Finding a way to improve conditions and opportunities in Native American communities is an exceptionally tall order, given the displacement, deepening poverty, and outside interference with which Native peoples have struggled for generations. Though they suffer from some of the highest rates of chronic illness and unemployment in the country, Native communities are often overlooked when it comes to crucial economic, social, and infrastructural investments. Many Native communities have been forced to consider how best to tackle entrenched problems, often in isolated areas, with far too few financial resources. Even through decades of hardship, however, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians have continuously drawn on the enduring strength of their peoples’ traditional values and practices to rally their communities and work toward solutions. Today, many tribal nations are rebuilding their relationship with the federal government and launching valuable new partnerships with foundations, non-profit organizations, and others to put new resources and ideas into action in Indian Country. At the same time, a renewed emphasis on tribal self-determination ensures that even as Native communities connect with outside partners, they also retain a leadership role in their own initiatives. Native communities are also investing in their own members with community based career training, which enhances overall capacity in the community and introduces the important elements of accommodation and respect for each individual tribe’s cultural norms and Native languages.
In this issue of Community Investments, we look at a selection of Native initiatives across the country that illustrate the effectiveness and forward momentum of these efforts. We learn how Native communities are partnering with federal agencies to build and support sustainable housing in Indian Country, and establish modern water and sewer systems for remote Native communities in Alaska. The articles also examine a community-based health worker initiative that extends culturally-sensitive health care to the farthest
reaches of Navajo Nation, and a Native Hawaiian financial education program and community-based lending institution. In addition, we discover how a community center in Portland, Oregon is bringing urban Native Americans together and preserving community ties in a city environment.
The initiatives discussed in this issue are just a few of the many successful
programs operating in Native communities across the United States. Though
still contending with the many challenges left by centuries of cultural and
economic upheaval, Native communities are simultaneously looking inward
and reaching outward to improve conditions, build resources, and create
opportunity for Native peoples in Indian Country and beyond.
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References: Community Investments. 2013. Retrieved from https://www.frbsf.org/community-development/files/Community-Investments-Fall-2013-Native-Communities.pdf