As we approach “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” on April 28, which celebrates parents, guardians and role models, PWNA also honors Community Health Representatives (CHRs), who serve as role models in their tribal communities.
CHRs have a long history of service in Native American communities. An approach funded by the Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) for over 25 years, the CHR Program is 1,400 members strong and serves 250 tribes across the country. As paraprofessional health care providers, CHRs work on behalf of their tribes and communities, conducting community outreach and promoting health and wellness and disease prevention. No job description could ever account for the range of responsibilities CHRs carry out each day. Besides regular home health visits to monitor each clients’ condition, CHRs also provide group opportunities for preventative health care, conduct a variety of health assessments, transport patient for health and sometimes other appointments, and most importantly, serve as the consistent connection between their patients and community resources.
To truly understand the complexities and responsibilities a CHR manages, and to appreciate the valuable service and support they provide, you would need to follow them around for a day. PWNA did this, and here we share our glimpse of a morning in the life of one CHR and the myriad of needs she addresses.
6:15 a.m. — Picked up Sherry and transported to dialysis. Husband suffered his stroke earlier in week and she is afraid her needs are causing his health problems. Family has been trying to get assistance to have wheelchair ramp installed for several years (PWNA provided a new ramp and flooring). Couple needs follow up with housing and other resources to see what assistance is available. Took Sherry home; son met us and carried her back into the house. Son reported his father probably wouldn’t be released from hospital for a week or so, and additional transport would be needed.
10 a.m.— Arrived at Elderly Nutrition Center to set up a make-shift screening table for blood pressure and glucose screening with the Elders, while also creating the opportunity for them to discuss their own health risks and concerns with a trained Health Educator. Several Elders were already at the center and visited while the table was being set up and the congregate meal was being prepared. One Elder shared that she has several grandchildren living with her and the first aid kit (provided by PWNA) would be helpful for all the bumps and scraps they get while playing; she never had a fully equipped kit before now.
Complicating the work of a CHR is the reality that the health care system on American Indian reservations is beyond deficient. Shattered treaties and failed federal policies set the stage for routine underfunding of health care, leaving the Native population riddled with health disparities. A report released in 2004 by the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, “Broken Promises: Evaluating the Native American Health Care System,” spotlights per capita health care costs across populations. Fiscal gaps clearly exist in U.S. health care funding levels: $5,000 for general population, $3,803 for federal prisoners and $1,914 for American Indians. These disparities are a factor in why tribal communities are taking a preventative approach to health care, and CHRs play a central role in this effort.
CHRs are trusted servants in their communities, the ones people turn to when they need guidance or help, or someone to advocate for their needs. In celebration of their dedication and service, PWNA honors CHRs for being role models and committing themselves to improving the health and welfare of their neighbors, families and tribal nations.
With Earth Day approaching on April 22, it’s timely to think about what the earth provides for us. A home. Food. Water. It’s easy to take these gifts from Mother Earth for granted. But many Native Americans living on remote and geographically isolated reservations don’t have that luxury. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) understands that these are vital needs in some Native American communities, and that health and self-sufficiency are equally vital.
To assist self-sufficiency efforts, PWNA works directly with reservation partners to support long-term solutions that address health and hunger, while building up sustainable resources in their communities. In Pine Ridge, S.D., PWNA partnered with the Little Wound Face Program and Lynn Dubray to deliver healthy cooking classes to parents. The parents who were already active in the Face program identified the need to address the health of their community through healthier cooking and eating. PWNA developed a curriculum for the group, which included meal plans, menus and train-the-trainer sessions, and the parents modified the curriculum to take advantage of locally-available foods. The lead project coordinator also completed train-the-trainer sessions to gain and pass along sustainable knowledge to future participants, ensuring this critical step toward self-sufficiency continues to grow and flourish.
In Fort Belknap, MT, PWNA partnered with Red Paint Creek Community Council and Hannah Has Eagle to help build a high-tunnel garden that is contributing to the community’s self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, while supporting a healthier lifestyle through access to fresh produce. Continuing the momentum after their first harvest, the Council organized seed-saving events to promote re-planting this season.
