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Partnership with Native Americans: Nonprofit Spotlight

In celebration of National American Indian Heritage Month in November, we’re shining a light on Partnership with Native Americans, one of the largest Native-led and Native-serving nonprofit charities in the U.S. that helps Native Americans to improve their quality of life.

Their mission: Serving immediate needs. Supporting long-term solutions.

Learn more about how Partnership with Native Americans serves and advocates for tribal communities facing challenges that most Americans are unaware of, such as water shortages, food insecurity, and limited access to health care, education, jobs, and essential utilities.

What is Partnership with Native Americans?

Native americans kids

Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA) is one of the largest Native-led and Native-serving nonprofit charities in the U.S. to work in hundreds of reservation communities year-round. PWNA is committed to providing short-term relief and long-term solutions for Native Americans living on remote, underserved, and impoverished reservations.

Improving the lives of 250,000 Native Americans annually, PWNA concentrates on six areas of service: food and water, education, health, holiday support, animal welfare, and emergency services (including disaster relief and disaster planning).

Partnership with Native Americans History

History of PWNA

Established in 1990, Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA) originally started in Virginia, providing reservation aid to Native individuals in the North Plains. One year later, its programming operations relocated to South Dakota and expanded to include community-based partnerships (called Program Partners) to increase its reach and impact more lives. By 1996, the nonprofit opened a second program office in Arizona to provide Southwest reservation aid.

With two centrally located program offices, the nonprofit could serve remote reservations most organizations could not reach. In 1997, PWNA established educational support services to help Native students overcome low American Indian education funding and other obstacles. In the coming years, other programs followed, including a reservation animal rescue program, the 4 Directions Development Program (4D), and the Train-the-Trainer (T3) Nutrition program.

In 2015, operating as Partnership with Native Americans, the nonprofit raised the organization’s profile, awareness, and work delivering humanitarian services to Native Americans living on reservations. At the time, PWNA’s effective programming and partnerships provided up to $30 million annually in aid and assistance, involving hundreds of reservation programs to serve a quarter of a million Native Americans.

In 2020, PWNA celebrated 30 years of partnerships with Native Americans and the shared impact of working with high-need Tribal communities across the U.S. year-round.

Today, PWNA’s service area concentrates on nine priority states in the Northern Plains (South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, and Washington) and in the Southwest (California, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona), plus Native scholars nationwide.

How Partnership with Native Americans Gives Back

Partnership with Native Americans provides immediate relief, from essential supplies to seasonal services for Northern Plains and Southwest reservations, plus education, food, nutrition training, animal welfare programs, and more. The nonprofit also invests significantly in developing long-term solutions for sustainable change in Native American communities.

Just a few of PWNA’s major programs include:

1. Education Services

Children in PWNA

PWNA’s education services increase resources for Native education, support retention of Native students from pre-K through college, and provide opportunities for emerging leaders to develop professionally. On top of awarding $200,225 in undergraduate and graduate scholarships to eligible Native students in 2020, PWNA education programs have most recently resulted in:

  • Literacy supplies for nearly 6,500 children to read and increase parent-child quality time
  • About 6,300 pairs of TOMS shoes to Native students for school enhancement
  • Native scholars (57) receiving more than $10,000 in grants to tribal colleges and universities

In 2021, an annual backpack drive distributed back-to-school supplies to nearly 15,000 K-12 Native students, including more than 6,000 students across 28 schools in Arizona.

2. Food Distribution

Deliveries of food and water to remote communities

Partnership with Native Americans makes essential deliveries of food and water to remote communities, plus provides services to ease food insecurity by increasing local food supply for Native Elders, children, and families.

In 2020, PWNA helped over 43,000 people fight food insecurity by distributing:

  • Food pantry boxes to over 15,000 people
  • Emergency-, breakfast-, and bulk food to roughly 3,767 people
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meals to over 12,000 people, and
  • Staple foods to soup kitchens and senior centers to make hot meals for Elders.

PWNA also invested $84,500 in community garden projects with the support of the Latter-Day Saints Church of Jesus Christ (LDS Charities) and the Melba Bayers Meyer Trust.

3. Emergency Response

disaster emergency services

PWNA emergency services provide disaster relief, seasonal support, and critical supplies for Native communities, shelters, and Elders. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tribal communities deemed PWNA an essential service. The nonprofit was instrumental in helping remote Native people (especially Elders) receive adequate healthcare, healthy food, safe drinking water, school supplies, and other basic needs, like toilet paper and toothpaste.

In 2020, PWNA emergency services collectively assisted nearly 74,000 people.

The nonprofit delivered supplies to shelters for the aged, homeless, disabled, and abused. PWNA also provided Elders with winter fuel and distributed winter and summer emergency kits (batteries, candles, blankets, water, and more). In addition, PWNA distributed more than 1 million pounds of staple foods, bottled water, hygiene kits, diapers, blankets, and PPE to those impacted by the pandemic and following stay-at-home orders across 25 reservations.

Impact and Future Plans for Partnership with Native Americans

PWNA Network

PWNA’s network includes hundreds of reservation programs (called Program Partners) that work together to bring much-needed relief to remote reservation communities in the U.S. These partners reach 250,000 Native Americans on reservations nationwide each year.

PWNA has a warehouse and distribution system that transports roughly 5 million pounds of materials to its reservation partners each year to ensure goods are delivered directly to the people who need them. In 2020 alone, PWNA’s delivery drivers traveled more than 126,000 miles in its fleet of trucks to distribute critical supplies and services to reservations.

According to its 2020 Program Impact Report and 2020 Annual Report, other ways PWNA has made an impact:

  • Animal Welfare & Community Health: $88,000 in grants to counter animal overpopulation and related community health risk on eight reservations by enabling spay and neuter services
  • Public Education: Reaching a potential audience of more than 1 billion people through 130 news articles, TV and radio spots, press releases, social media interaction, videos, and other online content to educate the public about current challenges on reservations
  • COVID-19 Response: Distributing 66,180 face masks and 4,489 pounds of hand sanitizer

Looking ahead in 2021 and beyond, PWNA is expanding its nutrition-, emergency-, education-, and capacity building services and plans to:

  • Supply 500 Tribal partners with food, water, and other essentials to aid 100,000 citizens
  • Train 50 ancestral food practitioners on healthy meal prep and food preservation
  • Develop 20 emerging leaders who can impact the quality of life in their Tribal communities
  • Increase access to fresh foods by funding four community-led garden projects
  • Award 100 or more scholarships to Native college students

How to Support Partnership with Native Americans

A few ways you can show support:

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