November is Native American Heritage Month, a time for our nation to reflect upon the positive effect native peoples have had on the cultural development and growth of our country, as well as the struggles and challenges they continue to face.
In August, the White House hosted an event for its Generation Indigenous initiative. The event called upon the philanthropic community to take action to elevate key issues and address the pressing needs of Native youth with culturally comprehensive approaches to ensure all Native youth reach their full potential. The day included a series of inspirational speakers filled with hope and aspirations for the future of our Native American population.
It is unfortunate that during the very month that we celebrate our Native American heritage, we also confront the protests taking place at the Sacred Stone camp at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The DAPL has become the epicenter of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe due to its proposed routing. Native Americans in Philanthropy recently held its first Generation Indigenous regional gathering and a funder tour on the Standing Rock reservation. A recap of this convening is available on the Native Americans in Philanthropy website. According to Native Americans in Philanthropy, the DAPL would cross sacred sites and run under the Missouri River, which is an important water source for the Standing Rock Sioux and many other tribes downstream.
Earlier this month, President Obama mentioned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering rerouting the pipeline. According to the President, the administration is attempting to “determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that is properly attentive to the traditions of the First Americans.”
The demonstration of the DAPL is one of the largest Native-led protests in years and while many have turned their attention to this protest, few of us have given our support to the Native American community and the work underway by its leaders. In its Final State of the Work publication, the D5 Coalition reported that 0.4 percent of the grants made in 2013 were directed to the Native American community.
The philanthropic sector needs to do more to raise awareness to and support for our Native American community. During the month of November, we will work with Native Americans in Philanthropy to highlight some of the specific work being funded to aid this community. We will also explore examples of non-traditional funders who have examined their giving strategies through a Native American lens to identify intersections in area of work as well as additional opportunities for connections.
We hope that these connections contribute to a more inclusive sector, rich in the diversity that reflects the many communities which our sector serves.