Preserving Native American Culture: 5 Organizations Making a Difference

Preserving Native American Culture:  5 Organizations Making a Difference

Native American culture is where traditions, languages, and stories aren't just things of the past but living traditions that still shape today and inspire tomorrow. In a world where these cultures often face the risk of disappearing due to modern changes, some are dedicated to protecting the rich heritage of Native American communities.

Have you ever wondered which organizations work to preserve various cultures across the continent and how exactly they do this? Let’s explore five passionate and determined organizations that truly make a difference.

Wisdom of the Elders

Wisdom of the Elders, Inc. is more than just a website; it's a lifeline to the past and a bridge to the future for Native American communities. This non-profit group's goal is to make sure that the ancient cultural and environmental wisdom shared by Native American elders doesn't fade away as time goes on.

Wisdom of Elder’s mission: Wisdom records, preserves, and shares oral history, cultural arts, language concepts, and traditional ecological knowledge of exemplary Native American elders, storytellers, and scientists in collaboration with diverse institutions, agencies, and organizations. 

Wisdom of Elder’s vision: Native American cultural sustainability, multimedia education, and cultural reconciliation.

Check out some of the projects they lead:

  • Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge: These classes are geared toward students taking the internship classes for the paid internship opportunities. Lessons include First Foods, Medicinal Plants, Ecological Restoration, and Conservation. 
  • Wisdom Workforce Development LLC: This group ensures Native lands remain respected and sustainable. Their services include habitat installation, wildlife and plant monitoring, seed collection and processing, trail maintenance, and more. 
  • Turtle Island Storytelling Network: Wisdom of Elders created this network to offer chances for tribal elders, oral historians, storytellers, and song-bearers from states in the Northwest and Northern Plains to engage in speaking and consulting roles.

In an ever-changing world, Wisdom of the Elders reminds us of the importance of cultural preservation and our elders' invaluable insights.

Indigenous Leadership Institute

The Indigenous Language Institute (ILI), originally named the Institute for the Preservation of the Original Languages of the Americas (IPOLA), was established by Joanna Hess in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to protect and promote indigenous languages. 

Over time, ILI transformed into a national center dedicated to assisting tribes and individuals engaged in revitalizing Indigenous languages throughout the Americas. In the late 1990s, ILI brought together language revitalization experts from various tribes to recognize the need for a national center. They created guidelines and a wish list of services this center would provide to support these crucial efforts. ILI has continued to build on this vision ever since.

The ILI provides services anyone can access, such as:

  • Training in communities
  • Consultation
  • Technology workshops
  • Annual symposium

They also offer language training workshops and provide valuable resources to those interested in diving deeper into their culture’s language. 

For example, ILI’s partnership with Languagegeek “provides free language software for Native languages across North America. All keyboard layouts are custom-programmed to suit the specific needs of each language, mapping the unique characters and characteristics of each writing system to ergonomically designed layouts.

This non-profit organization is on a mission to revive and safeguard Indigenous languages, empower Native leaders, and promote the cultural heritage of Native American communities.

Native American Rights Fund

The Impact of the Native American Rights Fund

At times, Native individuals or groups need legal representation and struggle to find someone truly on their side. Whether ancestral lands are at stake or natural resources are in danger, Native American Rights Fund (NARF) defends Native American rights. 

According to their site,

“NARF has successfully asserted and defended the most important rights of Indians and tribes in hundreds of major cases, and has achieved significant results in such critical areas as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, voting rights, and Indian education.”

Here's what they do in a nutshell: 

  • Legal Advocacy: NARF provides legal support to Native American communities.
  • Tribal Sovereignty: They help tribes maintain their self-governing powers.
  • Land and Resource Rights: NARF assists tribes in preserving their ancestral lands and natural resources.
  • Cultural Legacy: By protecting tribal sovereignty and rights, they ensure that Native American cultures can thrive, passing down traditions, languages, and practices through the generations.

NARF is significant because they are at the forefront of the battle to preserve Native American culture and heritage. They are the legal defenders of Indigenous rights, working to protect everything from sacred sites to the cultural well-being of Native American communities.

Follow their YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on what NARF is getting involved with.

Association on American Indian Affairs

100-Year Anniversary

The Association on American Indian Affairs has been around for over a century and is an organization anyone can get involved with.  

This organization was created to shift federal policies away from trying to make Native Americans give up their culture and self-reliance. Instead, they all support Native Nations' independence, self-determination, and self-sufficiency. For a century, they've been speaking up on major issues nationally and working closely with Native Nations to put programs that truly make a difference in people's lives. Their ultimate goal is to ensure Native cultures thrive and are respected, making a lasting impact for generations to come.

Some of their important work includes focusing on:

  • Cultural sovereignty;
  • The next generation;
  • And becoming an ally

Their site explains various ways to take action and help preserve Native cultures. 

Join the Association on American Indian Affairs in protecting Native American culture, sovereignty, and rights for a stronger future.

Cultural Survival

Our Cultures Our Rights

The organization Cultural Survival advocates not only for Native Americans but all Indigenous communities. Their site provides an intriguing fact by The International Labour Organization:

There are approximately 476.6 million Indigenous people in the world, belonging to 5,000 different groups in 90 countries worldwide. Indigenous people live in every region of the world, but about 70 percent live in Asia and the Pacific, followed by 16.3 percent in Africa, 11.5 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1.6 percent in Northern America, and 0.1 percent in Europe and Central Asia.

What do they do with this information?

Through grantmaking, leadership, fellowship, training, and communication, the staff at Cultural Survival stands by Indigenous Peoples to ensure they can fight for their rights. These rights include being treated as equals, having the freedom to maintain their cultures and languages, and having access to the same opportunities as everyone else. It also means controlling their lands and resources in a way that doesn't harm the environment. In essence, Cultural Survival empowers Indigenous Peoples to shape their future according to their wishes.

Learn more and stay educated by checking out the Cultural Survival Quarterly.

These are five special groups that work hard to keep Native American culture strong. These groups help save ancient languages, support Native communities to make choices for their future while keeping their traditions alive, protect their rights and special places, help with education, and take care of important cultural treasures. Together, they light a path that connects the past and the future so Native American culture can stay strong for a long time.

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Last Updated on November 15, 2023 by Paul G

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