If you saw my recent post on how charity begins at home, you’ll understand my point today:
Please Remember Native Americans this #GivingTuesday.
NRC assists 250,000 Native Americans each year, all through the year. We work on 65 reservations with the highest poverty rates in the U.S. and with limited access to the basic necessities most Americans take for granted.
Top 10 Reasons for making a gift through our holiday store on #GivingTuesday:
- Income for Native Americans living on reservations is less than half the U.S. average.
- Some full-time workers fall below poverty level. This affects 30-43% of Native youth.
- Unemployment ranges from 35-85%. Jobs are scarce, with little investment by outside firms.
- 30% to 70% of Native youth drop out of high school and 9% have a college degree, compared to 19% of their non-Native peers. NRC supports education.
- One in four Native families lives with low food security. NRC supports nutrition.
- NRC is a first responder for disaster relief. It’s blizzard season – help us stock up now.
- Some reservations have Third World conditions: contaminated drinking water; limited transportation, infrastructure and agriculture; and gas stations, grocery stores and healthcare an hour or more away.
- 1,000+ reservation programs work with NRC to ensure our goods and services get to those who need them.
- NRC assists tribes that are working toward sustainable income streams – such as wind and solar energy, broadband and other utilities, green housing and other projects – but still struggling economically.
- Your practical gift will put a smile on a face of a Native child or Elder.
In any conversation about the reservations, it’s important to acknowledge the beauty too. There is rich culture, tradition and unity on the reservations. There is rich diversity too – every tribe and culture is different. This beauty sustains the Indian people. Your gift on #GivingTuesday can help sustain them through the hardships. Visit our holiday store this Tuesday, December 3, and give a practical gift of remembrance.
December 3, 2013 will mark the second annual day of giving aptly named “#GivingTuesday.” This recent tradition follows Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday, two of the biggest consumer days in the United States. The point of #GivingTuesday is to encourage shoppers to think about “giving” and to remember the less fortunate in their holiday rush.
National Relief Charities (NRC) participates in #GivingTuesday through our holiday store.
American generosity steers $135.8 billion in donations toward humanitarian causes each year, and reportedly, only 3-5% of it is goes to overseas causes. I found this surprising because we at NRC so often hear this question: “Why does so much aid go overseas? Why aren’t we taking care of our own?” According to these statistics, charity really does begin at home. We simply aren’t steering much of it toward Native causes – only 3/10 of 1 percent.
Let’s remember this when we decide where to give this holiday season. Let’s remember it because, even while the bigger problems of the world need resolving, who keeps the poor from going hungry, the student from going without education, the underserved here at home from being served? The big problems are not all in the Third World. We have Third World conditions in the U.S.
Posted in Humanitarian Tagged #GivingTuesday, American Indian, Black Friday, charity, Cyber Monday, donation, Giving Tuesday, holiday gift, National Relief Charities, Native American, Third World
Recently President Obama proclaimed November to be Native American Heritage Month. In the proclamation he encouraged all people to work together to ensure every Native American has the opportunity to realize the full promise of this country.
In keeping with this, National Relief Charities offers a host of services that provide Native American people the opportunity to be a part of positive change in their communities. We have hundreds of partners living and working on reservations and committed to ensuring that Native American people have access to the same opportunities as most other Americans.
If real social change is to be made, however, it is critical that Native Americans themselves lead the way in defining the bright future President Obama hopes for in his proclamation. We see this through the localized and community-driven efforts of our reservation partners, which show educational status, economic opportunities and political influence on the rise.
I admire the commitment, dedication and courage of NRC’s partners who take up the call to lead positive action within their communities – whether this involves complex responses to serious social challenges or simple steps like sharing a meal.
Even as I am writing this, hundreds of our reservation partners at family and elderly serving programs, schools, food banks and churches are preparing to cook and serve Thanksgiving meals for nearly 42,000 people, with the support of NRC. Much more than just a meal, these gatherings also provide a great opportunity for community members to come together, share time and ideas and support one another against the backdrop of a Thanksgiving celebration. NRC is grateful to be a part of this.
