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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Season’s Greetings from PWNA

From all of us at PWNA, we’d like to wish you a joyous holiday season. This time of year, we reflect on how grateful we are to have the support of our program partners, community project leaders, volunteers and donors. This community helps PWNA carry out our mission of self-determined social change in distressed Native communities.

In 2019, we continued to assist some of the most geographically isolated and impoverished reservations by providing materials and funding to address education, nutrition, health, animal welfare and emergency services. We also remained committed to helping our partners spread cheer through our holiday services including community meals, gift bags for our Elders and stocking deliveries for our children.

Our long-term solutions included an awareness campaign in January to communicate the importance of disaster preparedness for tribal communities, especially due to differences in access to disaster aid. We distributed The Native Family Disaster Preparedness Handbook to reservation programs participating in our Emergency Preparedness service, with the support of Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, and published disaster resources to help tribal communities better prepare to save lives and protect property.

In August, Native American youth from five tribes convened in the sacred He Sapa (Black Hills) for PWNA’s second Native Youth Food Sovereignty Summit. With the support of Newman’s Own Foundation, our program partners, staff, and alumni mentored student participants on wellness, nutrition and Native traditions. Each meal emphasized healthy food choices inspired by traditional Native ingredients, and students learned about foraging, sugar, portion control and more.

PWNA also announced a new partnership with award-winning actor Wes Studi and released a five-part PSA series developed to help dispel long-held myths about Native Americans that continue to impact Indian communities today. The series with Wes discusses history and treaties, realities on the reservations, college, casino economics and charitable giving for Native causes.

As we celebrate the holidays with our loved ones, we ask you to remember the reason for the season.

Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on donations made this time of year to determine what type of resources they’ll have to help others in the New Year. If you’re thinking of giving to your favorite charity, consider postmarking your donation before midnight on Dec. 31, especially if you plan to claim your donation on your tax return.

We hope you will remember PWNA this holiday season and contribute so that we may continue our vital work with Native Americans in the new decade.

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PWNA Welcomes New President and CEO Joshua Arce

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Joshua Arce as their new president and chief executive officer (CEO) effective Jan. 6, 2020. Arce will join PWNA in its 30th year as a Native-led, Native-serving nonprofit.

Arce previously served on PWNA’s Board of Directors and will now oversee operations for PWNA. He is a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and brings more than 20 years’ experience in education management, social work and business development to PWNA.

He most recently served as the first chief information officer (CIO) of Haskell Indian Nations University, over 12 years advancing IT infrastructure and services to better meet their mission. Earlier, he worked at the University of Kansas Tribal Law and Governance Center and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Court and served the tribe’s Entertainment Corporation Board.

Arce actively supports the advancement of Native communities, most recently as a volunteer of the court-based Citizen Review Board, a member of Lawrence Memorial Hospital Board’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity committee, and a Board member of the Citizen Review Panel of Kansas for child welfare.

Arce is from Kansas and earned his B.A. in social work from the University of Kansas and then his J.D., specializing in tribal law, applied indigenous leadership, federal Indian law and Indian gaming law.

PWNA’s current president and CEO Robbi Rice Dietrich announced her retirement this month after seven years with the organization. Since 2013, Robbi has been an integral part of championing PWNA’s mission to serve Native communities and she leaves her legacy within the organization. Robbi will also continue to help raise awareness and funding for Native causes.

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Make Your Giving Tuesday and Holiday Giving Go Further

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, there is a heavy focus on consumerism in the U.S. with the deals and discounts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s why the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, or Giving Tuesday, is a time to slow down on shopping and instead use that money to give back. Giving Tuesday is your chance to join in a global generosity movement to support your favorite charity or adopt a new one.

Throughout National American Indian Heritage Month, we’ve been focusing on some of today’s important issues and achievements in Native communities through a new five-part PSA Realities Series with Wes Studi. One of the videos focuses on charitable giving, and the news is often surprising to many. Contrary to popular belief, individual Native Americans are not supported financially by casinos or government entitlements such as free housing, education and healthcare.

Unfortunately, these persistent misconceptions contribute to apathy and low charitable giving for Native causes. In fact, less than one penny of every dollar goes to aid Native Americans — while the need for food, education and other basics in remote tribal communities is higher than ever.

This Giving Tuesday, you have the opportunity to help change the realities that Native Americans face every day and improve life on reservations. Today, and throughout the holiday season, we encourage you to remember Native Americans when you make a donation and to ask your friends to do the same.

For those making holiday purchases on Amazon this year, you can make your purchase more impactful by using Amazon Smile. Just select Partnership With Native Americans as your Amazon Smile charity, complete your purchase and they will donate half a percent of your total purchase to PWNA and support our work in Indian country. It’s quick and convenient, and every donation makes a difference in the lives of Native Americans throughout the country.  

