Give the Gift of Food This #GivingTuesday

We’re in the throes of the holiday giving season and we’re excited to be a part of it. This year, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to promote philanthropy and generosity around the world. Held annually on the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the holiday giving season, inspiring people to collaborate on improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to charities and causes they support.

Give the gift of food - What will you giveThe gift of food is especially important to remember during the holidays, and PWNA is honored to be able to bring this gift to thousands of Native American Elders, families and children.

By partnering with the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge for #GivingTuesday, PWNA can earn up to $10,000 in matching funds for donations made between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 through our Crowdrise page.

Funds raised through the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge will be put toward PWNA’s food and water initiatives, supplying food boxes for pantries, serving individual families in need and preparing hot meals for Native American communities living in poverty or “food deserts.”

Give the gift of food - SBL_friendsfamilyphilanthropy_foremailAdditionally, working with Soup.Box.Love, PWNA can extend the gift of Thanksgiving meals to Native American Elders, when you purchase quinoa corn chili soup from Soup.Box.Love between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30.

While November ushers in the #GivingTuesday season, it is also American Indian Heritage Month and Soup.Box.Love is honoring Native heritage and history by donating proceeds from the sale of its November soup – quinoa corn chili – to PWNA’s food initiatives.

PWNA is grateful to have been selected for the Newman’s Challenge and for the Soup.Box.Love remembrance of Native Americans. These potential funds are critical for us to carry out our mission of championing hope for the 60 remote, isolated and impoverished reservations we serve, and improving food security and quality of life for the Native Americans living there.

Philanthropy, charity and giving starts at home. Consider the comforts of home you value – food and water, particularly – and extend those same comforts to the 250,000 Native Americans PWNA serves. Help us achieve our challenge goals. Visit and make a donation between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, or visit and purchase their November soup. Your gift will touch the lives of Native Americans in need.

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What We Are Thankful For

Pilamaya (Lakota). Elahkwa (Zuni).  Ahéheé (Navajo). Kwakwhá (Hopi). Néá’eshe (Cheyenne). Ashoge (Apache). Aahóow (Kiowa).

What Our 100-Day Supply Drive Means to Partners - Announcement1 Banner c...There are as many ways to say “thank you” as there are American Indian tribes in the United States. This is no surprise because giving thanks is deep-rooted and customary in Native cultures.

  • Pueblo Feast Days occur throughout the year as a time of giving and celebration of culture, language and religion, with each dance considered a prayer.
  • Wopila celebrations occur throughout the Plains tribes when a loved one returns home from the military or a Native youth graduates or someone is healed from a serious illness.

Many of us give thanks or express gratitude when we have a good feeling toward someone who has helped or given something. Here at PWNA, when we take a moment to stop and reflect upon what we are thankful for, the list is long. Yet, recently rising to the top of our list is the response to our 100-day supply drive. As our CEO/President shared this summer, we issued a national call to action through which PWNA was “hoping to collect needed goods and shed light on realities facing a quarter of a million Native Americans in our service area.”

What We are Thankful For --- Emergency Water 005Thanks to the generosity of gift-in-kind donors, PWNA received more than $1 million in critical supplies through the drive. This included the water PWNA distributed during the Navajo water crisis and items expensive and “hard to get” on the reservations, such as toothpaste, soap and laundry detergent. PWNA is already distributing these supplies in response to requests from our tribal partners.

We thank the following donors for supporting PWNA and remembering Native Americans:

  • Matthew:25 Ministries @M25M_org
  • Medical Teams International @medicalteams
  • Feeding South Dakota @FeedingSD
  • Feed The Children @feedthechildren
  • Individual donors such as Dr. Leo McCarthy and the 8th grade class at Red Cloud Indian School @RedCloudSchool and many more.

Now, it is our turn to give something back. Leave a comment on this blog topic today and you will automatically be entered to win a DVD set of the award-winning PBS series, “We Shall Remain:  America Through Native Eyes.” We will announce the winner at PWNA4Hope on Facebook tomorrow.

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Honoring Native American Veterans

Native Americans have a proud tradition of service in the armed forces. Did you know:

  • Native Americans have the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group in the U.S.
  • About 200,000 have served – roughly triple the rate of service in the non-Native population.
  • Native Americans have served with distinction for over 200 years.
  • Native Americans are often motivated to military service for cultural reasons.
U.S. Army Veterans & Color Guards. Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

U.S. Army Veterans & Color Guards. Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

Some of you may find this extraordinary or at least interesting given the harsh realities of U.S./American Indian history. More than 10,000 Native men volunteered to serve during WWI despite the fact that most were not U.S. “citizens” at the time and were unprotected under the Constitution. In WWII, Natives had the highest rate of service at a time when patronizing businesses in reservation border towns was prohibited for American Indians.

