Thursday, April 06, 2006

How can I help native americans?

The two poorest reservations in the US are the PineRidge Reservation and the Rosebud Reservation, both Sioux reservations in South Dakota. The unemployment in those areas runs about 80% unemployed because there are few jobs to be had, and the average yearly income per family (which can consist of 10 or more people in the extended family) is less than $4,000/yr. On average, one person in three is homeless in those areas, and of those who have houses, one in six lives in substandard housing.

You might check out Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation and American Indian Relief Council for some ideas on how you can help. Those are reputable organizations who will see that donations get to the people who need them.

Pine Ridge Reservation is the poorest reservation in the United States, (with Rosebud Reservation a close second). Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation is made up of individuals like you who are interested in supporting the many social service organizations located on Pine Ridge Reservation. The reservation is large, and its needs immense, so it would be impossible to help individuals or individual families and do so equitably. For this reason, they send your donations only to those organized entities on the reservation that in turn serve many others. On this web site, you'll discover numerous ways to help and specific instructions on how to send your donations directly to each organization on the reservation you wish to support.

The American Indian Relief Council (AIRC) provides a variety of program services to hundreds of Native American communities on reservations in nine Northern Plains States. Due to the high rates of poverty and unemployment on these reservations, many Native Americans struggle to provide the necessities of life for their families. AIRC has developed a unique approach in helping to ease some of this hardship. The Programs link in the left column describes the programs they support with your donations.

Alternatively, I'd suggest contacting a local church or community center in the area you want to give to if you have a specific reservation in mind. They would know who needs the items you are donating and could pass on the gifts without offending any one's pride.

Many churches I know of have organized a work group of people who get together and travel to a reservation for a week or two in the summer to volunteer their labor and buy some paint and building materials to make minor repairs or paint the homes of elderly people on the reservation who can't do it themselves and cannot afford to hire someone to help them. Host families on the reservation usually offer a place for the volunteers to stay in their homes while they are working on the rez. If you belong to a church or some other organization, this might be an idea. You could contact the Tribal office of the tribe you want to help to coordinate who needs help, when you would come, and make arrangements for host families for the volunteers.

Most reservations also welcome a Christmas drive to gather presents for young children on the reservations who would otherwise get no Christmas gifts, or to gather food gifts for food baskets for major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

...Read More about native americans on US reservations in the answer to this week's mailbag question.

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