Indigenous Peoples in the Americas: An Invitation to Help Reclaim Native Truth
FROM REV. DR. ALIAH MAJON
Getting to share the things that I do regarding Racial Healing and Justice in each issue of Catalyst is truly a blessing in my life. Such topics are squarely in my wheelhouse as the Chief Inclusion Officer, and Shift’s intention to have a positive impact and bring about change oftentimes presents me with complex and delicate considerations. However, I’m committed to showing up for this and it’s very important that I never lose sight of the fact that this column is about healing. That means that each contribution that I have the great honor of creating and sharing with you will always be about reconciliation and repair — or a sincere invitation to us all to help to make things right.
Today, I wish to talk about the First Nations people in the United States of America, which will require you and I to examine certain layers of the complexity that I spoke about due to how history has unfolded and the longstanding harm of the racial divides.
For example, I personally identify as African American and I live my life as a Black woman with other BIPOC roots. My heritage includes the Poarch Creek Nation of Alabama on my mother's side and, although no one ever voiced this to me in clear terms, my father's people in Mississippi repeatedly said that my paternal relatives were part “Indian,” so they were likely from Choctaw, Natchez, or Chickasaw lineages. In fact, the small farming community where my father grew up is called Tchula, Mississippi. Tchula is a name derived from the Choctaw language purported to mean fox. In other words, who I am reflects a certain complexity. But, enough about me, let me shine a light on an organization for Indigenous Americans that Shift wishes to continue to lift up and build a long term relationship with. Their name is the First Nation Development Institute, and Shift selected them in 2020 to be the recipients of the highest monetary donation that we have ever given to any one organization. If you scroll down you will find links to learn more about who they are. And here is a bit of background information:
Established in 1980, The First Nations Development Institute was the first nonprofit social enterprise exclusively committed to Native control of tribal assets. Since then, they have become a leading Native-led nonprofit in service of strengthening Native economies and communities. First Nations Development Institute believes that when armed with the appropriate resources, Native Peoples hold the capacity and ingenuity to ensure the sustainable, economic, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of their communities.
Now, most especially, I would like to share the exciting thing that I found exploring their web pages. It's an initiative called Reclaiming Native Truth, the central focus of which is to update and/or replace the inaccurate narrative, images, and understanding about the Native American people in this country. They learned through special research how needed this is. Their work evolved to tell the truth about who First Nations peoples really are, in their own words and using their own stories. I was delighted to see this taking place, and I personally can't wait to delve deeper into their process through the possibility of collaborating — and because Shift is continuing our support!
So, rather than me try to be a spokesperson, I will offer the following description that I read on their website, and also point you to the informative video they created below:
Reclaiming Native Truth is a national effort to foster cultural, social and policy change by empowering Native Americans to counter discrimination, invisibility and the dominant narratives that limit Native opportunity, access to justice, health and self-determination. Reclaiming Native Truth’s goal is to move hearts and minds toward greater respect, inclusion and social justice for Native Americans.