Their extraordinary level of military service stems from diverse and deeply rooted aspects of Native American culture. In the 2007 PBS documentary, “Way of the Warrior,” Patty Loew interviewed Native American veterans on their experiences and found some were compelled to serve out of patriotism, others out of clan obligations, cultural mores, family tradition and treaty obligations. One veteran told Loew he enlisted because his tribe signed a ‘peace and friendship’ treaty with the U.S. in 1827 and promised to come to the military’s aid if ever needed. Despite the fact that the U.S. had broken every promise made to his people, his tribe was still honoring the treaty they signed. Others discussed the deeper, uniquely cultural meaning behind their desire to serve in the armed forces, such as honoring the warrior tradition of facing any challenge.

Northern Cheyenne Morning Star Chapter - Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

Northern Cheyenne Morning Star Chapter – Copyright NRC and PWNA. All rights reserved.

Many tribes were involved in the War of 1812 and during the Civil War, American Indians fought for both sides as auxiliary troops. Nearly 45,000 American Indians, 90 percent volunteers, served in the Vietnam War. Contemporary service rates are also very high, with thousands of Native men and women serving on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict areas around the world, and continuing to serve with distinction. Native Americans have served in all branches, receiving medals for valor, including the Medal of Honor, Purple Hearts, Air Medals, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, Distinguished Service Crosses, and Congressional Medals of Honor. The Navajo Code Talkers played a central role in the U.S. victory in WWII and the infamous Pima Indian, Marine Pfc. Ira Hayes, helped raise the American flag on Iwo Jima.

We wish to honor all of our Native American veterans on Veterans Day, along with their fellow veterans, so that they know there are those who care about their service and their sacrifice.

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November Celebrates American Indian Heritage Month & Native American Heritage Day

Heritage Banner 1400x400 300dpiPresident George H.W. Bush first proclaimed American Indian Heritage Month in 1990. Soon after, in 1991, Congress passed a Senate joint resolution requesting that Heritage Month be recognized each November thereafter—and it has been. The National Museum of the American Indian also promotes American Indian and Alaska Native heritage throughout the month of November, and each federal agency has their own way of honoring Native American culture and heritage.

This is an apt remembrance given that the contributions of the First Americans long preceded and continued after the first Thanksgiving. President Barack Obama added to this recognition when, on November 25, 2009, he encouraged every American to observe the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day, stating:

“…it is important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition and history of Native Americans and their status today– and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made, and will continue to make to our Nation.”

In observance of American Indian Heritage Month, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is hosting a “30-Day Spotlight on Native America” to help raise awareness about Native American culture, contributions and their concerns over the centuries that still apply today. Throughout November, check out our #NativeHeritage landing page daily for new content, prizes and actions you can take to get involved:

The growing interest in acknowledging American Indians is a century old—it dates back to 1916 when states first began establishing a Native American Day to honor, recognize and appreciate the indigenous cultures so integral to the U.S. The day of celebration varies by state, with September to November being the most popular months.

With a landmark move in 1990, the state of South Dakota—home to nine tribes—changed Columbus Day to Native American Day. In Arizona, home to 22 tribes, the city of Phoenix now hosts Recognition Days that span all of October and November. PWNA observes Native American Day as a national holiday on the Friday after Thanksgiving, in recognition of our Native staff, reservation partners and 250,000 Native Americans PWNA serves each year.

 Will you take a minute to tell us how your state celebrates American Indian Heritage Month or when it celebrates Native American Day? Please share in the comments section, below, or on your social media channels with the #NativeHeritage hashtag.

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Bringing Cultural Sensitivity to Halloween

Tomorrow, many of us will be filling up candy bowls, lighting jack-o-lanterns and getting dressed up in Halloween costumes. As you watch various ghouls, goblins, witches and superheroes grace your doorstep looking for candy, consider the other costume choices that are out there, and how they affect certain populations. The first population that comes to mind for us: Indian.

BuzzFeed brought this concept to life in this video titled, “Native Americans Try on ‘Indian’ Costumes.” We encourage you to watch this video and listen carefully to the message: it’s not OK and it never will be. Native Americans place deep meaning in their ceremonial dress, with each and every bead holding significance. To demote that cultural significance to a Halloween costume is truly sad.

