Southwest Tour Provides Personal Experience

The tour group at Nambé Lake

The tour group at Nambé Lake

First Nations Development Institute’s (First Nations) recent multi-day Southwest Tour gave some of the organization’s supporters the chance to personally witness the tremendous impact their investments are having on Native American communities, as told through the eyes of First Nations’ community partners. The tour participants saw first-hand the remarkable work Native community partners are doing at the grassroots level.

The Southwest TourExperience the Rich Cultures and Traditions of the Pueblo Peoples of New Mexico – was held June 11-16, 2017. It was an unparalleled opportunity to gain an insider’s perspective of First Nations’ guiding principle: We believe that when armed with the appropriate resources, Native peoples hold the capacity and ingenuity to ensure the sustainable, economic, spiritual and cultural well-being of their communities.

Red Turtle Dancers drummer

Red Turtle Dancers drummer David Trujillo

The Inn of the Governors on the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe provided a comfortable place to rest and relax at the end of each day. The 12 participants visited some of the 19 Pueblos and experienced their unique cultures, and were welcomed by the Red Turtle Dancers and a private tour of the Poeh Cultural Center in Pojoaque Pueblo, along with a dinner on the first day of the tour.

An early start to the next day began with a visit to the Nambé Pueblo Community Farm and Gardens, and later a hike up to Nambé Falls for a picnic lunch. The opportunity to take in the breathtaking views of northern New Mexico was just the start.

Hiking to Nambé Falls

Hiking to Nambé Falls

After lunch, the participants took a hay ride to the Pueblo of Pojoaque Bison Ranch where they saw the buffalo herd and learned about the Tewa Farms Crop Expansion Project. The day capped off with a delicious farm-to-table dinner prepared by Tewa Farms.

First Nations Board Chairman Benny Shendo, Jr. (Jemez Pueblo), who is a New Mexico state senator, visited with the participants at the Sandia Pueblo Feast Day on Tuesday, along with Tom Vigil (Jicarilla Apache/Jemez Pueblo), who is First Nations Chairman Emeritus, and Michael E. Roberts (Tlingit), First Nations President and CEO.

“We are very fortunate to be able to support the exciting and innovative work taking place in tribal communities,” said Roberts. “The tour gave us the opportunity to have our donors see for themselves the impact their support is having in the development and sustainability of programs and projects created by our community partners on their own terms. Also, to meet the people directly in their tribal communities gave us all a chance to connect with each other on a personal level.”

Pojoaque Bison

Pojoaque Bison

While at Sandia Pueblo, everyone got to experience the heat of the summer along with the traditional dances and the Pueblo feast-day foods of green and red chile stews, tamales, and feast-day cookies and pies. A visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque allowed for a break from the heat, with a tour of the IPCC museum exhibits. Some also enjoyed an afternoon bite at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe.

Pueblo de Cochiti Visitor Center

Pueblo de Cochiti Visitor Center

On Wednesday, participants visited the Pueblo de Cochiti and its new visitor center, the Cochiti Youth Experience, Farm Mentorship Program, and they toured the Community Farm. A hike up the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument gave everyone a chance to experience the Southwest cultural landscape before a lunch at the home of renowned Cochiti Pueblo potter Maria Romero, who is known for her storyteller pottery. A surprise drum-making demonstration by Dave Gordon “White Eagle” of Cochiti furthered the cultural experience before participants visited the Keres Children’s Learning Center (KCLC). The center’s staff and parents talked about how the young ones of the village are learning Keres, the traditional language, at KCLC and the positive impact it is having their families and community.

The exciting day wrapped up with presentations by 23 youth attending the Santa Fe Indian School’s Leadership Institute Summer Policy Academy. The event was held at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (MIAC) on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, and dinner after the presentations allowed everyone time talk and connect one to one.

At Nambé vineyard, with George Toya at far left

At Nambé vineyard, with George Toya at far left

On the final day of the tour, a visit to the Healing Foods Oasis and lunch with Tewa Women United in Española gave everyone one last visit to northern New Mexico before returning to Santa Fe. A private tour of the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) allowed participants to see and experience the vast collection of Indigenous art and hear from area artists about their work. The tour concluded with a farewell dinner at a Santa Fe culinary favorite, the Blue Corn Café.

Eileen Shendo (Jemez/Cochiti Pueblos) escorted everyone on the tour, and her connections to the places and communities was invaluable. Also, George Toya (Jemez Pueblo), a noted artist and longtime supporter of First Nations, provided on-the-ground support with everything from coolers to chairs, and making sure everyone had a great experience at Nambé.

