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Celebrating Indigenous Culture ft. Native American Connections

November 29, 2021

Because November is Native American Heritage Month, this time of year presents a special opportunity to commemorate the history, culture, and traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Today we are uplifting the work of our nonprofit partner, Native American Connections (NAC), an organization transforming lives since 1972.

NAC owns and operates 21 sites throughout Phoenix, offering a continuum of affordable housing, health, and community development services which touch the lives of over 10,000 people each year.

The organization was founded on a commitment to ensuring the survival of cultural traditions. One such traditional healing practice is the Talking Circle.

The Talking Center provides space for shared vulnerability, active listening, and conflict resolution. NAC's Talking Circles "offer support to clients who seek residential or outpatient treatment for substance abuse or behavioral health concerns. The organization’s Patina Wellness Center has a room dedicated to talking circles, with cushioned chairs placed around a circular skylight that shines onto a wooden floor, used as an altar during the practice."

The Talking Circle is just one tool for restorative justice that fosters multifaceted healing. Restorative justice focuses on relationships between individuals and communities, compared to to the focus on retribution maintained by our governing institutions.

In addition to direct service, NAC utilizes their platform to advocate publicly for structural changes to end homelessness - like affordable housing policies and whole-person healthcare. NAC understands how foundational housing is for alcohol and drug recovery, family stabilization, and community wellness. According to the Urban Institute:

  • Nationally, 99.8 percent of tribal housing officials reported that doubling up (i.e., taking in family and friends who would otherwise risk homelessness) was a problem in their tribal areas;

  • 88 percent of tribal housing officials said households experience literal homelessness (i.e., sleeping on the street, in emergency shelter, or someplace not meant for human habitation);

  • About 1 in 200 people who identify American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) as their only race is homeless, compared with 1 in 1,000 people in the US population overall.

In a recent interview, Yazzie Devine, CEO, said "Native American Connections’ latest multifamily housing building... is a prime example of how federal funds could be used to create a stable living environment for low-income families in need. In the apartment complex, large units are available at rates more affordable than typical apartments downtown. The nonprofit is primarily funded by grants and contributions." NAC has another property in development that is slated for 216 units.

Addressing systemic harms and creating pathways for accountability is another critical component of restorative justice practices rooted in indigenous traditions. Through their interpersonal, communal, and structural efforts, NAC is extending a legacy of holistic healing.

This holiday giving campaign, we are featuring two award-winning books centering Native American and Indigenous culture, We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard. We encourage you to share these and other stories that communicate historical truths, and honor the legacies of Native American Indigenous cultures in your daily life.

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