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Recently in Native News

As National American Indian Heritage Month comes to a close, we’re reflecting on some of today’s important issues and accomplishments within the Native American community. Please enjoy a compilation of the top Native American headlines from the month of November. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.

New PBS film ‘The Warrior Tradition’ probes history of Native Americans in the U.S. military via USA TODAY

  • “Before Chuck Boers joined the U.S. Army, the Lipan Apache member was given his family’s eagle feathers. The feathers had been carried by his great-great-great-grandfather on his rifle when he was an Apache scout. They also were carried by relatives who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In 2004, Boers had the feathers with him during the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. ‘I felt like I had my family with me to protect me,’ he said. ‘The Warrior Tradition,’ a new film set to air on PBS, examines the complex history of Native Americans in the U.S. military since World War I and how their service transformed the lives for Native Americans from various tribes. Through interviews with veterans and using archival footage, the documentary probes the complicated relationship Native Americans had with military service and how they used it to press for civil rights.”

Many Native Americans Can’t Get Clean Water, Report Finds via NPR

  • “For many people, turning on the tap or flushing the toilet is something we take for granted. But a report released Monday, called ‘Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,’ shows that more than 2 million Americans live without these conveniences and that Native Americans are more likely to have trouble accessing water than any other group. The nearest water station for Darlene Yazzie is 9 miles away at the Dennehotso Chapter House — a community center — in the Four Corners region of the Navajo Nation.”  

10 Native American Inventions Commonly Used Today via History

  • “From the tip of South America to the Arctic, Native Americans developed scores of innovations—from kayaks, protective goggles and baby bottles to birth control, genetically modified food crops and analgesic medications—that enabled them to survive and flourish wherever they lived. In fact, early European explorers who reached the Western Hemisphere were apparently so impressed by the achievements of the people they encountered that they felt compelled to dream up stories about Native Americans being descendants of ancient Phoenician traders or a lost tribe of Israel, in an effort to explain the source of their technological prowess.”

5 ways to honor Native Americans during National Native American Heritage Month via CNN

  • “November is National Native American Heritage Month. It’s a time to recognize the many sacrifices, contributions and achievements of Native American people, as well as celebrate their rich and vibrant cultures. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as ‘National American Indian Heritage Month.’  Although the name eventually changed, it started an annual tradition upheld in communities across the United States. For those wanting to participate, here are five ways to honor Native Americans this month — and every month.”

5 Important Issues That Affect Native Americans Today via MSN

  • “Native Americans, who at 6.8 million people make up about 2% of the U.S. population, have faced myriad critical issues throughout history but also in modern life. In fact, this past summer marked the first-ever Native American presidential forum, where Democratic presidential candidates including U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris met with tribal leaders in Sioux City, Iowa, to discuss everything from health care to violence against women. ‘It’s great to finally get a lot of acknowledgment that Native Americans still exist, are still very much a part of civic engagement and not an erased people,’ Elizabeth Day, an enrolled member of the Ojibwe tribe, said at the forum, according to the Des Moines Register.”
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If You’re Traveling This Thanksgiving, Remember To Be Kind

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season in which we reflect on the blessings and gifts we have been given, and the kindness we have received – something we often take for granted. But as we embark on the busiest travel time of the year, let us remember the importance of kindness toward others around us.

It’s easy to forget to be kind and instead focus on our bad day, whether it was a spilt coffee or a late meeting that upset us. However, kind gestures toward others can often minimize negativity and more times than not, those gestures are reciprocated.

The holidays are no exception and in fact offer an even more critical reason to show kindness. AAA projects almost 25 million people will be traveling by air this Thanksgiving and twice as many will be driving to their destinations – that’s a lot of potential missed flights, forgotten items and lengthy waits in TSA security lines or in traffic. However, you could be the positivity others need during these otherwise stressful moments.

PWNA knows firsthand how stressful the holidays can be, even for those who are traveling to or from remote reservation communities with limited access to transportation. When PWNA delivers supplies to program partners in these communities, they show kindness toward those they visit and come across along the way.

The following tips might help make your holiday travels more enjoyable, as well:

  • Pack efficiently and correctly by making a list beforehand and allowing yourself enough time to pack in an organized manner.
  • Allow extra time for unexpected delays.
  • Pack snacks that will travel well (even through airport security) and keep you fueled (nuts and fruits are healthy options that you can easily pack and eat).
  • Be kind to those you come across while traveling.
  • Find gratitude in being able to travel, as not everyone is so fortunate.

On behalf of PWNA, we hope that you’ll travel safely and kindly this Thanksgiving. The memories made are the most important takeaway of our holiday travels and as the wonderful Mr. Rogers once said, “The greatest thing we can do is to let people know they are loved.”

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