The First Ever Native Nonprofit Day is May 20: Become More NativeAware

This May 20, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) joins other Native nonprofits to promote Native Nonprofit Day. Organized through the Native Ways Federation, Native Nonprofit Day is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of supporting Native causes and reducing the funding inequities that Native nonprofits face.

Did you know that less than 1% of all charitable giving in the U.S. supports Native causes – even while Native Americans face some of the greatest inequities in America? And why is this? In part, it’s because foundations and corporations lack Native representation within their grant or corporate social responsibility groups. They also lack knowledge about working in Indian Country, are concerned about navigating cultural sensitivity and don’t always believe Native-led nonprofits can deliver on grant initiatives.

After more than 30 years of working in Indian Country, PWNA knows Native-led nonprofits can deliver on large and small grants. They are meeting their missions every day. We also know:

  • For funding to be fair and relevant, non-Native organizations need to be more NativeAware™.
  • Native-led organizations have the solutions to the issues our communities are facing. We know our strengths and are best positioned to help our people.

Native-led nonprofits maintain at least 51% Native Americans on their Board and leadership team. PWNA, which is Native-led and Native-serving, has 100% Native American representation on its Board as well as Native senior executives. We focus on immediate relief and long-term solutions in underserved reservation communities… issues such as food insecurity, safe drinking water and education barriers… and we serve as an intermediary to connect outside resources to Tribal communities for greater impact.

On this first ever Native Nonprofit Day, we are encouraging foundations, individuals and other allies to learn about the groundbreaking work in the Tribal communities PWNA serves, as well as those served by American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), Native American Rights Fund and other Native-led nonprofits.  

The Native Nonprofit Day giving campaign began on May 1 and ends on May 20. Please sign up for emails to become more NativeAware™ and donate to support Native causes.

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Help Ease Food Insecurity with Food & Water for Tribal Communities

One of the worst feelings is uncertainty about whether you can put food on the table for your family. Communities that are facing geographic isolation, limited availability of jobs, and now supply chain issues behind the soaring food prices are feeling more challenged than ever.

PWNA’s Food & Water services help improve food access, bringing immediate relief for Native American Elders, families and children. We assist dozens of tribal food program partners to help address nutritional needs for thousands of people year-round, and especially Native American Elders, by:

  • Supplying food boxes to food pantries
  • Providing staple foods to Elderly Nutrition Centers and soup kitchens preparing hot meals for Elders
  • Providing breakfast foods for Native Elders, such as eggs, fruit, cereal, milk, oats and fruit
  • Distributing emergency food boxes to Elders
  • Delivering bottled water with most food deliveries
  • Supplying community-wide meals during major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Supporting gardening through tilling and training (aka our Project Grow service)

We are sensitive to the fact that, even pre-pandemic, low food security was a factor for one in four Native American households. This means not enough food quality, variety, or desirability of dietary intake for a healthy lifestyle. Add to this out-of-control food prices, the sparse grocery stores on some reservations, and the limited availability of food on convenience store shelves and it is a lot to bear.

Coinciding with the lack of access to healthy food is the high rate of nutrition-related disease such as diabetes and obesity, even among youth. Contaminated drinking water is also an issue year-round in many of the communities that Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) serves.

Despite the many food banks that operate within reservation areas, a study by America’s Second Harvest shows that most lack an adequate supply of food to meet demand.

PWNA is committed to improving food access and supporting food sovereignty for Native American communities whose food supply was disrupted by the westward expansion and reservation system. Please take a moment to donate today to support these vital food services, because no one should have to go hungry or worry about food.

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2020 Census, Native Americans Undercounted, a Need for Real Numbers

The 2020 census undercounted minorities across the country once again, including Native Americans. Tribal citizens living on remote and geographically isolated reservations continued to have the highest net undercount rate among all U.S. racial and ethnic groups. This oversight is in line with a longstanding trend of undercounting minorities in the census, while overcounting people who identify as White.

The final census count determines crucial factors, such as seats in Congress, election maps for local and state representatives and the critical allocation of more than $900 billion in annual federal spending for the next decade, including $5.6 billion for tribal programs.