Native Americans Try On “Indian” Costumes

Posted by BuzzFeed Video on Saturday, October 17, 2015

Still widely available, and unfortunately, widely purchased, are the various caricatures of Native American dress for Halloween costumes. While strides have been made with reducing Native American mascots, there’s still work to be done – we’re surrounded by misunderstandings and stereotypes of our culture. And we’re not alone. Browsing the typical costume aisle these days, you have your choice of things like, “Native American Maiden Costume” and “Child Asian Princess Costume.”

You very likely know someone who is Native American or Asian. Would you wear one of those costumes to their home? The answer is no, and this is a good standard when considering Halloween costumes.

Help us be heard and refuse to purchase “Native American” costumes. Educate those that do purchase them. End the caricatures of the Native American culture.

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An Answer to Food Insecurity in Indian Country

With one in four Native American families facing the uncertainty of attaining sufficient quantities of healthy food to feed their children, a strong response to food insecurity in Indian country is paramount. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is approaching low food security in numerous ways to support healthy food access in tribal communities.

By distributing nutritious food through reservation-based programs like the Wolf Point Food Bank on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, or elderly nutrition centers on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, PWNA is providing immediate relief for vulnerable and at-risk populations, and decreasing food insecurity for more than 145,000 people a year. In addition, PWNA is innovating new ways to support sustainable food resources in tribal communities. One example is supporting community-led projects aimed at increasing the availability of locally grown fresh foods in communities with staggering rates of diabetes.

Answer to food Insecurity - Food truck with logoAn exciting new solution by PWNA involves assisting reservation communities through our newly acquired mobile food kitchen supported by Newman’s Own Foundation, the John T. Vucurevich Foundation and the H.O.M.E. Foundation (Helping Our Mobile Elderly) of the Greater Los Angeles area. PWNA uses this mobile kitchen, or food truck, to conduct in-community classes on food preservation, canning, healthy cooking, and do-it-yourself baby food preparation; cook and share healthy recipes at produce distributions; and provide comforting meals after a disaster or emergency.

Answer to Food Insecurity - Food truck youth mealBecause of its mobility, the food truck can support grassroots health and nutrition initiatives in many reservation communities. In the past few months, we provided a meal at a TOMS shoe distribution and healthy recipes/cooking samples at a produce distribution, conducted an after-school class on healthy snacks and supported a community market for the REDCO Food Sovereignty Initiative. At the REDCO event, PWNA served roasted squash samples out of the food truck, alongside vendors selling fresh, locally grown squash. One vendor reported selling more squash after people sampled the roasted squash recipe. This is exactly the kind of response we want, and PWNA is looking forward to the ideas that our partners bring to the table.

Check back on the PWNA blog for more success stories of our mobile food kitchen and other initiatives to support healthy food and food security on the reservations.

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Eradicating Poverty, Building Self-Sufficient Communities

Eradicating poverty IMG_1747Take a moment to think about what the word “poverty” means to you. Do you live in poverty? Do you know someone who does? Do you have the desire to help those in poverty? For many Native Americans, the term “poverty” is all too familiar.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2014 poverty rate for chil­dren under the age of 18 was 21 percent. Compare that to the 43 percent of Native American children living in poverty and the difference is staggering. Additionally, 90,000 Native Americans are homeless and 40 percent of Native Americans live in sub-standard, overcrowded housing.

Those who live in poverty understand the complicated web it weaves. For example:

  • Poverty is a principal factor in causing food insecurity, malnutrition, family stress and health issues such as diabetes and obesity.
  • Food insecurity in turn contributes to increased school absenteeism, anxiety and decreased readiness of students to learn.
  • Increased school absenteeism and lower educational attainment leads to lower lifetime earnings and continuation of poverty.

Eradicating poverty IMG_1592Partnership With Native Americans is working every day to help change these realities. PWNA provides aid for 250,000 Native Americans each year, yet believes they have the power within themselves to build resilient communities equipped to face these types of challenges. Even while providing consistent services, PWNA challenges dependency and poverty by involving community members in the delivery of our services, simultaneously enhancing capacity while meeting immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions.

“Other charities come and go, in Indian country,” says Roberta Ecoffey of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “But PWNA is always there for us.”

PWNA has been championing hope for a brighter future for Native Americans for 25 years, but there is still work to be done. By supporting long-term solutions like community gardening projects, scholarships and leadership development, PWNA assists reservation communities in becoming self-sufficient and moving further away from the complications of poverty. To learn more about our ongoing efforts, register here.

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Caring for Our Four-Legged Friends

October 4 was World Animal Day, which prompted us to reflect on the animals we care for with our reservation partners. For centuries, dogs have played an important role within many Native American cultures. Their responsibilities included hunting, guarding, even pulling travois (sleds) and these valued animals were an integral member of the tribe.