Every day is a good day to remember Veterans. This is especially true for Native American Veterans who have the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group in the United States, not to mention distinguished service.
The nonprofit group, Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust (DAV), sets a good example of remembering Veterans year-round. Known for “bringing hope to the forgotten and suffering families of Veterans,” the DAV serves homeless and at-risk Veterans by providing food and shelter; V.A. medical transportation; assistance for mobility, hearing or vision loss, amputations and profound military service injuries; and support for therapeutic and physical/psychological rehabilitation. As DAV puts it, they are “caring for those who bear the scars of war.”
In keeping with their mission, DAV recently granted $6,000 to National Relief Charities (NRC) to help us provide nutritious food to elderly Veterans in Mission, South Dakota, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. This food supply is being provided through NRC’s Breakfast-in-a-Bag (BnB) service and, thanks to DAV Charitable Service, 74 Rosebud Sioux Veterans are benefiting.
Each month, these Native American Veterans receive healthy breakfast foods such as milk, juice, breakfast sausage, ground or stew meat, eggs, potatoes and more. Their healthy food is available for pick up during the third week of the month – the time of month when Elders say their food supply and fixed income begins to run low. For anyone who is homebound or lacks transportation, community volunteers deliver the food to the home of the Veteran/Elder.
The Veterans being served by DAV, NRC and Breakfast-in-a-Bag reside in in the rservation communities of Grass Mountain, Ring Thunder, Horse Creek, Corn Creek, Parmelee, St. Francis, Okreek, Two Strike, Soldier Creek, Rosebud, Swift Bear, Butte Creek, Lakeview and the largest Veteran community being served, Antelope.
Breakfast-in-a-Bag is an annually renewable service available only to Rosebud Elders, both Veterans and non-Veterans alike. Nearly 700 Native Americans Elders aged 62 to 99 participate in the service, including the 74 Veterans mentioned above. Our Breakfast-in-a-Bag service ensures:
- Veterans and Elders who need the food get the food
- Veterans and Elders receive food they may otherwise be unable to purchase
- Veterans and Elders save money on their food bills
- Volunteers have opportunities to serve and visit with community Veterans and Elders
- Veterans and Elders feel valued by NRC, our reservation BnB partner, the volunteers, the tribal community and now by DAV Charitable Service.
NRC wishes to thank DAV Charitable Service for their generous support of Native American Veterans and for making it their mission to remember Veterans on Veterans Day and every day of the year.
Each year, National Relief Charities funds critical college scholarships for Native American students. We evaluate over 1,000 scholarship applications annually. The outcome of this process is astounding. Each year, over 95% of the students receiving NRC college scholarships complete the college year. Comparatively, the norm for completion among all Native students across the U.S. is about 21% each year. Why do NRC scholars fare so well?
- Our scholarship selection committee with decades of combined experience in Native American education
- Our keen understanding of the barriers to education faced by Native students
- Our targeting of “best bet” students who are truly motivated to complete a college degree
- Our selection of students with a strong track record of overcoming obstacles
Photograph copyright of National Relief Charities, 2000 to present. All rights reserved.
One need only read Joni’s story or Aaron’s story to understand just how much motivation and determination count for college success. We focus our selections on students who are average performers academically but who have a history of overcoming obstacles. We believe that resilience and motivation are key characteristics of students who succeed in college. NRC’s scholarship program creates opportunity and improves access to college for some students who may not have thought they are college “material.” Learn more about NRC’s scholarship selection process in the 2012 Say Education Guide.
For the 2013-14 academic year, National Relief Charities evaluated 1,182 applications from college-bound Native American students, the majority of whom live on a reservation or in a remote border town. Of these, we selected and awarded scholarships for 150 undergraduate and 37 graduate students. As always, we wish this year’s cohort of NRC students the very best success.
Education is one of the most important cornerstones of self-sufficiency and a good quality of life. It is a crucial factor in addressing the long-term challenges facing Indian country. For this reason, National Relief Charities invests a large amount of our resources toward Native American education. Each year, NRC assists thousands of Native American students from pre-kindergarten through college and career, nearly 45,000 in 2012 alone.
