Celebrating Native Cultures: How to Become More NativeAware All Year

As the movement for diversity, inclusion and social equity continues, we must do more than what’s easy and work to live by these principles beyond flashy moments. Take Native American Heritage Month for instance – it brings lots of attention to Native culture and causes. However, that attention is not sustained. It’s important to become more NativeAware and harness opportunities to impact this underserved population throughout the year.

Pay attention to these moments throughout the year to earn more and make a difference related to Native culture and issues:

  • Martin Luther King Day (January): Learn more about how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for Native American rights American rights and the importance of Native American inclusion in the fight for civil rights.
  • President’s Day (February): Explore past Presidents who advocated for Native Americans.
  • Memorial Day (May): Learn more about the high rate of Native military service and the impact of the Navajo Code Talkers.
  • Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (May): Get involved to support the MMIW movement and help those seeking missing relatives.
  • Back to School (August): Download our boarding schools fact sheet to learn what really happened at these government-run institutions.
  • Labor Day (September): Step up to ensure your employer is paying equitable wages to Native labor and closing the Native women’s pay gap.
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October): Participate in events that honor the Indigenous people in your state, rather than celebrating Columbus.
  • Thanksgiving (November): The real history of the first Thanksgiving is not taught in U.S. schools. Learn more with our download.
  • Native Heritage Month (November): Take time out on Heritage Day (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and throughout November to celebrate Heritage Month and participate in Native cultures.
  • Giving Tuesday (November): Whether your favorite cause is food security, education, animal welfare of social justice, kick off the holiday season with a meaningful gift for our First Americans. You can donate here.
  • Christmas (December): And remember the Elders and Children as Christmas draws near. Learn more about how you can make a holiday impact. Get your workforce involved too.

Aside from the familiar, stay abreast of cultural opportunities in your area such as powwows, museums, and art exhibits. Try Native American recipes and learn more about the Native American Food Movement. Read Native authors like Tommy Orange and David Truer or watch all-Native shows like “Reservation Dogs.” Tune in to what’s happening with key issues that can impact the tribes, such as pipelines crossing Native lands or the Supreme Court ruling on ICWA this year.

By becoming more #NativeAware, you can be part of the change that fuels social equity for the Native American community and tribes.

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President and CEO Joshua Arce Shares 2023 Predictions

As we enter a new year, it’s important to both reflect on the past year as well as look ahead to help us make informed predictions for 2023. In the case of Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), 2022 brought along opportunities to continue raising awareness around Native issues – some of which will play out throughout 2023.

Here are three predictions surrounding Native issues and the actions being taken to address inequities in Native communities:

Policies affecting Native Americans

At the local level, Texas Native Health – a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a successful 50-year history of providing culturally sensitive, community-based services to meet the diverse needs of over 76,000 American Indians/Alaska Natives living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex – has the opportunity to support Texas Senate Bill 136 in 2023. The bill is to establish the Texas Indian Affairs Commission, which currently doesn’t exist. The commission would consist of tribes and thought leaders in the Native space, giving them a platform to advocate for Native rights at the state level. The bill has the potential to significantly impact Native communities in Texas in a positive way.

At the national level, an ongoing Supreme Court case could potentially have a large impact on Indian Country based on the decision that is set to come out in 2023. Haaland v. Brackeen, a pending Supreme Court of the United States case brought by the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, and individual plaintiffs, seeks to declare the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court determines that the act is race-based, it could have a larger impact on other issues in Indian Country that deal with gaming, fishing, hunting, and education rights – rights historically guaranteed through treaties.

Education building awareness

While there has been news about the discovery of mass graves of Indigenous children’s bodies stemming from ‘Indian’ boarding schools, there will continue to be news, reports and conversations surrounding U.S. ‘Indian’ boarding schools and the atrocities they created. As the government continues to unfold the traumatic events of the past through investigations in boarding school locations, I predict more reports on mass graves of children’s bodies will surface.

