July. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

Exhibit shares history of Native American veterans via The Midland Reporter-Telegram

  • “A traveling Smithsonian exhibit about the history of Native Americans in the U.S. military is on display at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in eastern Nebraska. ‘Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces’ tells the story of the American Indian and Alaska Native men and women who served the country in every major U.S. military encounter since the Revolutionary War. ‘Patriot Nations’ will be on display through Sept. 2 in the Harold W. Andersen Visitor Center, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Fort Atkinson sits on the east side of Fort Calhoun, which is situated 15 miles north of Omaha. A park entry permit is required for all vehicles and can be purchased at the park.

Molly of Denali brings representation of Alaskan Natives to the mainstream via Chicago Tribune

  • “The theme song is catchy, and the landscapes are different than those found in the Great Lakes and lessons about indigenous [peoples] are those that have been historically ignored. Those are the things that come to mind having watched an episode of WTTW’s new animated show ‘Molly of Denali.’ Set in Alaska, the show is the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature an Alaskan Native American lead character, according to Lisa Tipton, senior director of programming at WTTW-Ch. 11, Chicago’s PBS affiliate. Each episode features Molly and her friends Tooey and Trini on their adventures, from helping her grandfather reconnect with his musical side to finding out the Native names of community members and recording them for the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska.”

In North Carolina, Native Americans Take Control of Their Health Care via U.S. News & World Report

  • “Light pours through large windows and glass ceilings of the Cherokee Indian Hospital onto a fireplace, a waterfall and murals. Rattlesnake Mountain, which the Cherokee elders say holds ancient healing powers, is visible from most angles. The hospital’s motto — ‘Ni hi tsa tse li’ or ‘It belongs to you’ — is written in Cherokee syllabary on the wall at the main entrance. ‘It doesn’t look like a hospital, and it doesn’t feel like a hospital,’ Kristy Nations said on a recent visit to pick up medications at the pharmacy. ‘It actually feels good to be here.’”

K-12 teachers learn ways to bring Native American history and traditions to the classroom via Cronkite News

  • “The Heard Museum has wrapped up its second annual Teacher Institute program, which gives Arizona educators a better understanding of American Indian history, culture and art. The free three-day workshop in late June aimed to provide new classroom resources and tools to about 20 K-12 teachers through presentations, artist demonstrations, gallery tours and more. One of those demonstrations focused on weaving, a tradition that runs deep in many tribes, including the Navajo. Filmmaker and weaver Velma Kee Craig was among the presenters at the Heard. She wants to share the weaving tradition of her Navajo culture with others.”
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2019 Backpack Drive – Tackling the Social Inequities Faced by Native American Students

As we approach a new school year, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) knows that a successful school year begins with feeling prepared. This year, we hope to equip more than 20,000 students with the essentials they need to feel confident in the classroom, as part of our annual Backpack Drive.

The Backpack Drive is supported by PWNA’s American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program. In 2018, AIEF provided thousands of students with backpacks, notebooks, pencils and other items, thanks to the support of our donors. Unfortunately, approximately 35 percent of Native American children live in poverty so these basic supplies that we take for granted are often viewed as luxuries in reservation communities with scarce jobs, limited shopping and family budgets that are stretched all year.

In addition to low incomes and limited access to basic supplies, many Native American students face systemic barriers to attaining a good education in underfunded and underperforming schools with high turnover and disrepair, such as the schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education under the U.S. Department of the Interior. Yet another social inequity Native American students grapple with every day, this contributes to Native American students having the lowest graduation rates and highest dropout rates of any ethnicity in the U.S. PWNA is committed to providing essential materials to Native students to ensure they are ready to tackle learning in the classroom, regardless of the other barriers they may be facing.

School supplies are critical to the success of every student, and many children return to school without supplies. In addition, delivering these items is oftentimes challenging, especially for reservations located in remote, geographically isolated areas across rough terrain. The average fuel cost for delivering supplies to a single school on the reservations PWNA serves is approximately $135. 

Our annual Backpack Drive is under way and our hope is that, through the support of caring people like you, we can receive enough donations to get these school supplies to our reservation school partners in time for back to school. With your help, we can relieve some of the financial stress facing families and ensure Native American students are prepared for the new school year.

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