NRC educational services run the gamut from supporting Head Start programs to improving literacy to fostering career and life skills through job training programs on the reservations. NRC provides school supplies, backpacks and back-to-school clothing for students attending underfunded BIE schools and other schools hard hit by budget cuts. National Relief Charities assists tribal colleges, trade schools and four-year universities with high proportions of Native students. NRC also awards scholarships for non-traditional students such as those returning to college after a long absence, GED students and older people attending college for the first time.
We thank all of our donors and supporters for your generous support and your heartfelt interest in Native American education.
Halloween is coming… All Hallows Day, better known as All Saints Day has become an open invitation to a wild array of costumes. We expect to see vampires, werewolves and hybrids, ghosts, witches and zombies, and other ghouls and goblins. If network TV is any indicator, these creatures are all the rage. Some of the most popular shows on network TV are:
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The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, American Horror Story (Coven), Freakshow, Beauty and the Beast, Supernatural, The Walking Dead (and Talking Dead), The Tomorrow People, and soon Star Crossed. Did I forget any of the supernaturals?
On Halloween, we can also expect to see people dawning costumes that, to them, represent other ethnic groups. Inevitably, one popular costume is dressing “Native American.” This is challenging on many fronts. For one thing, “Native American” Halloween costumes often mirror the “Hollywood Indian” portrayed through TV and movies. Pocahontas and similar costumes are stereotypical at best. A related challenge was voiced by Noel Altaha, an indigenous scholar and thinker, and a fan of Remember Native Americans, our Facebook page. Noel’s message was loud and clear: “I am Native American and I am not a costume.” This is her video.
In the past, we’ve blogged on several debacles involving “Native looking” clothing on runways and in retail stores… from the Navajo hipster panty and Navajo clothing line by Urban Outfitters, to the Kim Kardashian fashion line going tribal, to the Manifest Destiny t-shirt by the The Gap, to the Native American runway outfit by Victoria Secret. We appreciate that Noel is adding an important, personal perspective to these efforts and helping to raise awareness around sensitive Native concerns.
Recently, I was in Maryland for my father’s 60th birthday. It was the first time in almost a year that my entire immediate family was together. As a souvenir for my two young nephews, I brought them t-shirts from where I work: St. Francis Indian School. After I gave the shirts to my nephews, my father chimed in asking them whether they knew they were “Indian.” Their mother replied that they did, and that she used “Native American” instead of “Indian.” Knowing that I would be writing about that very topic soon, I cracked a smile and felt assured I had found my introduction to this post.
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Similar to my sister-in-law, I had used “Native American” exclusively when describing that part of my heritage because well… I’m not from India. In my mind, to use “Indian” was to acknowledge the accidental “discovery” of this land by Christopher Columbus. As you can imagine, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
Yet, as I grew older, something about “Native American” didn’t seem right either. For one thing, our ancestors never called this land “America.” The “Native Sun News” in a May 2013 article also noted that the late Russell Means used “American Indian” rather than “Native American” because anyone born in this country can technically be a “Native American.”
Interestingly, “Native American” also carries with it a degree of political correctness that only could have come from the dominant culture. The use of “Native American” by the mainstream seems like an attempt at reconciliation through inclusion, however feeble. By using “Native American,” the dominant culture can eagerly correct those who call us otherwise. With these two words, the mainstream becomes the defender of the marginalized.
The use of “Indian” has a distinct weight in that it is connected to those that came before us. Those that resisted colonization were real “Indians.” That spirit of resistance that remains in many of us may be part of why some of us still use the name “Indian” today.
As for the description “American Indian,” maybe it is a good compromise between “Native American” and “Indian.” Perhaps it reflects the ability to walk in two-worlds… the learned ability to thrive in the dominant culture while naturally resisting its ills.
In the end, “Native American” or “American Indian” or “Indian” are all misnomers because they are all titles that our ancestors never used. We always were and are “the people,” be it pronounced in Lakota, Navajo, or another indigenous language.