Very little attention has been given to the dismal failure of the boarding school system or the long-lasting impact it has had on Native communities, but as more people are educated on this brutal part of U.S. history through the materials and news that are continuing to surface, they are stepping up to make others #NativeAware. Additionally, if you have watched the Paramount + series “1923” by Taylor Sheridan, you cannot help but cringe at the treatment of Native children at the hands of boarding school leaders of that era. This is not fiction, and there were over 300 boarding schools in the United States affecting every Native American alive today.

Opportunity for more corporate engagement

Only 1 percent of total giving to nonprofits goes to Native nonprofits. While there is clearly a large percentage of giving that is not going toward supporting Native causes, it means Native organizations have a large opportunity when asking for support. It starts with building awareness, which is what PWNA is doing by connecting with CSR and ERG groups of large corporations for widespread discussions about the inequities being faced by Native Americans.

As awareness campaigns continue in 2023, corporations are becoming  #NativeAware, which will hopefully lead to increasing that 1 percent.

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2022 Year in Review: Most Popular Blogs and Social Posts

As we embark upon the new year, we want to take a moment to reflect on the past year at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). 2022 brought many opportunities to continue raising awareness and righting the wrongs affecting Native Americans and people of color. Thankfully, through the continued support of generous donors, PWNA was able to continue delivering services that address long-standing disparities around food and water, education, health care, emergency response, animal welfare and holiday support.

It takes heart and partnership from our tribal partners, collaborators, donors, Board and staff to carry out our mission of serving immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions – not to mention champion hope and a brighter future for Native Americans living in remote tribal communities. We thank each one of you for making this possible.

We would like to share this list of your favorite blogs and social posts from 2022, which rally around racial and social justice, culture, history and hope:

  1. Native Americans in Film and Music
  2. It’s National Hot Breakfast Month: What Are You Eating
  3. The Inflation Reduction Act: Indigenous Communities Need More
  4. This Weeks #NoteworthyNative is Mangas Coloradas
  5. Answering the Call When Disaster Strikes on the Reservation
  6. The Supreme Court Must Protect ICWA to Avoid Added Risk for Native Children
  7. 2020 Census Native Americans Undercounted: A Need for Real Numbers
  8. Barboncito Was the #Navajo Head Chief during the Treaty of 1868
  9. Native American Heritage Month: A Time to Celebrate & Become Native Aware
  10. Olo for Good donates $150000 for PWNA to Distribute Ancestral Foods
  11. Reservation Animal Rescue Made Possible by You
  12. #CrazyHorse Was Known for His Bravery and Prowess in Battle

Happy New Year! Stay tuned all year for the latest updates about our programs and Native thought leadership!

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Year-End Giving: Make an Impact Ahead of 2023

For many families, this time of year is filled with presents, movies and hot cocoa by a fire – but on remote reservations, many Native Americans continue to face challenges like hunger, poverty and health inequities. During this time of year where many of you are  considering charitable commitments, we hope Indian Country can count on your support.

The challenges facing Tribal communities today are very real. For instance, food is an ongoing and urgent need. A concerning 23% of American Indian families experience food insecurity, and 29% live below the poverty line. Far too many Native Elders struggle daily to get the fresh, nourishing foods they need to stay healthy. The housing crisis on the reservations is equally concerning. A report prepared by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notes that 40% of reservation homes are inadequate, and an estimated 42,000 to 85,000 Native Americans living in tribal areas are homeless.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) works to mitigate these issues – from distributing food and drinking water to providing winter emergency preparedness boxes and warmth to Elders. While many of us are in the midst of our happy holidays, many Native families aren’t so materially fortunate – so we ask that before looking ahead to 2023, you consider donating to a deserving Native cause.

So far this year, here’s what donations have helped us achieve:

  • We delivered 701,325 lbs. of supplies.
  • Over 18,000 Individuals received food.
  • 218 Elders received groceries through our Breakfast-in-a-Bag service.
  • Over 10,000 people in 20 communities received 62,000 lbs. of fresh produce.
  • Nearly 13,000 youth in grades K-12 received school supplies, and 170 received college scholarships.
  • Nearly 6,200 people in shelters received supplies.
  • 4,660 people in Southwest tribal areas received disaster relief.
  • Over 3,700 people received emergency food boxes.
  • 23,218 lbs. of supplies helped animals, and nearly 1,300 animals were spayed/neutered.