Caring for Our Four-Leggeds - puppyToday, Native American people continue to love and value their dogs and cats as much as you do. However, many tribal communities often lack the resources needed to manage the overpopulation of stray dogs and cats and care for orphaned animals on the reservation. According to one estimate, the Navajo Nation alone has as many as 6,000 stray dogs and cats roaming their tribal lands, and other reservations face a similar challenge.

Many animal welfare donors, such as Phyllis Deal of New Jersey, feel a strong connection to the animals themselves. “I love animals, and it was difficult to see miles and miles of nothing on the Navajo Reservation, and then to see the animals living in conditions that just break your heart,” says Phyllis. “They need us. They cannot create better situations for themselves. So it’s important that we do what we can to help.”

PWNA partner McKinley Gallup Humane Society & MAC rescue/rehab animals in need

PWNA partner McKinley Gallup Humane Society & MAC rescue/rehab animals in need

Ensuring the well-being of animals not only protects the animal itself—it supports healthy, safe communities as well. That is why Partnership With Native Americans actively works with animal caregivers on the reservations, providing food, leashes, collars and bowls to address the immediate needs of overpopulation and strays. We also help fund mobile spay and neuter clinics, essential vaccinations, rehabilitation of orphaned animals, all to support placement of animals into foster care or adoption into loving, forever homes—where they belong!

“As a child, I had a puppy, and animals just have to be in my life. Animals make life better for everyone,” says donor Joyce Dobbert. “I support PWNA’s reservation animal rescue program because they relieve the suffering of animals, plain and simple.” Through our 25-years of continuous service, PWNA is proud to have supported the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of 182,000 animals in foster or forever homes.

If you are like Phyllis and Joyce and feel a similar connection to the work we’re doing with animals, we encourage you to participate in our 100-day supply drive before November 6, 2015. Collars and leashes are the most critical items needed at this time to further #NativePartnerHope.

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Working together to increase lifetime earnings for Native youth

Increase Lifetime Earnings - college-bound-jcxEEeEKiThe school year is well underway, and as we’ve previously shared, not all Native American youth are going to finish high school. Even fewer are going to finish college. So it’s our job to not only encourage our children to work hard in school and graduate but let them know that post-secondary education is a realistic option.

Painting the picture for this reality is even more important with the recent announcement by President Obama that, “a degree from a two-year college will earn you $10,000 more each year than someone who only finished high school,” and “that a degree from a four-year university earns you $1 million more over the course of a lifetime.”

Increase Lifetime Earnings - red-scroll-border-clip-art-di6dA5yi9This data comes to light with the President’s new College Scorecard. Students, families and counselors will have the chance to evaluate post-secondary schools and potential students can learn what each school’s graduates earn, debt accrued and paid back by its students and more. Now, not only will our children — including our Native youth — feel more confident about pursuing a post-secondary degree, they’ll have greater resources to make the right decisions.

The President summarized it well in his message, a message we can – and should – all get on board with: “Together, we can make sure that every student has the chance to get a great education and achieve their full potential.”

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Native American Beliefs: “The Great Mystery”

Native American Beliefs - The Great Mystery_TwitterMany Native American beliefs — ranging from beliefs about nature and animals, to traditional customs and ceremonies — are cause for discussion among non-Native peoples. Also discussed are the various spiritual and religious beliefs of Native American tribes. I want to speak to one specifically, the Native American belief in “The Great Mystery.”

When non-Natives consider “The Great Mystery,” thoughts and discussions might revolve around religious passages such as the Ephesians passage in the Bible that speaks to the great mystery hidden through the ages in God, or perhaps Paul’s reference to the great mystery in his letter to the Romans, or the Colossians passage that describes “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations… which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:24-27 NIV)

When Lakota speak of the Great Mystery, they speak of Wakan Tanka, which is more of an abstract force of creation and spirituality that is to be honored and given thanks. It is not a reference to a personified or singular deity, but rather an encompassing life force and energy existing in all things.

Chief Luther Standing Bear said: “From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things — the flowers of the plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals — and was the same force that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred, and were brought together by the same Great Mystery.”

There is a similarity between Christian and Lakota beliefs about the Great Mystery as far as giving thanks and realizing what exists around you. However, the Lakota believe Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery, is represented as an all-encompassing collective or oneness. And, the Lakota understanding of the Great Mystery is a reverence and thankfulness to all things made possible by this Great Mystery and a realization that all things are related and interconnected.

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