Things That Matter

Here Are Ten Indigenous Organizations To Give Back To This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can feel like a rather loaded holiday, particularly if you are a part of (or are empathetic to) the Native American community. The revisionist retelling of what went on between American Indians and the Pilgrims who contributed to the ongoing occupation and genocide of the former can just leave a nasty taste in your mouth. Instead of accepting the American jingoist version of the holiday, many people have chosen to simply adopt the idea of expressing gratitude and convening with loved ones over food. 

It may be all the tryptophan from the turkey or being around friends and family, but the holiday seems to trigger a need to give to more vulnerable groups and there are fewer more vulnerable groups than indigenous people around the world. It’s not just in the United States, indigenous lives are globally marginalized and with that comes a great cost to humanity: their lives and our own. 

Indigenous communities are essential to combating climate change and when we allow those communities to be destroyed, we allow our planet to be destroyed. This Thanksgiving, let’s give back.

Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women USA

MMIW USA has a narrow scope, “to bring our missing home and help the families of the murdered cope and support them through the process of grief.” The organization provides guidance and resources to family members, who lack the support of the system, to deal with the impossible situation of having a missing loved one. The larger goal of MMIW USA is to eradicate the issue of Native American women encountering disproportionate levels of violence in the U.S. 

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Partnership With Native Americans 

According to PWNA, 90,000 American Indian families are homeless or under-housed. By serving 60 reservations across 12 states, PWNA centers “underserved and geographically isolated” communities in the Northern Plains and Southwest. The organization provides support by using programs and resources to address short-term and long-term community concerns like unemployment and housing. 

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Adopt a Native Elder Program

Don’t worry, they know the name sounds weird and they need to explain it. In the 1980s, during the Hopi-Navajo land dispute that displaced 10,000 Navajas, elders faced particularly severe hardships including a lack of food. Linda Myers and Grace Smith Yellowhammer started this organization by doing food runs for those elders. 

“When you adopt, you commit to providing your Elder with two sets of Rainbow Food Boxes annually. A.N.E. provides and delivers the food,” according to the Website. 

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The Native American Heritage Association 

NAHA serves two of the poorest counties in the country, the Crow Creek and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota, where eight out of 10 Native Americans living on the reservations are employed. Like many organizations, NAHA is committed to combating the pervasive hunger that has riddled indigenous communities for decades, along with basic necessities. 

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The American Indian College Fund 

The college fund provides Native Americans with the resources necessary to take up space in higher education and is the largest of its kind in the U.S. 

“For 30 years, the College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native student access to higher education. We provide scholarships, programming to improve Native American student access to higher education, and the support and tools for them to succeed once they are there,” according to the mission statement. 

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Native American Rights Fund 

NARF provides legal resources to tribes and American Indians who cannot afford adequate representation. Since 1971, the organization has defended and won major cases to support tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, education, and more on behalf of American Indians.

Donate now. 

Inuit Tapirit Kanatami 

ITK provides research, advocacy and public outreach to protect and advance the rights of Inuit in Canada. This includes a comprehensive program including plans to combat climate change, an Inuit language journal, a National Inuit Youth Counsel, food-based initiatives, and suicide prevention efforts. 

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Indigenous Literacy Foundation 

“Only 36% of Indigenous Year 5 students in very remote areas are at or above national minimum reading standards, compared to 96% for non-Indigenous students in major cities,” according to the ILF website. 

The organization addresses illiteracy in 280 remote indigenous communities in Australia by providing books, literacy programs, and community literacy projects.

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Amazon Watch

Amazon Watch not only seeks to preserve the rainforest but it also serves to advance the rights and interests of indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin. Amazon Watch argues there is no protecting the Amazon without protecting the people who have called it home for centuries. 

“Amazon Watch promotes these indigenous-led solutions, such as green development and autonomous solar power, and expands capacity for indigenous leaders, especially women, to maintain their autonomy and sovereignty for the stewardship of their ancestral territories,” according to their mission statement. 

The project partners with these communities, along with environmental organizations to continue to fight for human rights, corporate accountability, and to reduce the harmful effects of climate change. 

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Amazon Frontlines

Much like Amazon Watch, Amazon Frontlines believes that the destruction of the Amazon is intrinsically linked to the destruction of indigenous communities. AF provides indigenous families with access to clean water and renewable energy, particularly the Kofan, Siona, Secoya, and Waorani who live downriver from Ecuador’s largest oil fields. However, a renewed interest in climate change and preventing the Amazon fires has allowed the organization to extend support to communities in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil. 

Donate now. 

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Brazil’s Remote Indigenous Communities Are At Risk Of Covid-19 After Healthcare Workers Test Positive

Things That Matter

Brazil’s Remote Indigenous Communities Are At Risk Of Covid-19 After Healthcare Workers Test Positive

Michael Dantas / Getty Images

The Coronavirus pandemic has been ravaging Brazilian cities for months. In fact, Brazil is number two in the world when it comes to both deaths and infections. Cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have struggled to carry on as much of the economy and the health care system has collapsed. Many have attributed these dire conditions as consequences of President Bolsonaro’s failed policies.

Now, Brazil’s remote Indigenous communities are facing a similar crisis – although one that could be even worse thanks to a severe lack of access to medical care. A team of medical workers sent to protect the country’s native populations has actually done the opposite – as more than a thousands workers test positive for the virus and have spread it among remote tribes.

For months, as the Coronavirus tore through Brazil, Indigenous tribes across the vast country have tried to protect themselves by strictly limiting access to their villages. Some have setup armed roadblocks and others have hunkered down in isolated camps.