Despite these accomplishments, there is still much to do. Partnership With Native Americans is honored to have a group of generous benefactors that have committed to match every gift, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000 to support the Native Americans we serve. This means your year-end donation will double in value to help communities in need.

So, a friendly reminder, the 2022 calendar year ends at midnight on Saturday, December 31 – the deadline by which your year-end giving must be received to qualify as a 2022 tax-year gift. Before turning a page to the new year, we ask you to please give what you can – donate here.

For Native Americans, being transformational in 2023 starts with you! We thank you for your consideration and support this holiday season.

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Where’s the CSR and DEI for Native Americans?

There’s a movement afoot for racial and social equity at the corporate level – or at least it looks that way on the surface. A closer look shows that many big brands are promoting aid for the underserved and checking it off their list. Yet, it seems they are not walking the talk or supporting communities of color in a way that will lead to transformative change. This is certainly true for Native American communities.

When I look at the millions to billions of dollars in revenue being generated by Fortune 500 companies, it is clear many of them are assisting at a minimal level if at all – especially when you weigh the outsized need against their executive bonuses and their capacity to give. What’s more, I feel that many big brands often require that their charitable giving must grow their own initiatives – forcing a square peg into a round hole – rather than simply giving for the sake of helping others.

This leaves me to wonder: where’s the real corporate social responsibility (CSR) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)? Why are those most in need still being left behind when big brands could make such a huge difference?

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a heightened awareness of the challenges faced by people of color. Perhaps for the first time, many Americans came to understand the cost of social inequity and what it looks like. Across Native American communities, social inequity looks like an inadequate healthcare system and high disease rates, overcrowded housing, food and water shortages, lack of internet and other education barriers.

But America has tired of the pandemic, while Native Americans still face these disparities – all created by decades of racial prejudice, institutional and systemic oppression and historical mistreatment of the tribes. And all these factors predispose Native Americans to multiple risk factors now integral to reservation life.

This is the legacy America has seen fit to bestow on Native American, Black and Latinx people and their communities. It’s also the legacy that big brands and foundations can help change. Unfortunately, less than 1/10 of the 4000 companies traded through the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ staff Native representatives. Yet, there are so many ways these very brands could make an impact:  

  • Make a multi-year commitment to ensure sustainability of Native grant projects – one and done isn’t enough
  • Fund scholarships for minority students who dream of college
  • Fund leadership development for emerging community change-makers
  • Fund culturally relevant nutrition training and keep food banks stocked
  • Help solve big housing and water problems
  • Help get internet to every reservation community
  • Give for the sake of giving and not to further your own business
  • Seek out Native Americans to improve diversity on your Boards and Foundations

The first step is to genuinely care about the plight of Native Americans in this country. Corporations have a long way to go with using their power to truly benefit those who need help the most. As a consumer, I encourage you to ask your favorite brands to do more as outlined above. Start taking CSR and DEI seriously and make our world a better place. If you’re a CEO or senior executive at your company, I encourage you to contact me directly to explore the possibilities in Indian Country!

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This Giving Tuesday, Give Smiles for Native Americans

Every year brings Thanksgiving, then Black Friday and then #GivingTuesday – the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Started in 2012, Giving Tuesday is a global day of “doing good” for individuals and organizations. At the very heart of this day is the generosity to unlock social equity and hope around the world, especially in the so often-forgotten Indigenous communities. On this Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29th, PWNA’s focus is on dental care for Native American children and Elders.

Save the date for Giving Tuesday, November 29, 2022

So many children under the age of 5 need dental care, and yet few resources exist in Indian Country to support them. In a 2018 survey by the National Indian Health Board, 79% of Tribal leaders, Health and Dental directors said there was a shortage of oral health providers in their community, and 61% said the average wait time for a dental appointment was one to three months.

Native children suffer the most. Did you know tooth decay is the most common health problem among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children? Or that AIAN children in preschool to kindergarten are four times more likely to have untreated tooth decay than Whites?

