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In Autumn, we celebrate two national holidays—Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Thanksgiving—that remind us of the people who were here long before settlers came. But this shift in even just acknowledging Native peoples is relatively new. Afterall, Columbus Day was only recently replaced by Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the story of Thanksgiving is still largely whitewashed, conveniently glossing over the real story of genocide and racism.

So, if you have Indigenous Peoples’ Day off and Thanksgiving is a beloved family holiday for you, why not make these days even more meaningful by acknowledging the people who lived on this land well before settlers came? The cultures and histories of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas is vast and extraordinarily diverse but have been decimated, overlooked and ignored for centuries by colonizers. So, before you plan what you’re doing on your day off or look up recipes for that perfect turkey, why not give back to the people who were here first.

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NARF

1. Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

The three main tenants of this non-profit involve using legal advocacy to help create a world where “1. Native Americans rights, resource and lifeways are intact and protected. 2. Promises made to Native peoples are upheld. 3. Tribes are able to exercise their sovereign right to manage their own affairs.” Why is this important? The history of broken treaties between the U.S. government and sovereign tribes, in addition to the countless human rights violations since colonizers showed up on America’s shores, have compounding repercussions today, like voter suppression. According to NARF, “Too many Native Americans lose their vote due to irregular addressing and insufficient mail delivery, voter ID laws, language barriers, and voter discrimination. This election year, it is essential that they can exercise their most basic civil right.”

Homework: Listen to Code Switch’s “A Treacherous Choice and Treaty Right” to learn how an 1835 treaty between the Cherokee nation and U.S. government led to the Trail of Tears genocide.

Donate to NARF's Anti-Voter Suppression Fund

Donate to NARF

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NWI

2. Native Wellness Institute

A non-profit organization founded in 2000, NWI’s mission is to “promote the well-being of Native people through programs and trainings that embrace the teachings and traditions of our ancestors.” “Wellness” might have the resonance of a 21st-century buzzword, but for the Native community, access to ancestral teachings to help physical, spiritual, emotional and mental well-being is a powerful tool for healing generations of trauma.

Homework: Read NWI’s Instagram post for National Suicide Prevention Month

Donate

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Warrior Women Project

3. Warrior Women Project

The Peabody-nominated documentary feature Warrior Women tells the story of the activist Madonna Thunder Hawk, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), which fights for Native liberation and rights, including alternatives to government-run education and environmental devastation (see: the Dakota Access Pipeline). The film is part of a larger initiative, the Warrior Women Project, which provides a forum for Indigenous activists to tell their stories for the benefit of future generations. Some of the organization’s project, beside the film, include The Warrior Women Oral History Project, The Warrior Women Decolonization Project and The Water Protectors Community.

Homework: Watch the Warrior Women trailer.

Donate

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Sitting Bull College

4. Sitting Bull College

A Tribal college in the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota (and two sites in South Dakota), SBC aims to build intellectual capital, “guided by Lakota/Dakota culture, values, and language.” With on-campus housing, small class sizes and one-on-one time with teachers and tutors, SBC offers masters’, bachelor’s, associate’s and certificate programs. The significance of Tribal-led education can’t be understated in the history of colonization. From the late 19th-century through the mid-20th-century, both the U.S. and Canada ripped Native and Indigenous children from their homes to be taken to government-led boarding schools where they were stripped of their heritage to be assimilated to Euro-centric culture leading to generations eradicated of their history and culture.

Homework: Read They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School

Donate

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First Nations Development Institute

5. First Nations COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

This emergency response fund is “designed to distribute funds efficiently and swiftly to Native nonprofit organizations and tribal programs that need it most. Initially, funds are being prioritized in high-concentration areas—California, New Mexico, the Pacific Northwest, New York, Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe and COVID-19 hotspots.” This effort is crucial right now as Native communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, since, according to First Nations Development Institute: Native people are a seriously at-risk population, 13 percent of Native American home lack safe drinking water, 16 percent of homes in tribal areas are overcrowded and multigenerational, making social distancing impossible and food shortages and food deserts make healthy, fresh food less accessible

Homework: Explore the First Nations Development Institute’s Knowledge Center

Donate

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Redhawk Native American Art Council

6. The Redhawk Native American Art Council

This non-profit was founded and maintained by Native American artists and educators dedicated to educating the general public about Native American heritage through song, dance, theater, fine art and other cultural forms of expression. Though workshops, festivals and other events, the Art Council also helps support artist within the First Nations community. Though their live events have been cancelled due to the pandemic, they are now offering several online programs, from Native American Dancing & Pow Wow History to Cultural Sensitive Training.

Homework: Watch "How To Powwow Dance Fancy Shawl"

Donate

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