Native American Heritage Month: Nonprofits Supporting Native American Communities

By Ilia Jones | November 2021


Every November, we have an opportunity to honor and support the native peoples that inhabited this land before settlement and colonization. Native American Heritage Month offers us a chance to learn more about the original custodians of the land where we live, work, and play. 

Native American Heritage month got its start in 1990 with President George H. W. Bush's decree that November 1990 would honor Native and Indigenous peoples. Since 1994, similar proclamations by sitting U.S. presidents have been made annually. 

Strengthening Native Culture and Community

After enduring and surviving centuries of bodily and cultural genocide, the many tribes that remain across America are working hard to preserve their culture and strengthen their communities. 

And, Native Americans are stepping up as leaders within their communities. There are many Native-led and Indigenous-centered nonprofit organizations that are helping to provide support, resources and education. One way to show solidarity with Native American and Indigenous causes is to partner with or contribute to nonprofits benefiting those communities. 

Our Guide to Indigenous-centered Nonprofits

Many nonprofit organizations are working for native communities and are led by Native and Indigenous groups. These nonprofits work to bring awareness to issues facing native populations across the U.S. and provide much-needed resources to those communities. 

Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

The NARF was founded in 1970, making it the oldest, not to mention the largest, nonprofit legal organization focused on the rights of Native Americans. They work to defend the rights of tribes, organizations and individuals across the nation. Their top five priorities are:

  • Preserving the existence of Native American tribes
  • Protecting the natural resources that tribes depend on
  • Promoting the human rights of Native Americans
  • Holding governments accountable to Native Americans and developing Native law
  • Educating the public on the rights, laws, and issues facing Native Americans

Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA Center)

Located in Portland, Oregon, this nonprofit is a social service agency and community center that offers educational services, cultural and arts programs, and works to reduce poverty in the local Native American community. Their top priorities are:

  • Working with Native American youth to promote culture and education
  • Providing educational help such as scholarships, college prep, and career guidance
  • Providing services for the Native elders, including emergency assistance
  • Holding space for community support and cultural education

Indigenous Women Rising

This nonprofit works to ensure equitable access to healthcare for Native and Indigenous women. With an emphasis on health options that are culturally safe and accessible, they work to provide health education, resources and advocate for the healthcare needs of Native women. Their top priorities are:

  • Providing access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion options
  • Providing access to culturally sensitive midwives and doulas for a supportive pregnant and birthing process
  • Providing sex education through the lens of cultural sensitivity

Buffalo Project

This Native-led nonprofit organization focuses on creating healthier masculinity for Native and Indigenous men. By promoting healthy expressions of what masculinity means from an indigenous cultural perspective, they seek to help men and boys find healthy emotional outlets. Their top priorities are:

  • Educating Native and Indigenous men and boys on how to process their emotions in a healthy and safe way
  • Reducing acts of violence against Native women
  • Using Indigenous ideals in non-Indigenous spaces to promote healthy expressions of masculinity 

Native Americans for Community Action

Located in the Flagstaff, Arizona area, Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) provides wellness, behavioral, community and medical services to the local Native community. Their mission is to "provide preventive wellness strategies, empower and advocate for Native peoples and others." Their top priorities are:

  • Providing access to healthcare, mental health support, and support for families
  • Offering a place for community support and cultural enrichment
  • Providing career coaching to help individuals find jobs that can support their families

American Indian College Fund (AICF)

As the largest and highest-rated nonprofit dedicated to providing scholarships and financial support for Native Americans, the AICF helps over 4,000 students each year. Since they were founded in 1989, the AICF has provided more than 140,000 scholarships worth more than $237 million to students in need. Their top priorities are:

  • Funding access to higher education to increase equity for Native Americans and Indigenous peoples
  • Providing support to help students complete their degree programs
  • Career development to help graduates and expectant graduates find work in their fields

Native American Heritage Association (NAHA)

Founded in 1993, the NAHA has served the needs of impoverished Native Americans in Wyoming and South Dakota for nearly thirty years. They provide necessities and self-help programs to those in need, such as clothing donations, food delivery, fuel provision for heating, and vouchers to cover emergency expenses. Their top priorities are:

  • Helping to solve food insecurity for those in their coverage area
  • Covering utility and heating needs, so no one in their area has to worry about choosing between feeding their families and keeping them warm
  • Emergency support to offset the cost of unforeseen expenses
  • Working to solve economic injustice that impacts the tribes in their community

Kumeyaay Defense Against the Wall

The wall constructed at the border between the U.S. and Mexico has impacted the Kumeyaay Nation and encroached upon their tribal lands. This nonprofit was formed to fight back against the injustices they face, preserve their tribal land and help members of their community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their top priorities are:

  • Ensuring the self-determination and sovereignty of the Kumeyaay Nation 
  • Protecting and defending their right to their unceded and sacred lands
  • Helping those in their community who have been affected by COVID-19 and the effects of the pandemic

Protect Native Elders

Elders are revered and respected in Native culture. They are the keepers of knowledge and are relied upon to share it and pass it down to the next generation. Protect Native Elders was founded to help respond to and provide healthcare for elders in Native communities in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. Their top priorities are:

  • Operating in coordination with tribal command centers to deliver supplies and resources to emerging COVID-19 hotspots
  • Providing first responders and local healthcare facilities with the supplies, resources, and testing needed to care for COVID-19 patients
  • Working to protect elders in the community from COVID-19

Honoring Native American Heritage Month

Whether you are a Native or Indigenous person, live in an area near a  tribe or reservation or want to help support Native causes, this month is a great time to get involved. 

Any of the nonprofits we've mentioned would appreciate your help, whether it is a donation or contribution to their cause, a fundraiser in their name or a shoutout on social media to amplify their message. 

If you are part of a nonprofit organization, consider a Native-led nonprofit the next time you are looking for partnerships or co-branding opportunities. 


Topics: In the Community

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