Who will remember these children?

An oral hygiene study is long overdue for Tribal communities, but we know Elders and adults struggle with oral hygiene too. The last report shows 43% of adults with untreated tooth decay and gum disease that can lead to loss of permanent teeth. The rate is even higher for Pine Ridge.

PWNA’s goal this Giving Tuesday is to provide dental hygiene kits with toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash for 8,000 Native Americans at $15 per kit, for children and Elders alike. 

Will you #GiveSmiles with #PWNA4hope this #GivingTuesday and spread the word? If you do, for every gift made up to $10,000, PWNA’s president and CEO Josh Arce will make a matching gift. Learn more on our landing page.

Don’t miss your chance to donate in the biggest giving day of the year – save the date for #GivingTuesday on Nov. 29th!

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Thanksgiving: A Time for Remembering Native Americans

For many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a bittersweet reminder of the real Thanksgiving story that is often absent from U.S. history books. While Native people love to gather and enjoy their families like the rest of us, they also remember our ancestors and the many elements of their culture that have been lost, appropriated or all but erased from history. Thus, for many, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning for what could have been.

At the same time, this Thanksgiving brings a stark reminder of how the current inflation is severely impacting 69% of Native families. The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner was already out of reach for many. This year, brings a record-high cost for a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, while turkey breast has jumped 60%, also to record levels, and egg prices have nearly tripled.

For Native American Elders, especially  those raising their grandkids,  the worry of not having enough food can be even more noticeable during the holidays. Last year, PWNA provided nutritious Thanksgiving meals to over 11,000 people across 13 tribal communities in the Northern Plains and Southwest. With your support, we can provide the joy of a hot, stress-free meal to thousands of Native Americans again this year as they give thanks for their blessings.

The Thanksgiving meal originated around 400 years ago between the pilgrims and Native Americans in present-day Massachusetts. But the story ignores the fact that it was quickly followed by exploitation, policies of genocide and intergenerational trauma that still impacts tribal communities today. As we sit down with our families this year, we must not avoid these uncomfortable truths. It is only by remembering our past and supporting each other that we can share a brighter future that leaves no one behind.

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Native American Heritage Month – A Time to Celebrate & Become NativeAware©

November ushers in Native American Heritage Month – a time to elevate the achievements and culture of First Americans. Despite having a rich history that spans centuries, people tend to forget what Native American tribes have contributed to western society to make lives better in the U.S. Take Native military service alone – it is unmatched by any other U.S. racial or ethnic group. While we all should recognize and honor the tribes 365 days a year, and Native American Heritage Month is a special time to get involved.  

PWNA encourages everyone to observe #NAHM by shopping with Native-owned businesses to help put money into tribal communities, asking employers to match your gift to Native nonprofits, making a pledge to be #NativeAware, learning the real story of Thanksgiving, or donating a Thanksgiving meal or water to a Native Elder in need.

Follow PWNA this Heritage Month, and we’ll show you:

  • How to cook traditional Native recipes
  • Where to learn Native languages
  • What tribal land you live on
  • A Thanksgiving lesson plan for your kids

Additionally, throughout November, PWNA will be giving away prizes and selling t-shirts that make great gifts and show you are NativeAware©. Native American Heritage Month is also a good opportunity for you to help others become more NativeAware about history, the unique challenges the tribes are facing and how PWNA helps.

Did you know that Native Americans account for 3.7 million in the U.S., with 1 in 3 Native Americans living in poverty and less than 1% of all U.S. charitable giving supporting Native causes? 

This cannot and should not stand. That’s why this November we are asking you to show your appreciation for First Americans:  Donate for Thanksgiving meals. Your gift can help make this Heritage Month one to remember.

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The Supreme Court Must Protect ICWA to Avoid Added Risk for Native Children

Like all of us here at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), I am committed to the well-being of Native American children. But Brackeen vs. Haaland and the upcoming Supreme Court review of the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) may put Native children at risk. Prior to joining PWNA, I worked with after-school, youth and foster care programs and volunteered for the Kansas court-based Citizen Review Board for child welfare, so this issue is near and dear to my heart.