First Nations Development Associate Jona Charette (Northern Cheyenne/Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) served as the tour organizer, and Eileen Egan (Hopi), First Nations Associate Director of Development and Senior Program Officer, was also on the tour.

Tour Testimonials

Any surprises you could not have foreseen without having gone on the tour and experienced it in person?

“There is no substitute for being on the ground. It is easy to limit one’s expectations and to be cynical about results and impact. My “surprise” is that the quality of the people and programs is so high, the realized and potential impact so great, and the integration of program staff and beneficiaries into a strong team all seeking to achieve the best results possible.” – Frances Reid, England

What part of the tour left the most lasting memory?

“What struck me the most was the sense of empowerment by the people with whom we met and their determination to take ownership over their lives and the lives of their children. Every community should be blessed with people with such vision and determination. Also, the desire to preserve past traditions while moving forward to a better future was really inspiring to me. It’s not easy to accomplish this dual goal, but the groups we met with seem to be doing it.” – Mark Habeeb, Virginia

How did the tour expand your awareness of First Nations Development Institute’s work and the communities it serves?

“It is clear that First Nations is considered a vital partner by communities in achieving critical social and economic objectives. The organization does a great job – listening, partnering and supporting local projects with financial and technical assistance, which is worth its weight in gold. The staff is first-rate.” – Wendy Mills, Virginia

Ways You Can Support First Nations Development Institute

See the Ways to Give page on the First Nations website, or you can contact Jona Charette, First Nations Development Associate, at jcharette@firstnations.org or by calling us at (303) 774-7836. Also, read additional testimonials about our work.

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

Cocopah Tribe Engages & Empowers Boys & Young Men

Young Cocopah student during CPR training. Photo courtesy of Cocopah Indian Tribe

For more than a decade, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has had a positive and lasting impact on Native youth. In 2002, First Nations launched the Native Youth and Culture Fund (NYCF) to enhance culture and language awareness, and promote youth empowerment, leadership and community building.

Recently, First Nations unveiled a new grant initiative that reflects our growing commitment to Native youth and youth development: Advancing Positive Paths for Native American Boys and Young Men (Positive Paths). Positive Paths, created in partnership with NEO Philanthropy and and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, seeks to reduce social and economic disparities for Native American males.

Studies suggest that Native American males are more likely to be absent from school, suspended, expelled or repeat a grade. However, a growing body of research indicates that suspensions and expulsions are not always the most effective means of reaching and disciplining these students.

Often, these punitive measures deprive students of the opportunity to develop the skills and strategies they need to succeed. Positive Paths supports innovative programs that emphasize alternative approaches to punitive measures that have a negative impact on academic achievement and graduation rates.

For years, the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona relied upon the public school system for enforcing truancy laws for its students. This approach yielded little to no results, especially among male students. Educators decided to take a new approach that emphasized engaging and empowering Native American boys and men.

In 2014, First Nations awarded the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona $50,000 through the Positive Path grant initiative to restructure its truancy program. The tribe’s new program has reduced truancy rates among Native American males by nearly 75 percent. As a result, student grades and graduation rates have increased significantly, as much as 25 to 50 percent.

The Credit Recovery and Career Exploration (CRACE) program links at-risk male youth to the people and resources they need to recover academic credits, to pursue future career opportunities and develop leadership skills. Students enroll in online classes and work with tutors to successfully complete their courses and graduate.

Students participate in mock trial. Photo courtesy of Cocopah Indian Tribe

Additionally, the program introduces student to careers that have the potential to strengthen and empower their tribal community. Since starting the CRACE program, participating Cocopah students have undergone CPR training, participated in mock trial exercises, and explored career opportunities in medicine and law enforcement.

Students participate in regular meetings with staff and instructors to provide feedback and discuss future plans. During the first meeting, education department staff members noted that many students seemed unsure about their future plans and goals. Over the past year, many students have narrowed down their focus, applying to college or preparing to enter the workforce.

Additionally, staff members have noted that this program helps instill students with a sense of pride in themselves and their community. One education department staff noted, “This program has helped make our students, their families and the community stronger. The program has already shown we can make a real positive difference in our students’ lives. This year we have had a dozen participating students make a 180-degree turnaround in regard to their grades, school attendance and personal attitudes.”

CRACE has received support from the tribe and the tribal community. According to the education department, tribal council members often act as mentors to at-risk youth. They also note that the tribe has recently passed a resolution that makes it mandatory for every tribal member to receive a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for benefits. This resolution sends a strong message to students: education is the key to strengthening and empowering their communities.