After the 2010 census and a 4.6% undercount of Native Americans, the tribes lost millions in annual dollars that could have shored up social programs and eased education barriers and the digital divide. Now, they are facing another 10 years of underpayments as they face the highest rate of poverty in the country.

This census undercount continues an unfortunate tradition of informing funding decisions based on false data that disadvantages Native American communities and jeopardizes:

  • Native social programs such as energy and food assistance
  • Native education
  • Reservation roads and maintenance
  • Care for Native Elders
  • Congressional representation

Communities are trying to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic and are also in need of support around the three infrastructure needs: water, electricity, and internet. Many reservations across the country still lack these basic needs, and false census numbers may obscure this urgent issue.

The pandemic surely contributed to the miscount, as people I talked with on reservations were nervous about the concept of an outsider in a mask asking them for personal information. Even under the best circumstances, people in rural and remote communities are the hardest to count. The timing of the census, with COVID-19 and the election, made this task even more difficult in 2020. Another challenge to census counting is the volume of multi-generational households on the reservations; some members of the family in the household may be tribal citizens while others may be non-Native or may identify as Native but not be eligible for tribal enrollment.

The census must be a true guide to our country, and every community deserves to be counted fully. PWNA stands with minority groups across the country to say the census results must be revised to include those missed in the 2020 count. We need remedies, real numbers to support real solutions to the issues facing Native families on the reservations and beyond. If nothing else, allocated funds should be incremented to offset the estimated undercount by the U.S. Census Bureau. Even 45 members of the House are calling on Census to address the undercount. There can be no action without true representation.

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Answering the Call When Disaster Strikes on the Reservations

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we all must be ready for anything! This is easier said than done for some families, such as Native Americans living in rural reservation communities. These tribal communities are impacted significantly when any kind of disaster happens, be it weather emergency or pandemic, because they’re facing geographic isolation and continuous lack of access to even the necessities. On top of that, when something major happens, Native communities face a longer recovery period – months to years – than other communities across America because they start from a poverty threshold.

In 2021, Hurricane Ida endangered Native Americans living in southern Louisiana as it destroyed their homes, disrupted their culture and left many without the financial means to recover. Because of your past generosity, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) had its warehouses stocked and quickly transported three separate deliveries to mitigate the impact, including one shipment with over $590,000 worth of emergency supplies through our Native American Aid (NAA) program.  

Also in 2021, we responded to a water shortage impacting the Northern Cheyenne in Montana and two wildfires impacting the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Hays, Montana. As the coronavirus spread, PWNA and NAA provided more than $1.9 million in COVID relief, bringing nonperishable food, water, PPE and other essentials to thousands of members of the Northern Plains tribes. Today, we continue to receive requests from our tribal partners for COVID relief.

The increased frequency and severity of natural disasters such as tornadoes, blizzards and wildfires are leaving Indigenous citizens without access to food, water and electricity. Having a 3-day emergency kit of extra food, water, medications and batteries does little to shore up families in need. So having our warehouses stocked and ready is crucial as a first responder for the reservations, but we need your help to do this. A donation ahead of time can make all the difference when the next disaster strikes.  

Who knows when the next fire, flood or pandemic will happen? We do know this: To answer the call, we must prepare before it happens! We’ll need to distribute at least 350,000 pounds of emergency supplies by this time next year, and we’re calling on you to help us be ready for what’s to come. Please donate today.  

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Let’s Replace Lost Wages with Pay Equity for Native Women

Native Women Pay Gap & Equity

By Laura Schad | Publish date: March 22, 2022

For most of my career, I have worked in the nonprofit arena serving and supporting tribal communities. When I returned to South Dakota in the early 1990s, I was aware of the state’s high proportion of women working multiple jobs to support their families. But another factor that I and other Native women in the workforce face is the pay gap – more like a gorge – between our annual earnings and the earnings of white males in similar roles.

Laura Schad, PWNA

Here’s a 50-year perspective: “In 1973, full-time working women earned a median of 56.6 cents to every dollar men earned.” This overall gender pay gap has improved to 82 cents for most women, but for Indigenous women. the pay gap is still 60 cents on the dollar. This translates to less than a 5-cent increase over the past 50 years – or one (1) penny for each decade worked since the early seventies. In addition, according to the 2015-2019 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census, there are still some Native women in the U.S. who fall below the 1973 marker of 56.6 cents.