If you are an indigenous person of Turtle Island, I’d like to know: Which do you use?
As reported by the FBI today, grant funds National Relief Charities approved for Charity One to establish a scholarship endowment to benefit Native Americans have been misused. When NRC realized there was a problem with the endowment Charity One was to establish, we engaged legal counsel to conduct an investigation, alerted the FBI, and filed a civil complaint in Texas where we are headquartered. The FBI made an indictment in the case today. In addition, the Texas court issued a judgment ordering Charity One defendants to repay grant funds with interest and legal fees. We greatly regret that these funds were not used as intended for scholarships, as education is vital in supporting Native Americans in their rise above economic challenges and their ability to contribute to the needs of their tribes. Donors with questions should contact NRC at 800-416-8102. Media inquiries should be directed to NRC at 877-281-0808. We appreciate the continued support and trust of our donors and reservation partner organizations as we resolve this issue.
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Living in South Dakota you learn a lot of things.
For example, I learned that in 1990, South Dakota was the very first state in the nation to recognize Native American Day instead of Columbus Day — sending a significant message to all.
This was done through state legislation by then Governor George S. Mickelson, who declared 1990 as a year of reconciliation between whites and Native Americans. The South Dakota statute states, in part:
“Native Americans’ Day is dedicated to the remembrance of the great Native American leaders who contributed so much to the history of our state.” And, at South Dakota’s first gathering to celebrate Native American Day, Governor Mickelson went on to say: “We can’t turn back the clock. We can only turn to the future together. What we can do as leaders, both Native American and white, is teach others that we can change attitudes.”
Both are positive thoughts for a very complex issue: Native American and white relations. And, Columbus Day – a day created to celebrate the “discovery” of the land mass that later became the United States of America – is still noted on most calendars around the nation.
Columbus is celebrated as the “discoverer” of America. It’s a great story.
A stoic adventurer sails the ocean blue and finds a land rich in natural resources and friendly brown people. We all learned this in elementary school. But what we did not learn in elementary school and what most schools leave out is the part about the diseases and catastrophic consequences of Columbus’ “discovery” upon the people that had lived here for centuries before he ever set foot on the land.
So, many might not understand that Columbus, while a central figure in anglo American culture and the history of the United States, is a focal point of distress for many Native Americans. A reminder of the beginning of the end of all that had gone before… A point when the rich diverse Native American cultures began to be inundated with foreign European culture that clashed violently at times over the ensuing centuries. A window of time that never closed and left the Native Americans with little to nothing of what they had before Columbus arrived.
So, I think that South Dakota passing actual legislation recognizing the value of the Native American people who lived here before Columbus is a good thing. It is an amazing thing.
But, I also feel that this must become a starting point to discuss relationships between anglos and Indians, where they are headed and what direction they can take that can be beneficial to both cultures.
As soon as we received a courtesy copy of author George Saurman’s book, We’ve Done Them Wrong, we knew we had to help get it out there! And that’s how our book giveaway started. We hope you will enter for the drawing, and please, take the time to read this blog for my complete interview with George, in his own words. He wants you to know what he now knows about Native Americans – and had never heard before.
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1. George, what was your central motivation for writing the book?
The big thing that prompted me to spend time in research was the speech made by Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior (DOI) on September 8, 2000 – the 175th anniversary of DOI. Gover referenced all the problems that Natives faced through the early years of U.S. development and verified that the deterioration of Natives was the intention and policy of the U.S. officials/government. Along with his speech, the verification made it certain that these facts were actual and breathtaking.
When I realized I had been through school, college and 33 years of government and never heard of any of the difficulties that existed for Indians, I was shocked and started to look into it. Kevin Gover’s speech matched what I found in my research.
The worst fact of all was the boarding schools, the brainwashing, harsh treatment, and indoctrination of children. The separation from family and culture that was imposed on the children created a big gap in their development and it was a deliberate attempt to “kill the Indian and save the child” as far as the schools were concerned. This was the motto and it was shocking to me that it took place.