Knowing that there is high interest and sustainable gains through gardening and other healthy community-led opportunities, PWNA is looking forward to partnering with several organizations in 2016 – keep checking back as we announce more!
“Nake Nula Waun – I am always prepared, anytime, anywhere, for anything.” – Albert White Hat (Sicangu Lakota)
Albert White Hat brought back this Lakota expression about 25 years ago while teaching at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation. From time to time, I hear people use the expression but have never before thought about it in relation to emergency preparedness. Yet, in the context of our partnership with the American Red Cross North Central Division, Nake Nula Waun makes sense.
Living freely on the Northern Plains, the Lakota practiced preparedness as a means of survival. Resource rich summers inevitably led into resource scarce winters. Preparing things like pápa (dried meat), braided and dried timpsila (prairie turnip), and wastunkala (dried corn) in the summer and fall equated to survival during the harsh months of winter encampment.
With the rise of the reservation system in the 1800s, inconsistent federal policy has somewhat diminished Native Americans of their natural process and ability to plan and prepare. Yet, Native Americans survive to this day — out of resiliency, a key trait of Native peoples that is often overlooked and underestimated.
Building on this inherent resiliency, our community investment project funded by the Red Cross is aspiring to re-strengthen the preparedness of reservation communities inevitably faced with modern day disasters and emergencies. We are collaborating directly with local teams on the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Reservations and working together to identify community assets that can be employed or activated during a time of disaster.
By coming from this asset-based community development perspective, and working with communities wanting to adopt this level of planning, our community partners are forming new relationships between tribal programs and private organizations and working closely to identify resources and determine how best to address emergency needs.
As this networking and sourcing continues, our partner communities are organizing themselves to function more efficiently during a disaster event – drawing on ready emergency operations plans, emergency kits and training. The end result of these efforts will be a community-wide readiness to respond to a disaster event, until outside disaster aid and PWNA’s emergency services arrive.
The month of April got us thinking about what the general public sees as true, versus the actual truth. Don’t be fooled. There are a number of traditions in the Native American culture that have been caricatured and/or misunderstood by the American public, so we wanted to highlight a few that could use correcting.
Misunderstanding: Native American beading is just decorative
Correction: Native Americans have utilized beads in a number of ways throughout the years, including for trade, storytelling, gifting, recognizing status and incorporating meaning into traditional dress – each tribe using them in their own way. Beading is so woven into Native culture, that it is taught and practiced in schools in order preserve Native heritage. Near Halloween last year, we shared this insightful video from BuzzFeed, in which Native Americans tried on and discussed “Indian” costumes, which often contain feathers or beading.
Misunderstanding: Medicine Men are “shamans” who are psychic or give psychic readings
Correction: For the Cherokee Nation, their website explains that “the knowledge used by medicine people comes from other medicine people who came before them and handed down their ‘medicine’ to chosen ones. They train for many years and the medicine formulas, songs and other rites are handwritten in ledgers which have been handed down over time.” For the Cherokee, shamans are not psychic; rather, they consult with Traditional Cherokee on medical issues and life dilemmas, and advertising or profiting from these services is not accepted. Please note this information applies only to this one tribe’s beliefs and is not representative all tribes.
Misunderstanding: All Native Americans are mystical or share the same spiritual beliefs
Correction: Often, the American public makes sweeping generalizations about the spiritual beliefs of Native Americans, including that all tribes share the same beliefs or religion. Yet tribes, on their own websites, refer to a variety of religions and some Native people practice several spiritualities that do not seem in conflict with one another. While there is no one “Native American religion” common to all tribes, the Native American Church does practice Native spirituality and rituals and is present on numerous reservations. Location, community and beliefs unique to a specific population all contribute to the wide range of spiritual practices of Native Americans — just like they do for everyone else.
Partnership With Native Americans cares about quality of life for Native Americans and respects their self-determined goals for their tribes. We see through the misunderstandings and work with those we serve, providing consistent aid and services that our reservation partners request. Help us continue this aid; donate today.
