Celebrating Resiliency and Sovereignty this Native American Heritage Month

By Jeannie Hovland, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs

Here at the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), we have made it a priority to acknowledge and celebrate American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. In addition to convening as an office for various activities, we have also participated in an official observance of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage month with the Department of Health and Human Services. During this event, I presented as Master of Ceremonies along with Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, Principal Deputy Director of Indian Health Service, on the theme of Sovereignty and Resilience. Reflecting on my journey so far as Commissioner, I find this theme paramount in each individual experience.

At the end of October, I attended the National Congress of American Indian’s (NCAI) 75th Annual Convention and Marketplace in Denver, Colorado. I was able to witness the unified voice of tribal leaders advocating for sovereignty, and I was reminded of the resiliency of Native peoples. While in attendance, I had the opportunity to participate on the NCAI panel session: Keeping Languages Alive and Thriving: Strengthening Sovereignty through Native Language School Curriculum. During this discussion I shared ANA’s mission and the resources ANA provides to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders through language grants.

Also during this trip, I also visited with one of ANA’s Social and Economic Development grantees, First Nations Oweesta Corporation. First Nations Oweesta Corporation has been very successful in supporting the sovereignty of Native communities through their financial and wealth building programs, reinforcing Tribal resiliency.

Earlier this month, I attended the Native American Veterans Health and Wellness Symposium, hosted by the Isleta Pueblo, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This event, sponsored by the Indian Health Service and the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, allowed me the opportunity to meet with more than 500 tribal veterans, my heroes, to celebrate and recognize the long tradition of Tribal warriors and protectors. Many Native America Veterans from neighboring tribes were in attendance, including the honorable Thomas Begay, World War II and Korean War Navajo Code Talker.

During this symposium I presented a workshop, “Grants for Tribal Veteran Initiatives”, designed to provide useful information on how ANA grant programs and technical assistance can be designed to support Native American veterans in their communities. Within the course of the workshop, many of those in attendance shared their ideas for projects.

This week, I’m joining ANA’s grantees for our annual meeting, where together we will collaborate, learn from experts, hear about best practices and barriers within grantee projects, and share success stories. I am very excited about this year’s theme: “Grounded in Culture, Cultivating the Future,” which represents how the roots of our ancestors’ knowledge is key to the growth of our communities. The image we chose for this event is an elder’s hand reaching down to pull up a child’s, showing how culture is handed down from generation to generation. This event will commence with the first ever ANA Pacific Indigenous Peoples Summit followed by all ANA grantees participating in a variety of workshops and networking sessions throughout the week. ANA has been working very hard to ensure that every detail of this event is set up to incorporate feedback from prior grantee meetings, to support the success of grantee projects, and to create a memorable and inspiring experience for all in attendance.

In addition to my travels and planning for the Annual Grantee Meeting, I have met with representatives from Congress, federal agencies, tribal leadership, and Native organizations. It is important that I create and build upon partnerships with those who serve Native communities while strengthening outreach efforts.

In closing and in reflection of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, I am reminded of the dedication of those of you who have and continue to make positive changes in your communities. Whether it’s through your time and talent to educate the youth, develop economies, care for the elders, or preserving your culture and language; I am grateful for your commitment and perseverance. In that regard, I am proud of the projects carried out under ANA funding and I appreciate that ANA be a part of that journey in upholding tribal sovereignty and resilience.

ANA supports Native American communities (including federally recognized tribes, American Indian and Alaska Native organizations, Native Hawaiian organizations and Native populations throughout the Pacific Basin) by providing financial assistance and capacity building, gathering and sharing data, and advocating for improved policies within HHS and across the federal government. For more information, visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ana.

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