Do you operate a nonprofit organization or foundation? If you do, I’d love to hear from you. In the last few years, I’ve met two vibrant Citizen Potawatomi women who have founded and continue to operate nonprofit organizations, Jody Gzhadawsot Mattena (Tennessee) and Dell Migwekwe Chalk (Virginia).
This fall, I started one of my own. I’d love to pick your brain about your mission, organizational structure, successes and any missteps that I might avoid if I hear about them from you. I hope that we as fellow Potawatomi might collaborate in some fashion, and I’d be willing to share information about your organization with other Potawatomi if you like.
What prompted my interest was reading the shocking news that middle and high school-age girls on or fellow Native reservation lands may miss a week of school every month because they cannot access/afford menstrual supplies. (See the article at tinyurl.com/KwekSoc1.) How is this possible in our country? We hear about severe inequities experienced by girls and women around the world, but our relatives, girls on rural reservations, in the USA? These supplies, needed by half the population, should be furnished in school restrooms, just as toilet paper is supplied.
I decided I needed to respond to the need, but to date haven’t accomplished very much. I created The Kwek Society Facebook page to raise awareness of this issue and other issues Native women and girls face. Facebook.com/NativeWomenAndGirls is public, and I’d be grateful if you visit it and learn more about the issues. I’ve sent menstrual supplies via Amazon directly to Native students at schools in South Dakota, but I haven’t yet heard back from the schools. I also wrote to their principals to ask about further need and am waiting to hear back.
For now, if you want to help, too, you can send in-kind or money donations to the Native American Heritage Association, which has earned a 4-star (highest) Charity Navigator rating. NAHA provides heating assistance and other emergency programs, food, clothing, self-help programs and basic life necessities to in-need Native American families living on South Dakota and Wyoming reservations.
I spoke with a NAHA representative who confirmed the critical need for menstrual supplies and noted that cash donors if they wish, can designate their gift be used to purchase these supplies.
Please let me know if you decide to pursue this, too, and I’d love it if you post your thoughts and further ideas on The Kwek Society page. In the next few months, I will meet with various contacts to figure out my next steps with this initiative and will write again when there is news worth sharing.
On a District 2 specific note, I accepted a gift of tobacco from Dell Chalk (a descendant of Shopwetuck) a few months ago, and this past Saturday named her Migwekwe (She Gives Things Away) during a ceremony at her home with her family and neighbors. I included a picture of us in Dell’s home after the ceremony.
By the time this is in your mailbox, our Districts 1 and 2 Fall Feast also will have taken place, as will Rock Your Mocks Week (Nov. 12-18), Native American Heritage Day (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and District 2’s visit to the Archives of the National Museum of the American Indian (Dec. 1).
Migwetch (Thank you) to all who will participate in these events, which build our community and let the world know that Potawatomi are still here, honoring our ancestors and learning and keeping our traditions.
It’s not too early to plan for/RSVP to the March 10 District 2 meeting and tour of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), 520 16th St. N., Birmingham, Alabama. The tour begins at 10 a.m., followed by a business meeting, and then lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. As noted on BRCI’s website, “BCRI is a cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding and appreciation for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham with an increasing emphasis on the international struggle for universal human rights.”
Please note that entrance fee and lunch costs are covered by CPN. For more information on the venue, visit bcri.org. Postcards will be mailed to CPN members within driving distance of Birmingham and, as always, even if you don’t get a postcard, you are welcome to join us if you RSVP soon! Please RSVP to me at email@example.com or to my toll-free number at the end of this column. Full details on the location, etc., are on the calendar page on my website.
On a final note, winter is here, and that means it again will be time to share winter stories with family and friends. You can find a compilation of these stories on my website, under the heritage tab, or copy this to your browser for access: tinyurl.com/PotWinter. These stories are to be shared during the season when the earth and spirits are asleep.
I treasure the opportunity to serve you and the Nation and thank you for the honor of representing you in the Nation’s legislature.