Even at pay gap of 60 cents on a dollar, lost wages for Native women adds up to $25,000 per year – every year. Over a career spanning 40 years (two generations), Native women suffer $1 million in lost wages. And, to earn what their male counterparts earn in 12 months, Indigenous women would have to work an extra 20 months. How is this racial and social equity?

An extra $25,000 a year from equal pay rates would mean significant life changes for Native women and their extended families. The impact of equal pay could be generational – just as the impact of poverty has been. The purchasing power of $25K could fuel quality child development services so children enter school with a level playing field. It could help pay rent and buy healthy groceries and quality health care. Dreaming bigger, an additional $2083 a month would allow Native women to work toward wealth generation …save money, build credit and buy their own home.

Native women in rural areas are already facing higher food costs, gas prices and longer drives to work, not to mention limited healthy food choices. If Native women were paid on the scale that white men are paid, there would be no need for predatory lenders or waiting for a tax refund to buy an overpriced vehicle that will need repairs soon after it is driven off the lot. $25,000 a year could also mean no need for a second job just to make ends meet, which takes Native women away from their families and communities.

Time will only tell how COVID may have impacted the earning potential of Native women, but it is safe to say that women of color helped keep this country running through childcare, healthcare, and other front-line positions – and faced the spike in burnout and unemployment rates.

Beth Redbird, an assistant professor of sociology shared her research on what drives Native American poverty. “One of the things that we also know about jobs is there’s been this declining relationship between working and a job’s ability to help you get out of poverty,” Redbird explained. In fact, her research indicates that employment is the main factor driving poverty.

Beginning in 2022, the Census Bureau has committed to reporting Native income and poverty data in its annual reports. These demographics will begin to fill the information gap that could better inform public policy and steer resources to combat pay inequities. It will take the collective work of supportive federal policies and tribes exerting their sovereignty to create sustaining, equitable resources that address the horrendous pay gap inflicted on Indigenous women.

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What are you Eating for Breakfast?

The fond memory of waking up to the smell of smoke from a recently lit wood stove was a sign that my mother, grandmother or elder auntie would soon be cooking breakfast. I grew up in Southern Arizona in a small Native American Yaqui Village. Most of our neighbors had wood stoves, and the smoke from the burning wood permeated most of our community. Breakfast was a luxury for many of us; if we didn’t have breakfast at home, we relied on the free breakfast or lunch provided at school for our first nutritious meal of the day. Truth be told, the school breakfast motivated me, my siblings and fellow tribal members to be at school early.

Breakfast at home often consisted of oatmeal, eggs from our chickens and sometimes toast. A breakfast treat would be rice pudding made with brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins or Atole, an ancestral dish. One of its health benefits is magnesium, a vital nutrient. “Atole is perhaps best known as a traditional Mexican beverage made from masa (cornmeal), water, brown sugar, sweet spices and sometimes chocolate or fruit.” Atole is also known as “a pre-Hispanic drink made from cornmeal and water or milk. It’s said to have been traditionally used in sacred Aztec ceremonies.”

Fun fact, 91% of Americans today eat breakfast for dinner. If you’re not one of the “Brinner” crowd, try it – you might like it!

As we recently celebrated National Hot Breakfast Month, I recalled the monthly food resources we received – powdered eggs, powdered milk, cheese, rice, raisins and corn flakes – from the commodity food program now known as FDPIR. “The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations provides USDA foods to income-eligible households living on Indian reservations and to Native American households residing in designated areas near reservations or in Oklahoma.”

Today, I work for Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) serving some of the most remote and economically challenged tribal communities in the country. Our mission is to serve immediate needs and support long-term solutions, and one our priorities is improving food security. For instance:

  • PWNA’s Breakfast-in-a-Bag service, offered through its Northern Plains Reservation Aid program, assists Elders who are most in need of nutritious foods, especially during the third week of the month when their social security funds start to run out. PWNA-provided breakfast groceries can be picked up at a local grocery store on the Rosebud Reservation and end skipping breakfast to make ends meet. In 2021, Elders picked up more than 450 grocery bags with 10,000+ pounds of breakfast foods, a $10,500 investment in Native health and food security.
  • Additional investments in community gardens, ancestral food training and produce distributions are other ways PWNA is addressing the food insecurity facing Native American Elders, families and children.

Our overarching goal is to increase food resources so that every Elder, adult and child has access to a hot breakfast or a healthy meal every day. Your donation during National Hot Breakfast month and beyond will support of our Breakfast-in-a-Bag service and help eligible Elders start the day with a healthy meal in their own kitchen.

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Reservation Animal Rescue Made Possible by You

Reservation life is complex for many Native Americans, as they navigate through food and water shortages, poverty and a general lack of resources. The same can be said for the animals. If you ever get the chance to visit a reservation, there is one thing that cannot go unnoticed – the alarming number of stray cats and dogs roaming the community. In fact, in the Navajo nation alone, one estimate cites 250,000 stray dogs. It is heartbreaking to see dogs and cats on the side of the road in danger of being hit by a vehicle, not being able to have a good meal, and not having access to veterinary care.

Indian reservations are often animal resource deserts, defined as entire communities with no veterinarians, pet supply stores, and animal welfare infrastructure. Simply put, these animals need help.

For hundreds of years, animals have been faithfully serving the Native people and remain loyal to this day. Early Native Americans used dogs to help men hunt for food, pull sleds, assist women with daily physical labors and help keep the children entertained. For Indigenous people then and now, dogs are not just pets but members of the family and tribe. They want to care for the strays, but day-to-day realities make it difficult. That is why Partnership With Native Americans and its Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR) program work to improve animal welfare and give reservation animals a fighting chance.

RAR is committed to supporting Native communities in their efforts to become healthier and safer through a multi-pronged approach to animal welfare. At the heart of their work is partnering with reservation shelters, veterinary clinics and animal welfare groups who rescue hungry or injured stray animals and stop the spread of disease.

A RAR donation made by you can ensure the continued delivery of essential pet supplies such as food and bedding, vaccinations and spay/neuter services, the supplies that foster families need to care for their new house guests and education on proper pet care. In 2021, RAR was able to help more than 2,700 animals, and with your help can do even more. Man’s best friend has never turned their back on us – and thanks to you, we can return the favor.

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Native Americans in Film and Music

As we watch the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and other film awards, there are many reasons to celebrate the inclusion of Natives in film this year. There are also many reminders of the lack of Native representation in the performing arts.

The 2021 season was particularly great for “Reservation Dogs.”  Being Native written, Native directed and featuring Native actors is groundbreaking in every sense of the word.  Ironically, one of the earliest Native American actors I can remember is Will Sampson (Muscogee) from Oklahoma in “One that Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975). Sterlin Harjo (Seminole Nation), the producer/director/writer of “Reservation Dogs” is also from Oklahoma, and that’s where the show is filmed.   

The film industry has undergone mountains of change since 1975, considering that the western movies of previous generations were often portrayed by non-Indians with painted bodies in a very archaic stereotype of warring, violent or uneducated characters. Think blue-eyed Burt Lancaster in the film “Apache” (1954) and other stars of that era, through to the mid-70’s with Iron Eyes Cody (of Italian descent) in the “Crying Indian” commercials.

Moving from the era of black-and-white films to digital streaming in one’s lifetime can be head-spinning, but here’s the big question: Has the industry done enough in films, music and other performing arts? Overall, the answer is probably no – and without the recent culture and diversity, equity and inclusion push, we might not have the current success of Native Americans in the industry we see today. It’s undeniable that actors like our ambassador Wes Studi (Cherokee), Tantoo Cardinal (Cree and Metis descent) and Taboo (Shoshone) from The Black Eyed Peas have carried the torch for newcomers Jana Schmieding (Lakota), Lane Factor (Caddo Nation) and Kiawentiio Tarbell (Mohawk). But are we really where we should be 50+ years later?

The lack of Native American representation in the entertainment industry is not altogether surprising. This is the case in every professional setting from journalists, attorneys and physicians to engineers, pro athletes and professors. There is also a lack of knowledge about Native people in general, due to adverse government policy and the colonialism that decimated the Native peoples of North America. (Recent census data puts the Native count at under two percent of the U.S. population.)

We will continue to see breakout movies and stars, and the upcoming movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” will introduce an era of American history that few know existed. It will also introduce Native talent like Lily Gladstone (Blackfeet) and Chance Rush (Hidatsa) to the big screen. Make no mistake, there have been a few Native actors, like Gary ‘Litefoot’ Davis (Cherokee) in “Indian in the Cupboard” (1990s) and House of Cards (2010) and Gil Birmingham (Comanche) in “Skins” and “Twilight” and now “Yellowstone.” Rarely through have we seen shows written, directed and acted by Native talent until now.

Native tribes and people are not a monolith. Indian Country is as complex, diverse and beautiful as our non-Native counterparts and colleagues. We constantly teeter on the lack of visibility, which is why a Native-written, performed and directed production is more important than ever. In many ways, Native Americans need to be ‘humanized’ so that we are not thought of as mythical stereotypes or athletic tropes. We are contributors to the economy both as global cultural citizens and your next-door neighbors. Our communities are rich with music, stories that are worthy of film, and entertainment about ‘reality’ or ‘nothing’ that can be a running sitcom for multiple seasons.

Native visibility in the film industry is important to our Tribal communities, our local peers, and culturally and globally. And even though the awards season might not end with a Native sweep, plenty of Indigenous people ‘see themselves’ in Native actors and that might be the most important thing that can happen.

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Your Gift of Winter Fuel Can Save a Life

While the New Year brings a chance to make changes in our lives, many in the Native community are still facing difficult choices – and a difficult winter. The long winters in the Northern Plains can dip to below zero temperatures and bitter cold can persist for 3 months of longer.  

Against incredible odds, such as 1 in 4 families facing food insecurity and over 90,000 Native people homeless, those living on the reservations have tried their best to prepare for what is expected to be another harsh season. But many Elders still need supplies to survive the winter – especially winter fuel – so a donation can help save lives. For some Elders, the Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) program of PWNA may be the only winter fuel or heating assistance they receive.

When it comes to a warm home, the choices are few – propane, electricity or gas – and very expensive, up to $400 a month to stay warm. Firewood is another favorite among Elders of the Northern Plains, but it too can be expensive – up to $300 for a single cord. Elders worry about running out of firewood and often lack the funds to purchase more.

This winter, your donation will help NPRA provide winter warmth and stop the cycle of tough choices like whether to buy food or medicine or heat. Please donate today with the gift of warmth. Don’t delay – winter is here!

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2021 Year in Review: Most Popular Blogs and Social Posts

Happy New Year! As we look ahead to 2022, we want to take a moment to reflect on the past year here at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). 2021 brought prolonged pandemic challenges and a growing focus on the social injustices that affected many Native Americans and people of color. Thankfully, through the continued support of our generous donors, PWNA was able to continue delivering its programs that address inequities such as food and water, health care, education, emergency response, animal welfare and holiday support.  

PWNA also completed our 30th year of impacting lives through immediate and long-term relief from critical shortages and challenges facing so many tribes. We are grateful that we’ll be able to continue working with our reservation partners again this year.

It takes a village – our tribal partners, collaborators, donors, Board and staff – to carry out our mission and champion hope for a brighter future for Native Americans. We thank each one of you for making this possible.

We would like to share a glimpse of your top ten favorite blogs and social posts from 2021, which rally around racial justice, social justice, culture and history:

  1. Changing Indigenous Peoples’ Day to Columbus Day
  2. Martin Luther King Day and Native American Rights
  3. Noteworthy Native: Standing Bear
  4. Black History Month & Afro-Indigenous Americans
  5. Noteworthy Native: Chief Plenty Coups
  6. Native American Heritage Day
  7. Missing & Murdered Indian Women and Racial Justice
  8. Navajo Boxer Mariah Bahe
  9. 96-year-old Navajo Grandma Becomes Internet Hit
  10. Billy Mills, Olympic Gold and Advocate for Native Youth

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

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