Congress passed ICWA in 1978 in response to two factors: the steady and often unwarranted removal of Native youth from their families and tribes, and studies showing that such removal leaves the children with identity issues… growing up not knowing who they are, who they’re connected to and where they belong. In a 1977 Senate committee hearing, Chairman James Abourezk (D-SD) said “welfare agencies appeared to be acting on the idea that ‘most Indian children would really be better off growing up non-Indian.’”

If the Supreme Court overturns ICWA, Native children would lose the very protections that keep them connected to their families, heritage and culture. Tribal communities would also lose their future generations. Scores of states, tribes and child welfare agencies realize this, and support the Protect ICWA Campaign launched by the National Indian Child Welfare Association ,the Native American Rights Fund, the National Congress of American Indians and the Association of American Indian Affairs.

Even with ICWA, Native children are much more likely to be put into foster care than whites. They represent just 1 percent of children in the country yet 2.6 percent of children placed in foster care. Opening Native placements to non-Native families will amplify the historical trauma caused by colonization and add new generational risk going forward.

Challenging the constitutionality of ICWA only muddies the waters. One claim is that ICWA racially discriminates against non-Native foster families. Another claim goes to whether Congress has power over state child-custody proceedings based on whether a child is Native (or power to enforce states to follow the regulation). Conversely, many argue that ICWA is not based on race but on the political relationship between the U.S. government and tribes as sovereign nations.

If ICWA is overturned, who will benefit? It certainly won’t be the children. In fact, even new BIA guidelines reportedly state that ‘the best interest of the child is not a consideration.” In some ways, a reversal of ICWA would be akin to the forced removal of children from their families and communities, only to put them in Indian boarding schools – many never to be seen again. What then is the motivation behind reviewing a 44-year-old law and precedent?

Nearly 500 tribes, hundreds of supporters, and even 87 members of Congress support ICWA as the abiding standard in Native child welfare. PWNA joins them in supporting the rights of tribes as sovereign nations and the need prevent any further cultural erasure among Native children, families and tribes.

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The Inflation Reduction Act: Indigenous Communities Need More

Spending a dime while earning a nickel? Remember when gas was $1 per gallon? Costs are rapidly increasing, but paychecks across America are not keeping pace. While some are fortunate enough to remain comfortable despite the prolonged inflation, many more are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, in one poll, 69% of Native Americans say inflation is severely affecting their lives. The impact is worse because approximately 27% of Native Americans were living in poverty even before 2022 inflation, compared to 15% for the rest of America.  

So, what does this mean for Native people? Rising gas prices are more challenging on the reservations, with gas stations, clinics and grocery stores few and far between. The rising food prices are a double whammy, with one in four Native families experiencing food insecurity even before the pandemic and current inflation.

And let’s talk about those grocery stores. Many reservation communities are designated as food deserts by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. In a rural setting, this means the closest store is 10 or more miles away. In many cases, it’s up to an hour away. For instance, although it spans nearly 27,000 miles, there are only 13 grocery stores across the Navajo Nation. Can you imagine the gas cost for getting to these stores?

In August, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act to “meet the climate crisis and build an economy that works for working families, including Tribal nations and American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian families.” The Inflation Reduction Act lowers prescription drug, health care and energy costs. While this is a good start, Indigenous communities need more to combat the current inflation impact(s), historic marginalization/disenfranchisement and ineffective federal policies.

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) maintains partnerships with hundreds of tribal programs (our Program Partners) to bring much-needed relief to 250,000 Native Americans each year. We deliver critical goods and services to remote reservation communities that most Americans never see and most organizations cannot reach – whether due to geography, or a lack of Native contacts, cultural competency or insights about specific needs. We operate a highly efficient warehouse and distribution system that lets us truck about 5 million pounds of materials to the reservations each year, and our Program Partners ensure these goods get to the people who need them. In addition, PWNA supports long-term solutions such as scholarships and leadership development, ancestral nutrition training for healthier diets and emergency preparedness.

Are you looking for a way to help? Join PWNA in our efforts toward racial and social equity by donating today.

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