I see the boarding schools as largely responsible for what’s happening on the reservations today. The difficulties with alcohol and drugs, the sexual violence with women – these things were never a part of the Indian culture. I wrote the book to share this with other people because, in speaking with others, very few were aware these things had taken place.
Gover indicated this was official policy, and he apologized because the formation of DOI was intended to protect the Indians, but it had done just the opposite. Gover intended to set forth a policy that this would change and that they would look forward to healing the harms done. Unfortunately, the legal attacks and the lack of any remedial help for situations on the reservations continue.
In one of the severe massacres that took place, the U.S. invited Indians in to discuss a peace treaty and poisoned the food. Although not insignificant, this was a stand-alone incident. The effects of the boarding schools were certainly more ongoing and set up a situation that continues to exist. It’s been done in other countries to separate children from parents and family. In this case, the U.S. and schools also indicated that Indians were bad and whites were good, and only Indians that became westernized were good while those that remained in their own culture were bad.
2. What do you hope people take away from reading your book?
I hope they begin to understand the difficulty that exists for Native American Indians. My book doesn’t get into the differences in our cultures; I’m still learning about that. In the book, I was trying to show what actually took place as the U.S. was being developed. We took people from their homes and evicted them, as portrayed on the book cover. We dug them up from homes and pushed them across the entire continent, then confined them onto bits of land that were nonproductive and promised to take care of them. Repeatedly, promises made by our officials at the highest level were broken and continue to be broken. We still do not recognize and own up to what we really owe them. That’s the reason I wanted to write the book, We’ve Done Them Wrong.
In terms of solutions, it becomes very difficult. The U.S. tries to impose the answers in terms of what we understand. To find solutions, we need to work through the Indians and their culture and what is important to them. That is what I hope the book at least begins to share.
And, if individuals begin to work with organizations such as National Relief Charities, we can begin to understand more clearly what the problem is and hopefully attempt to relieve some of the immediate difficulties while working on a much longer solution.
One of the things also amazing to me was the reliance of early American founders on the organizational situation of Indians. When the Continental Congress was meeting, they repeatedly visited Native leaders and, in my opinion, the Constitution that was verbally related to them by the Iroquois Confederacy gave the U.S. a working model. When America was in its infancy, every other country was imperialistic and had a king or monarch or leader. There was no model of a free system except among the Indians. The “Great Binding Law” of the Iroquois was the glue that held them together, and the comparable parts of that document to the U.S. Constitution are remarkable. In fact, the Iroquois influence was so great that Benjamin Franklin spoke about them when the Albany Plan for Union was being created. He said, ”It would be a strange thing if six nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming such a union and be able to execute it in a manner that it has subsisted for ages and appears indissoluble, and yet that a like union should be impractical for ten or a dozen English colonies.”
I also hope people recognize that, when the U.S. adopted a Constitution, we did not adopt the tenet that the Chief was a guidance person rather than one with authority, or that decisions were made by consensus. The U.S. approach hinges on a majority vote rather than a consensus; this leads to hard feelings and resentment. I think Indians maintained their systems of government for centuries because consensus did not create hard feelings or people taking sides. There were no winners or losers.
3. What was the most surprising fact you learned from your research, and why do you think it is important?
I was surprised that the difficulty facing Native American Indians was officially known by the U.S. and continues to exist. As a World War II veteran, I know there are hard feelings in combat; but, at the end of the war, we rebuilt Japan and Europe. With the Indians, there is no end – we have not rebuilt, and attempts to rebuild were made from our point of view and we messed up on them. For example, when President Eisenhower made the offer for jobs if Indians left the reservations, they did so and wound up homeless, without help or guidance, in cities where they were total strangers. U.S. attempts at rebuilding were made without much real consideration of what fits for the tribes and cultures.
I wonder, for instance, why the U.S. couldn’t offer to sovereign Indian nations a lower tax rate that would be more comparable to Third World countries where companies are locating. If that could happen, it could offer some solution to the 85% unemployment that exists on the reservations. If a company were in that area, they would also be looking to improve housing and other concerns that go along with the poverty that exists. That is just one thought. I am hopeful that others with more technical/legal knowledge could come up with a solution that really makes sense. I am sure a solution could be found.
