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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At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

Things That Matter

At 78-Years-Old, This Oaxacan Woman Learned To Read And Write And Even Authored An Award-Winning New Book

Jorge Fernandez / Getty Images

It’s never too late to follow your dreams. It may sound cliche but one Indigenous woman from the Mexican state of Oaxaca is showing just how true that sentiment really is.

Although growing up knowing how to speak her native language of Náhuatl, she was never able to read or write it – let alone Spanish. Now after years of studying and being too embarrassed to attend classes, this 78-year-old woman can say that she achieved her dream and is now an award-winning author.

Despite being illiterate for years, Justina Rojas has finally finished primary school.

Justina Rojas Flores, a resident of the Oaxacan community of San Miguel Espejo, learned to read and write at 76. She remembers that at first she was embarrassed to attend her classes, but with the support of her teachers sh was motivated to learn the alphabet and words and communication.

In fact, she became so motivated that she’s recently authored a handmade book that earned her a national award. She recently told El Sol de Puebla, that “I was already cracking under pressure because I was cheating a lot, but the teachers told me ‘yes you can, Justina’, so I continued taking classes and it was thanks to them that I learned. After two years, I wrote La Mazorca, which is dedicated to the community of San Miguel Espejo.”

In her Indigenous language of Náhuatl, Rojas shared the history of La Mazorca, which emphasizes the value of appreciating all things – especially that which the land gives us.

“I beg you, if you see me lying on the ground, pick me up, don’t step on me. Just as you take care of me, I will take care of you,” is part of the story in the book that was awarded in 2019 by the State Institute for Adult Education (IEEA), an achievement with which Rojas feels accomplished, and with which motivates other people to enter the competition.

Rojas is proving that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Now, at 78-years-old, Rojas is able to celebrate her achievements. Though she admits that many in her community continue to doubt her real motivation. It’s common to hear people ask ‘Why do I learn if I’m old?’, ‘What use is it going to do?’, and ‘I’m on my way out so it doesn’t matter.’

But many of the people who ask these questions are the same people who don’t have the same opportunities, since they can’t read or write. According to figures from the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) in Rojas’ community, there are around 2,267 inhabitants, and the majority are living in poverty, a factor that significantly influences educational access. Many, from a very young age, leave school to work to support their families and take jobs working in the fields or construction.

Finally, Rojas wants everyone to know that they should not limit themselves and to embrace knowledge regardless of age. “If you don’t know how to read and write, or if you know someone like that, I invite you to go where they teach, so that those who know more can share their knowledge with us.”

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A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

Things That Matter

A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

Screenshot via hou5edm/Instagram

Recently, a video went viral of a New Mexico park ranger tasing a Native American man that sparked a conversation about the right non-Indigenous government authorities have to exert over Indigenous Americans.

Last Sunday, a Native American man named Darrell House shared a video of himself screaming in agony and calling for help as a park ranger tased him.

In the four-minute long clip posted to Instagram, House screams for help and writhes in agony on the ground as the unnamed park ranger continuously uses his taser on him. The woman recording the altercation repeatedly yells “What are you doing?” at the ranger while the ranger continues to demand that House show him his ID.

House, who grew up on a reservation and is of Navajo and Oneida descent, wrote a lengthy caption describing in detail what had transpired.

House wrote: “Today 12/27/2020, I was tased for being off trail at the Petroglyphs. I come here to pray and speak to my Pueblo Ancestor relatives. Even though I’m Navajo and Oneida, I honor this land.”

“Here, you will see a white man abuse his power. Both men pulled tasers on me after the first 1 couldn’t keep me down. This could have been a civil interaction. The law doesn’t work for the Indigenous. The government doesn’t give a shit about us. This was uncalled for. You see I’m clearly on the trail. I explained my reason for being off trail (which I shouldn’t have to. If anyone has the right to be off trail and wander this land, it’s the NATIVE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY!”

“I didn’t feel I needed to identify myself for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
I’m traumatized. My left leg is numb and still bleeding. [My dog] Geronimo is shaking and hasn’t stopped. I’m shaking.”

Darrell House, who is also a military veteran, added: “I’m good people, the Marines I served with would agree. The many people I’ve crossed paths with–you know me.”

In response to the public outcry, the National Park Service said they were “investigating” the incident.

The National Park Service says that House was cited for walking off-trail at Petroglyph National Monument. House does not deny the claim, but says that walking where he wants to on sacred indigenous grounds is an ancestral right.

“Nature is what we’ve been worshipping … and protecting it has always been our job,” he told NBC News. “I am Native, you know. I have rights to this land. I have rights off the trail.”

House also doesn’t deny refusing to identify himself to the park ranger. “I didn’t see a reason to give my identification,” he said. “I don’t need to tell people why I’m coming there to pray and give things in honor to the land. I don’t need permission or consent.”

The local Albuquerque government has since become involved, releasing a statement that said the incident had been “elevated to the Federal investigation level”.

City Councilor Cynthia Borrego wrote that the incident was “troubling” and “uncomfortable” to watch and that her officer “recognizes and supports the investigation into any indigenous rights that may have been violated as a result of the actions taken in this unfortunate incident.”

The statement concluded by reiterating that Native Americans have the right “to practice their cultural beliefs as protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

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