The Cocopah Tribe of Arizona’s CRACE program demonstrates the success of alternative techniques in inspiring students to achieve their education and take personal responsibility for their journey. CRACE brochures send the message loud and clear to students who utilize the service: “Your dreams are within reach. You just have to graduate high school to realize them.”

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Protecting Native Money: How to Avoid Financial Fraud

Financial fraud is far too common in Native American communities, and is a growing problem with the recent increase in tribal lawsuit settlements with the federal government. First Nations Development Institute has partnered with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to produce a pamphlet that can help people protect themselves from common financial fraud techniques.

Over the past five years more than $1 billion in tribal trust settlements have been reached, including the Keepseagle and Cobell class-action legal settlements. Many of these settlements have resulted in payments to individual tribal members, which makes them targets for fraudsters who follow a simple strategy: They go where the money is. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation is collaborating with First Nations to help reach the recipients of these trust fund settlements, as well as other tribal members who may be targeted for their wealth.

The pamphlet, titled “Fighting Fraud 101: Smart Tips for Investors,” is designed to appeal to individuals, members of tribal investment committees, and retirees. It lists some common fraud tactics, such as the “Social Consensus” tactic that lead you to believe that your savvy friends and neighbors may have already invested in a product. With the “Source Credibility” tactic, a fraudster may falsely suggest they have worked with other tribal investment committees or helped people manage lump sum payouts from tribal lawsuits to try to gain trust. The pamphlet also teaches several techniques to avoid being taken advantage of and how to report suspicious behavior.

“We are honored to be able to collaborate with several national partners, including the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, to provide financial education for tribal members,” said First Nations President Michael Roberts.

First Nations representatives Sarah Dewees and Shawn Spruce spoke at an October 29, 2014, Federal Trade Commission event titled “Fraud Affects All Communities.” The purpose of this meeting was to highlight the range of consumer, financial and investor fraud techniques that affect diverse communities.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that financial fraud is a big problem on many Indian reservations,” said Sarah Dewees, senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs. “I am happy we have been able to continue our work with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the Office of the Special Trustee to help community members protect themselves against financial fraud.”

A copy of the pamphlet can be viewed in First Nations’ online Knowledge Center at http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/predatory-lending/research.  To order printed copies, you can email info@firstnations.org.

By Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs

Collaboration & Partnerships Expand in Urban Indian Program

Jay Grimm, executive director of the Denver Indian Center, talks about the project

The Denver Indian Center, Inc. and the Denver Indian Family Resource Center are partners in the “Building Strong American Indian/Alaska Native Communities” effort, which is a three-year project that is funded by The Kresge Foundation.

As grant recipients in First Nations’ 2013-2014 Urban Indian Organization program, their project strategy is to improve and expand collaborative opportunities for the two organizations, as well as other partner organizations in metropolitan Denver.  They plan to increase participation in new and existing programs, build resources, explore new ways of working together, and enrich communication that creates the most impact.  Proposed activities involve resource development, case management, outreach, marketing, information exchange, database management, and developing best practices.

The National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC) and First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) are also strategic partners in this project.  The main objective of their partnership is the amplification of services to the grantees to aid in sustainability and growth.  It is the right business match.  We are committed to the design and co-management of the program with open access to information, networks, resources and skills.  Our tasks are to deliver technical assistance and training along with assessments, site visits, media development, and information-sharing forums.

Partnerships and collaboration are motivating philosophies at First Nations.  Collaboration builds the Native American nonprofit sector.  It is a process that prompts individuals with diverse interests to share their knowledge and resources to improve outcomes, innovate and enhance decisions.  When we share our expertise we become deeply involved in the design and delivery of outreach, programs, and services.  As partners we solve problems, meet objectives, build support, and utilize our strengths more effectively for greater success.

Under the Kresge project, First Nations and NUIFC also selected two other organizations to receive grants. They are the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland, Oregon, and the Little Earth of United Tribes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each of the three projects is receiving a $40,000 grant.

First Nations’ and NUIFC’s overall effort aims to help organizations that work with some of the estimated 78 percent ofAmerican Indians and Alaska Natives who live off reservations or away from tribal villages, and who reflect some of the most disproportionately low social and economic standards in the urban areas in which they reside. Urban Indian organizations are an important support to Native families and individuals, providing cultural linkages as well as a hub for accessing essential services.

To learn more about these organizations and the project, please see the First Nations/NUIFC press release at this link: http://www.firstnations.org/node/645.

By Montoya A. Whiteman, First Nations Senior Program Officer