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National Native American Heritage Month: Economic Prosperity in Indian Country

By Lillian Sparks, Commissioner of Administration for Native Americans
and Jeannie L. Chaffin, Director of Office of Community Services

“Our American answer to poverty is not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty and move with the large majority along the high road of hope and prosperity.”  - President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964

In signing the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon Johnson demonstrated his unwavering commitment to ending poverty in America.  This sweeping legislation not only created the Community Action Program and other grass-roots anti-poverty programs, it also provided direct funding to tribal governments. 

Accessing these new resources and setting their own priorities, the tribal governments were further empowered to serve their community with new found independence.  Such concept of tribal self-determination, as well as economic and community-based empowerment laid the foundation for the Administration for Native Americans (ANA).

A photo of four men performing a tribal dance with the words National Native American Heritage Month under the photo.Since the creation of the Community Action Program 48 years ago, it has evolved into the Community Services Block Grant, a state-administered nation-wide network of local organizations, now includes over 50 Tribes.  Many of the tribes who receive CSBG funds through the Office of Community Services use it to support the basic needs of their community members, such as transportation or emergency funds, enabling them to focus on their economic and self-sufficiency goals. 

As we begin the celebration of the National Native American Heritage Month, we are reminded of our history and the struggle that so many before us have overcome; but we also take this as an opportunity to look ahead to the future and the work that remains to eradicate poverty. OCS and ANA have already (re)joined together to offer the Native Asset Building Initiative, a poverty alleviation strategy that works to build the financial capability of individuals to achieve their goals of home ownership, small business ownership, or higher education.

We’re also excited to announce ANA’s new initiative on economic development through its Social and Economic Development Strategies Program (SEDS), which continues to operate in the spirit of the first Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, Sargent Shriver who stated, “It is well to be prepared for life as it is, but it is better to be prepared to make life better than it is.”

The upcoming SEDS-Special Initiative will be about creating that better economic future in the communities that ANA services.  With this special competition, ANA will expand the normal project length from a maximum of three years, to a maximum of five years, and provide additional support to grantees through enhanced training and technical assistance provided through interagency partnerships that will ensure that the tribes and organizations receiving this funding are successful in the creation of jobs, employing community members, and retaining revenue within the community for greater economic prosperity for all.  

Please look for this additional SEDS competition announcement in early 2013 as part of ANA’s fiscal year 2013 award competitions.

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