How can you help Native Americans? Here are some real, practical and meaningful ways that you can give support to indigenous people in your community and around the country.
Donate Money to Programs That Support Native Communities
Donating money to the right charities and programs can be the best way to help Native communities. If you aren’t sure who to donate to, you can use Charity Navigator to learn more about the different options. It is a website that measures charities based on their accountability, transparency and other factors. This can help you to choose between the many charities in the US that help out Native communities so that you can ensure that your money is going to a good cause.
Some of the highest ranked Native American charities on Charity Navigator include the Native American Heritage Association, the First Nations Development Institute, the Native American Rights Fund and the Adopt-a-Native-Elder Program.
Visit or Volunteer on a Reservation
If you have never visited a native reservation, it is difficult to understand the actual reality of what the lives of modern native people are like. Take the time to visit a reservation and volunteer there – there are many ways that you can contribute such as teaching, doing medical work or doing manual labor.
There are many volunteer opportunities, such as in the Blackfeet Nation or the Navajo Nation. Connect with a volunteer program and if you have the skills to contribute you can arrange something. Of course, beware of being guilty of voluntourism – only take part if there is something of value that you can contribute that will make a difference. If not, it may be better to make a donation instead.
Talk about Native American Issues
One of the most important things you can do is to talk about Native American life and issues, rather than avoiding the topic. Simply sharing stories and talking about native issues will help to raise awareness. Did you know that approximately 90,000 American Indian families are under-housed or homeless? Or that only 13% of American Indians have a college degree? Many people don’t know this, which is why awareness needs to be spread.
Whether it is by sharing articles and stories on social media, bringing up topics with your friends or participating in discussions both offline and online – being part of the conversation is important.
Buy Native Products
Whenever you purchase an artwork, a handmade piece of clothing or another product created by an indigenous person, you are not only supporting the native economy but also preserving the culture. Plus, the beautifully handcrafted products are truly high quality and will be something special that you will cherish for many years.
However, this is easier said than done because a lot of non-Native businesses falsely suggest that their products are Native-made so that they can sell more. This is, in fact, illegal. If you see a product that is promoted as Native when it isn’t (such as a Navajo purse or Apache earrings for example) then you should report them to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Their dishonesty is taking business away from actual Native American artists.
To find out where to buy native products, you can check out this list by Beyond Buckskin. There are many great native artists on this list that sell their beadwork, jewelry, fashion and much more. You can know for sure that all of the artists and brands on this list are Native American.
Learn About American History Relating to Native Americans
It is important to acknowledge the history of the native people who lived on this land before the European settlers arrived. Don’t presume that you know the answers – the version of history you were taught in school may have been European-focused and may not have included a lot of details about Native culture and history.
Take your time to read and educate yourself about the local tribes in your area and what their civilization was like before the Europeans arrived. Visit museums such as the National Museum of the American Indian to view the displays and read more about the past of America’s native communities. The more you discover and read, the more you will gain a deeper understanding of the complex history of Native American people.
These are just a few of the ways that you can offer support and empowerment to Native Americans – so how will you take action?