Today is World Water Day, “an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.” Observed annually since March 22, 1993, we join the United Nations in its concern for safe, sufficient and reliable water sources.
While access to water has been a challenge for years for those living on remote reservations, the safety of water sources — or lack, thereof — has recently been in the headlines. The EPA spill of 3 million gallons of wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers contaminated the water of 100,000 Navajo people in July 2015, and more recently, the contamination of the Flint, Mich. water supply exposed residents to dangerous amounts of lead.
On the Navajo Reservation, it is common to see residents hauling large vats of water to their homes. For many residents, this is their sole source of water for drinking, cooking and all other needs. A 2006 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Navajo tribal programs found 22 percent of the residents haul water exclusively, 53 percent haul water sometimes, and the water in hauling residences had a higher incidence of coliform contamination. In areas where deep wells supplying drinking water were contaminated, the water samples collected from 296 households showed three percent exceeded safe water standards for uranium, and eleven percent exceeded safe drinking water standards for arsenic.
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) recognizes the need its reservation partners have, and while we continuously provide relief through gift-in-kind donations of bottled water, we know it’s an ongoing struggle and increase fundraising efforts when crisis strikes— allowing for hundreds of pallets of water to be delivered to the Navajo Nation this past summer. International Labour Organisation (ILO) is also working to provide clean water to indigenous peoples, focusing on rural Nicaragua and Panama.
And what can you do?
Learn more about what is being done, worldwide, to increase access to safe water, then learn how you can take action to help those in the communities who need it most. PWNA works closely with reservation partners to provide the right goods at the right time and in the right way. Your contribution can be part of that.
Often, Indian casinos are seen through a lens focused purely on economic and community development. More often than not, that lens distorts the reality of Indian casinos and their impact on federally recognized tribes. Typically, mainstream perspectives converge around a new stereotype — the “rich” casino Indian. Yet, in reality, Indians made wealthy by gaming remain an exception to the rule.
Regardless, focusing directly on the economic successes and failures of Indian casinos wholly ignores the social impacts they have on tribes. With March bringing Problem Gambling Awareness Month into focus, Partnership With Native Americans is taking the opportunity to explore an often-overlooked aspect of casino impact on reservation communities.
In the years since the 1988 passing of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 243 federally recognized tribes (out of 566) in 28 states ventured into Indian gaming operations. With this, gambling opponents raised concerns about casinos fostering an environment prone to gambling addiction — specifically within reservation communities already struggling with socio-economic issues. Interestingly, the prevalence of problem gambling has remained about the same, nationally, since 1976, when only one state had legalized gaming.
One can conclude from this that Indian casinos (or casinos, in general) are not directly linked to rates of problem gaming. In fact, recent research suggests the rate of problem gaming has increased among Native Americans, less due to the availability of casinos, and more connected to the mentality of the individual. Problem gambling among Native Americans is attributed to cultural beliefs in luck or fate mixed with “…variables, such as low economic status, unemployment, increased alcohol use, depression, historical trauma, and lack of social alternatives.”
Tribal administrations conduct gaming as a way to carry out their self-governance as sovereign nations, and gaming tribes are quick to invest in behavioral and social programs for problem gambling. Tribes in the state of Arizona, for instance, have signed a pact with the state to share revenue in support of prevention and treatment of problem gambling and to assist the Arizona Department of Gaming, investing more than $2 million in 2007, alone.
Partnership With Native Americans is proud to support nearly 20 behavioral health programs located on the Northern Plains and the Southwest reservations we serve. These programs offer important services focused on prevention, treatment, addiction, recovery, mental health and behavioral health skills. Understanding that problem gambling is not directly connected to the presence of casinos, PWNA’s behavioral health partners play a critical role in addressing the underlying causes of gambling addiction in reservation communities.
March 7-11 is National School Breakfast Week (NSBW), started in 1989 to raise awareness for the availability of the School Breakfast Program. By providing a free or reduced-cost breakfast to qualifying students at participating schools, the School Breakfast Program gives many children a healthy way to start the day, since children living at or near the Federal poverty level likely cannot access an equivalent breakfast at home.
