November Giving First: Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness

For the month of November, half of the offering supports Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness. The remaining half supports the life and work of this Parish. To donate using your smartphone, you may text “fpuu offering” to 73256. Then follow the directions in the texts you receive. If you would like your entire offering to support your pledge, indicate “pledge” on your check or envelope. [Or click the button below to give online.]
November is Native American Heritage Month, first declared by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. This month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. It is also an opportunity to educate the general public about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present and the ways in which Native people have worked to conquer these challenges.

From “A Proclamation on National Native American Heritage Month, 2021” by President Joe Biden:
Far too often in our founding era and in the centuries since, the promise of our Nation has been denied to Native Americans who have lived on this land since time immemorial. . . . Native American roots are deeply embedded in this land—a homeland loved, nurtured, strengthened, and fought for with honor and conviction. This month and every month, we honor the precious, strong, and enduring cultures and contributions of all Native Americans and recommit ourselves to fulfilling the full promise of our Nation together.

The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness believes that is up to us as a community to ensure the survival of Native culture. If it does not happen on the North and South American continents, it will not happen on any other continent.

MCNAA’s mission:

The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1989 by Burne Stanley-Peters and her late husband John Slow Turtle Peters, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs, both of whom saw many of the needs of the Native American communities and families in the Commonwealth going unmet. Additionally, they found there was a lack of knowledge and understanding about Native American issues and concerns among the general public that needed to be addressed.

MCNAA’s mission is to preserve Native American cultural traditions, assist Native American residents with basic needs and educational expenses, advance public knowledge and understanding that helps dispel inaccurate information about Native Americans, and work toward racial equality by addressing inequities across the region.

The organization is led by a seven-member Native American Board of Directors and a six-member Advisory Council from the general community (Native and non-Native). Our Board is uncompensated: All monies raised go directly to our programs and services to help our constituents.

We are passionate about our mission and the work we do. We sincerely thank First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington for its generous support.

Some facts or stories of inspiration to be used as the introduction to the Offering:

Caring for Our Elders
At MCNAA, we believe in taking care of our community, and we particularly look out for our elders, many of whom live alone. We value our elders as mentors, teachers, and keepers of wisdom and cultural knowledge. Our elders are proud of their independence, and it can be hard for them to ask for help. In addition, our people often don’t qualify for the assistance that is available. One of our elders in Amesbury lives in a 100-year-old family home heated with wooden pellets. He couldn’t get any federal or state assistance for heating because those funds are earmarked specifically for gas or oil. We were able to locate a source for these pellets, and we raised funds to get this elder a three months’ supply. Not only did he receive the heating fuel he needed, it was offered in a way that acknowledged and affirmed his way of life and preserved his dignity.

Culturally Sensitive Mentoring
Through fundraising and a small grant, we were able to offer $10K in college scholarships this year—but simply getting our students on campus is not enough. Statistically, of all cultural and ethnic groups who enter college, the highest dropout rate is among Native Americans. We’ve learned that once our students arrive at college, they’re basically left alone, unable to find culturally relevant help or resources. We cannot overestimate the importance of seeing models of success who look like you. To foster retention, MCNAA has worked to find Native professionals in the community—educators, archaeologists, historians, and so on—who will pair up with a student during the year to serve as a mentor and coach. We try to match students and mentors according to interests, and we also make sure that each professional is able to really connect to a young person. This is a relatively new program we are very excited about. 

Fostering Native Culture and Identity
To foster and promote Native American culture, there is simply no substitute for growing up in, giving back to, and living with the community. We strongly encourage active involvement in the community and the passing on of Indigenous cultural traditions. Toward this end, we offer a variety of cultural programs, open to all. Here’s one example: This past March we hosted a virtual crafting afternoon, inviting participants to learn how to make leather medicine pouches. We thought this would be both an engaging project and an opportunity to educate the community about the meaning and history of medicine pouches. We prepared 50 kits to mail to participants—and much to our surprise, we received more than a thousand requests. The workshop itself was a great learning experience, and we were inspired by the positive energy and good medicine exhibited by all. The overwhelming response to this event makes it clear to us how hungry our community is for meaningful cultural experiences, and we are eager to provide as many as we can.
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