4. Do you think U.S. citizens owe a debt to the Indian people, and why?
I think we owe certainly a moral obligation, as this is not a situation created by the Natives. They did not want to be uprooted and moved from their locations, and they had every reason to believe that when our officials spoke on behalf of our nation they could expect it would be truthful and fulfilled. Now, we as relatives of those who made these bad mistakes owe something to the relatives of Indians to whom those promises were made. We caused the situation; we should help alleviate it.
I hope the right people hear this. I was moved that Obama would show some act of humanity by awarding the medal to Billy Mills. But, that does nothing to compensate for what we owe them.
5. If the book could create just one outcome, what would you hope it to be?
I don’t know whether my earlier idea about lower tax rates would help; it is just one possibility. But, I hope that people with far more knowledge than me of how the government functions would think about this. If industries going offshore could be brought back into this country, both the U.S. and Indian nations would benefit. If the right people would sit down and talk about the situation, they could try to find a solution and see if it can’t be done. Whatever the solution is, it has to be done through the Native American Indians themselves. For it to happen, they have to want it to happen – it has to fit for them. But, I’m sure there is a workable solution. I have enough faith in our Creator to know there is an answer.
6. What’s the one thing you want people to understand after reading the book?
The one thing I want people to understand is how mistreated and unfairly treated Native American Indians have been and how they have suffered. The consequences of our actions are ongoing. It isn’t something of the past. It isn’t something we can hide in a closet somewhere. It’s a situation that realistically exists, and in all decency, it deserves our greatest attention.
7. What should people tell their children about Native Americans?
First, they should make sure that children are aware that, like every person, Indians are created equal. They deserve our respect, freedom and equality, and they deserve hope.
Uppermost, the readings I have from Native American children are that they feel badly because they are discriminated against; they don’t see the opportunities most American kids see growing up. If we could in some way instill in Indian children a belief that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and an opportunity for them and a belief that they share the freedom/equality we talk about, that would make a difference.
I’m not anti-American, but I believe we have misplaced some of our activity and ought to be directing it to helping the Indian people.
8. Who or what influenced you most in your life?
My grandfather, Albert Borst, set a good example for me. He was the kind of person I wanted to emulate, his morals and reason for living. Daddy Borst, as he was known by community and church, cared for others. I never saw him say or do anything he couldn’t be proud of, and I’ve always tried to follow his example. He was a great role model for me and continues to be. Thank goodness I had him to follow.
9. What personal message or motivation do you have for people?
My grandfather worked out the things he believed in and tried to pursue them in his life. This guides me. He personified “what’s right in life.”
So, I want people to have this information. I want them to consider how important it is for individual Native Americans to have hope. I just talked about that. I would hope they would be motivated to contribute at present to take care of immediate needs, but also spend some time to think about possible solutions. Who knows who has the answer.
10. What’s “your” favorite book?
I don’t think there’s another book that matches the Holy Bible. It’s not what educators would want to hold up as a model of literature. But, in terms of motivation and direction on the way to live, I think there’s no match.
The reason I wrote We’ve Done Them Wrong was to get the word out. When people have read it, the effort comes back. I had lunch with Father Joe at St. Joseph’s Indian School and asked him about the book. He said they use it in their school. That made me feel real good.
11. Anything else to add?
I really appreciate what National Relief Charities is doing. I have no idea how the book will help, but I’ve said a lot of prayers that it will get the message across to people and something good will come of it.
About George E. Saurman
George E. Saurman was born in Houston in 1926. He served with the Sixth-Fifth Infantry Division in the European Theater during World War II and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Ursinus College. He held several executive positions in business and served 33 years in local and state government. He and his wife Mary (deceased) have four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. George currently resides in Pennsylvania.
A blog about Native American culture, American Indian tribes, and humanitarian concerns for the most underserved people in the U.S.