Indigenous Mobilization During Pandemic Times

From NDN Collective, by Gaby Strong and Sarah Manning

Reflecting on: What advocacy is being done to address the needs of African, Latine, Asian, Arab, and Native American (ALAANA) arts communities in need of greater support?

The last four weeks at NDN Collective have been a poignant demonstration of Indigenous mobilization. We’ve seen this before. Our people have been here before. We are the survivors of disease and pandemics, of biological warfare, now called to respond and mobilize once again for the health and wellness of our people and the planet. We are up for it.

We are called to organize, not only amongst ourselves and our communities, but with our allies. This includes all those who understand the magnitude of these pandemic times and the importance of moving toward a more sustainable future. We want to leave something good for our grandchildren.

Indigenous artists and culture bearers have always been on the frontlines of climate changes. Overall, Indigenous communities receive the very least amount of philanthropic support, even in the “good” times. With a pandemic upon us, and with economic uncertainty, the socio-economic inequities and health disparities have only been exacerbated. And as the federal government continues to break promise after promise as part of a government-to-government relationship with Tribes, times are not only tough, they are excruciatingly painful across Indian Country.

Tribes are still waiting for the relief provided by the Stimulus package. It will not be enough, and that’s the hard truth. Tribal leaders, Indigenous-led non-profit organizations, Native Community Development Financial Institutions and frontline organizations continue to advocate for immediate relief as well as the transition and recovery to come.

Philanthropy can respond. Philanthropy has the ability to support Indian Country through trust-based practices. Philanthropy has the abundance to do that, and the time is now to deploy those resources.

Many Indigenous-led organizations have sprung into action to help deploy those resources swiftly. NDN Collective is only one of them. Funders across interest areas and affinity groups have responded in a variety of ways to support Indigenous artists, non-profit organizations and communities as part of rapid response efforts. Grant parameters have been relaxed, or repurposed. Funders have adjusted to a disaster relief and recovery mode. All of these approaches are helping to alleviate the strain. But we know there is an abundance of resources still to be deployed. And we continue to work with allies who share that belief.

NDN Collective has held true to its inaugural grantmaking programs, while mobilizing for increased resources for tribes and Indigenous-led frontline organizations. And we’ll continue to do that because we understand that a new normal is in store for all of us. We are only in the initial stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic. A transition and recovery is really a proverbial reset on so many levels. We are all being called to this new normal, one that must place the earth at the center of policy and practice.

At this critical juncture in human history, the knowledge and lifeways of Indigenous people continues to hold and transmit viable wisdom for a sustainable future. Let’s leave something good for our grandchildren.