ByJeannie Hovland, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs, ACF and Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans
This summer, I led a delegation of federal officials and legislative staff, including the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in partnership with state and local leaders, to visit Administration for Native American’s (ANA) grant-funded projects and organizations making major impacts in indigenous communities throughout the Pacific Basin. We saw first-hand the positive impacts of ANA-funded projects that include Native languages, traditions and cultures, and intergenerational activities that lead to the strengthening of communities.
One of the unique things about ANA is that, as established by the legislation (the Native American Programs Act (NAPA) of 1974), “Native Americans” is defined broadly to be inclusive of our relatives in the Pacific islands. As we celebrate NAPA’s 45 years of existence, I am honored to have taken part in this historic trip to witness and share the impact of our agency in the region.
Our first destination was Honolulu, Hawaii to visit the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). OHA is a Hawaiian agency focused on strategic priorities for improving the conditions of Native Hawaiians in the areas of culture, economic self-sufficiency, education, governance and health. At the OHA offices, we participated in round-table discussions on economic development, strengthening Native communities, and human trafficking. Local officials also shared their insights on the United Nations Year of Indigenous Language and the status of Native languages in Hawaii.
Our delegation held successful meetings with the OHA’s Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund, which is overseen by ANA and the Consumer MicroLoan Program. The Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund has disbursed 2,200 loans valued at over $50 million, resulting in more Hawaiian business in the hands of Native Hawaiians.
We traveled to the Waiʻanae Community Re-development Corporation’s Kauhale Center for Organic Agriculture and Sustainability. With the help of ANA funding nearly a decade ago, this organization continues to impact their community by increasing the number of youths enrolled in college and the number of jobs available on the Waiʻanae Coast. These successes were realized through a thriving operation called Maʻo Farms, Inc., which recently acquired an additional 236 acres to increase agricultural sustainability.
Saipan was our next stop, which marked the first time an ANA commissioner has visited the island. We visited the 500 Sails & Dolphin Club where their ANA-funded project, "Improving Health Outcomes through Traditional Maritime Activities" is advancing the health of the Chamorro and Carolinian population through the establishment of a canoe house where community members build, sail, maintain, and learn about proas (traditional sailboats). We also visited the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System, to learn how the Leliyal Akkabwung (places of learning) Language Immersion Project is contributing to the resurgence of oral histories and connection with culture.
The delegation then met at the Carolinian Affairs Office to learn about the preservation of Indigenous and Native cultural knowledge, practices, and tradition among both Chamorro and Carolinian youth and young adults. Under the Office of the Governor, the Carolinian Affairs Office is utilizing the ANA Social and Economic Development Strategies grant to establish cultural youth centers as modern utts (traditional community houses), where youth have the opportunity to learn traditional knowledge and practices provided by cultural experts and elders.
Finally, our delegation traveled to Guam, marking the first time in a decade that an ANA commissioner has visited the island. We participated in a human trafficking roundtable with Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, Lieutenant Governor Joshua Tenorio, and other local officials to discuss the unique issues facing the community in this endeavor.
On the island, we saw economic advancements made possible by our agency’s funding. At the Farm-to-Table Guam Corporation, a former ANA Sustainable Employment and Economic Development Strategies grantee, a community farm is preserving Native Chamorro food traditions while promoting long-term economic sustainability through agricultural practices. We also had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of Para I Probechu'n I Taotao-ta, Inc.’s new retail storefront, Traditions Empowering Natives in Developing Art , which supports 15 businesses producing cultural products and creating jobs for young cultural practitioners as a means to preserve language and culture. This is a direct outcome of their ANA Social and Economic Development Strategies grant.
Before returning home, our delegation enjoyed a cultural performance of Frank Rabon’s dance guma (house). This celebration of Chamorro culture was a fitting conclusion to our time in the Pacific Basin.
As commissioner, I am grateful to serve at ANA, an agency helping communities develop and implement projects that fit their needs while promoting self-sufficiency. Our delegation’s trip to the Pacific allowed me to see firsthand the impacts of these projects in Native communities and I look forward to taking the feedback I received and applying it to our work to advocate for Native communities.
The Administration for Native Americans is a program office within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. To learn more about how ANA can assist your community, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/ana.