But it appears that all of that may have been in vain. According to interviews and federal data obtained by The New York Times, the health workers charged by the federal government with protecting the country’s Indigenous populations may be responsible for spreading the disease in several Indigenous communities. More than 1,000 workers with the federal Indigenous health service, known as Sesai, have tested positive for Coronavirus as of early July.

As news of the infections spread across the villages, communities became alarmed. “Many people grabbed some clothes, a hammock and ran into the forest to hide,” said Thoda Kanamari, a leader of the union of Indigenous peoples in the vast territory, home to groups with little contact with the outside world. “But it was too late, everyone was already infected.”

Health workers say they have been plagued by insufficient testing and protective gear. Working without protective equipment or access to enough tests, these workers may have inadvertently endangered the very communities they were trying to help.

Now, news of the region’s first deaths linked to the virus have started to emerge and there’s fear it will get much worse.

Credit: Tarso Sarraf / Getty Images

The remote villages that dot the Amazon region have also started to report their very first deaths linked to Coronavirus. Despite raging out of control in Brazil’s cities, remote Indigenous villages have faired quite well. That’s all beginning to change.

The Amazon region, which Brazil’s government says is home to greatest concentration of isolated Indigenous groups in the world, is now seeing an outbreak of Covid-19 – one that many fear will be hard to stop. Experts fear the new coronavirus could spread rapidly among people with less resistance even to already common diseases and limited access to health care, potentially wiping out some smaller groups.

So far, more than 15,500 Indigenous Brazilians have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, including at least 10,889 living in protected territories, according to Instituto Socioambiental, an Indigenous rights organization. At least 523 have died.

The alarming news comes as Brazil continues to struggle in its response to the pandemic.

Credit: Michael Dantas / Getty Images

With nearly 2.1 million confirmed cases and more than 80,000 deaths, as of July 22, Brazil’s Covid-19 catastrophe is the world’s second worst, after the United States.

And now an illness that has ravaged major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is at risk of spreading unchecked in some of the county’s most vulnerable communities. Health care workers, Indigenous leaders and experts blame major shortcomings that have turned Brazil into a global epicenter of the pandemic.

Robson Santos da Silva, the Army colonel at the head of Sesai, defended the agency’s response during the pandemic, and brushed off criticism as “a lot of disinformation, a lot of politics.”

Complicating the outbreak in Brazil’s remote villages (and even in the large cities) is that tests have been in short supply and often unreliable, which means some doctors and nurses with asymptomatic or undiagnosed cases have traveled to vulnerable communities and worked in them for days.

Criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, within Indigenous territories and beyond, is mounting.

Brazil has largely struggled to contain the pandemic thanks to the policies of its populist right-wing president who has denounced the pandemic as nothing more than a “little flu.” Within a couple of months of the initial outbreak, Bolsonaro lost two health ministers – who were physicians – and replaced them with an Army general who has no experience in health care.

And the backlash to Bolsonaro’s failed policies seems to be growing. Early this month, a judge on Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the government to redouble efforts to shield Indigenous people from the virus by coming up with a comprehensive plan within 30 days and setting up a “situation room” staffed by officials and Indigenous representatives.

More recently, another Supreme Court judge generated consternation in the Bolsonaro administration by warning that the armed forces could be held responsible for a “genocide” over their handling of the pandemic in Indigenous communities.

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A 10-Year-Old Girl Sent Over 1,500 Art Kits To Kids Who Are Quarantining While In Foster Care

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A 10-Year-Old Girl Sent Over 1,500 Art Kits To Kids Who Are Quarantining While In Foster Care

@McDJohanne / Twitter

Talk about a girl with a big heart.

It turns out, kids have no qualms about leading the example when it comes to selflessness and kindness in today’s time of uncertainty. While so many of us bemoan our lack of access to entertainment, friends, and personal care, young generations are looking to offer support where they can. Just look at this 10-year-old from Danbury, Connecticut who understands the importance of empathy, compassion, and love during this time of quarantine.

She worked on a pretty big project to make sure kids her age felt all three.

Chelsea Phaire has spent her time in quarantine sending kits to more than 1,500 children in homeless shelters and foster care homes.

Phaire explained in a recent interview with CNN that she wanted to create the kits to give children something to look forward to and feel positive about. Phaire’s art kits include paper, coloring books, markers, crayons, and colored pencils. They are being sent to schools and shelters across the country as part of an organization founded by Phaire and her parents called Chelsea’s Charity.

“Since she was seven, she was begging me and her dad to start a charity,” Candace Phaire, Phaire’s mother, told CNN. “She was so persistent, every couple of months she would ask, ‘Are we starting Chelsea’s Charity yet?’ When she was turning 10, she asked us again, and we decided it was time to go for it.”

Set to enter the 6th grader this coming fall, Phaire and her parents launched Chelsea’s Charity on her birthday in August 2019.

At the time, Phaire asked party guests to donate art supplies to the charity instead of giving her birthday gifts. Soon after her birthday party, Phaire made the decision to use all of the donations she’d been given to send out her first 40 art kits. The kits were collected and sent to a homeless shelter in New York. It wasn’t long before Phaire and her parents set up an Amazon wishlist account for the art supplies.

Before the pandemic, Phaire and her mother delivered almost 1,000 kits to kids in foster care homes, homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and schools impacted by gun violence.

At the time, Phaire and her mother traveled around to give kids their kits in person. Since the start of the pandemic, however they’ve mailed the kits. “I feel good inside knowing how happy they are when they get their art kits,” Phaire explained. “I have definitely grown as a person because of this. Now my dream is to meet every kid in the entire world and give them art. Who knows, maybe if we do that and then our kids do that, we’ll have world peace!”

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