Poverty is a common circumstance for many families. Across America, nearly 15 percent of families are living below poverty level, but even more Native American families — 26 percent — battle poverty. This impacts 21 percent of America’s children, but up to 33 percent of Native American children. A nourishing breakfast is critical for the overall well-being of Native children, as well as their health and educational achievement. According to the School Nutrition Association website, “Students who eat breakfast have better attention and memory. Research indicates the quality of foods children eat impacts cognition — with poor nutrition linked to absenteeism, hunger symptoms and psychosocial problems.”
Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) recognizes more than just breakfast is a continuing challenge for many Native families, and that one in four face food insecurity on a regular basis. PWNA and its donors help meet nutritional needs for more than 145,000 people each year. This includes gift-in-kind donations of food and water distributed through senior centers and food pantries, training communities to grow and sustain their own gardens and providing holiday meals for Native American Elders, children and families.
As you sit down to your first meal of the day – or pour that bowl of cereal for your child before he heads off to school – consider how different your day would be without the easy access of food in your pantry.
We’re approaching a little known, yet very important holiday: Read Across America Day. This year marks the 19th annual celebration of reading that honors the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, on March 2.
Read Across America Day encourages every child in every community to celebrate reading. The National Education Association (NEA) and education leaders across the country will be visiting communities such as Dallas, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver and Atlanta in the infamous Cat-a-Van (short for “Cat in the Hat” van). In prior years, some reading events began with “green eggs and ham” for breakfast. Others featured “cat in the hat” tours, reading challenges for children and NEA check presentations.
Recognizing the role that reading plays in lives and communities, athletes, actors and elected officials participate in Read Across America. PWNA and our reservation partners also understand the importance of reading and literacy. In addition to enhancing reading comprehension and motivating lifelong reading, research shows that children who are motivated to read spend more time reading and perform better academically.
Our reservation partners also emphasize some of the less obvious benefits of reading and literacy programs, such as providing a special opportunity for parent-child reading time and providing a positive activity in a geographically isolated community. Neither poverty nor isolation should prevent any child from having the opportunity to read and learn.
PWNA’s reading and literacy service provides children’s books, participation incentives and other supplies to help our partners encourage reading among 25,000 Native American students year-round. You can support reading on reservations by making a small gift today.
This Sunday, many Americans will tune into the 88th Annual Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars. This year’s awards, in particular, have drawn more criticism and social commentary than before, with the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag, calling attention to the noticeable lack of diversity in nominees.
So why should we watch, when many have already decided to boycott the awards? Because “The Revenant,” nominated for 12 Oscars — including Best Picture — brings Native Americans and Native lands to the forefront of the conversation in America. The filmmakers cast Native American and Canadian aboriginal actors, allowing Native Americans to finally have a chance to represent themselves onscreen, without the often offensive and stereotypical portrayals so often seen in mainstream films.
“The Revenant” is based on the book of the same name, outlining the true story of Hugh Glass, a trapper whose companions leave him for dead after he’s attacked by a bear. Taking place in the 1820s, the movie also illuminates the horrific truth that Native Americans faced in a time when westward expansion was the American government’s goal, no matter the cost. Gripping and brutally honest, moviegoers will see how “The Revenant” teaches us what many school books leave out: genocide and the depletion of resources Native Americans needed for survival.
Shortly after “The Revenant” was released in theaters, 20th Century Fox released a documentary titled, “A World Unseen,” that captured director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s reactions to the parallels of the movie’s era and its relevance to present day. In it, Iñárritu astutely observed, “The amount of hours and passion and trying to get the very best and trying to figure out how to make this experience palpable for people in a different way than they have seen this period of time, was scary.”
When Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Hugh Glass, he said he wanted “to share this award with all of the First Nations people represented in this film and all the indigenous communities around the world. It is time that we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands… It is time that we heard your voice and protected this planet for future generations.”
The work we do at Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) impacts current and future generations through our vision of strong, self-sufficient Native American communities. We’re inspired by Mr. DiCaprio and hope his words have resonated with the American public, as we work toward our mission of serving immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions.