By Melissa Powless Chacon, M.S. (Oneida), Network Weaver for Southern California
Native Americans in Philanthropy
“Be self-loving- go outside yourself and take action. Be peaceful, and be focused on the solution.” – Sioux Proverb
The True Sioux Hope Foundation held its 1st Annual Gala and fundraiser on November 12, 2016, in Newport Beach, California. The event included a reception, silent and live auctions, unique Sioux cultural experiences, dinner and dancing, and an opportunity to support the people of Pine Ridge Reservation and the True Sioux Hope Foundation’s mission is to “Provide critical aid and empower Tribal members to act, positioning this generation for success and ensuring positive impact for future generations.” The event showcased the mission and impact of the organization and highlighted the culture and needs of the Pine Ridge community through a variety of speakers, demonstrations, and displays. It was an extraordinary event providing a unique fundraising experience that philanthropists have never been engaged, which compelled them to raise a remarkable amount of support for Pine Ridge community in one evening.
Imagine sitting at a table of like-minded individuals engaged in meaningful conversation while enjoying a delicious meal with fry bread samples and a traditional drum group with several dancers from Pine Ridge, filling the breadth of the 300-capacity room. This was only part of the authentic and unique experience that attendees were given at the True Sioux Hope Foundation’s 1st Annual Gala. Attendees of the event were shaken and moved by the needs of the Pine Ridge community presented in the keynote, images, stories of other guest speakers – such as a young Sioux girl who attended Sherman Indian School and whose donated artwork was purchased at auction for $2,000. Deep and passionate words shared by Pine Ridge’s previous Chairman expressed what is going to help the Pine Ridge community, including funding outside of the U.S. federal government, volunteers and the community itself were some of the solutions shared. He stated, “We cannot meet people’s needs. We have no doctors here; surgical is over 100 miles away. Awareness is the biggest issue because I think there’s a lot of people that care. They want to see Native Americans thrive but they just don’t know they’re there.” The impact of the gala’s experience ultimately helped move philanthropists to raise a historic amount of money and awareness for the needs of the community. By the end of the evening, the True Sioux Hope Foundation Gala raised an astonishing $475,000 for the Pine Ridge Sioux reservation community.
The role philanthropy plays in supporting the Pine Ridge children and families cannot be understated as a result of True Sioux Hope Foundation’s’ mission and successful 1st gala. As such, the True Sioux Hope Foundation exhibits unique possibilities to garner support and resources for Indian Country as it shows how bringing together philanthropists who are moved to support Native American issues can inspire change and provide hope for the children.
True Sioux Hope Foundation and Pine Ridge Reservation:
The True Sioux Hope Foundation, has quickly become an exceptional example of positive and impactful Native American philanthropy today. In just two years, the True Sioux Hope Foundation has successfully set the stage, and the bar, for current and future philanthropists to help address Indian Country’s dire needs and issues on reservations, such as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The True Sioux Hope Foundation provides several different philanthropic support initiatives to the Pine Ridge Reservation, which is the second largest Native American Reservation in the United States and the poorest place in the entire U.S. Nation with a population of 29,000. Without access to parenting, education, proper nutrients and adequate health care, the infant mortality rate on the Reservation is 18% and 97% of the residents live below federal poverty guidelines with little commerce or infrastructure available for employment. Pine Ridge is an entire nation of people that has been left in despair living in Third World conditions, right in America’s own backyard. Reports from leaders from the community reveals that in the past year there have been 90 attempts of suicide, including as young as a 12-year-old child.
Twila True, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, knowing first-hand the unconscionable conditions in which the Sioux Tribe is forced to live, founded the True Sioux Hope Foundation. Native Americans in Philanthropy’s CEO Sarah Eagle Heart had the opportunity to interview Twila earlier this year for Independent Sector Quarterly where Twila shared more about her past work and journey. When starting the foundation, Twila had a goal in mind to assist the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation by providing critical aid and support for the creation of a sustainable infrastructure. The following quote taken from Crazy Horse, a historic leader and ancestor of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, can be found on the True Sioux Hope Foundation website that helps drive their work:
Upon Suffering, Beyond Suffering:
The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.
I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.
In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.
I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.
– Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)
About the True Sioux Hope Foundation:
Information about the True Sioux Hope Foundation, its mission, giving and giving partners, can be found on their website at truesiouxhope.org/whatwedo. Individuals may donate through True Sioux Hope’s “Tribe7” webpage at truesiouxhope.org/tribe7. Twila True is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Knowing first-hand the unconscionable conditions in which the Sioux Tribe is forced to live, Twila founded the True Sioux Hope Foundation to assist the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation by providing critical aid and support for the creation of a sustainable infrastructure.
Philanthropists have a history of attending fundraising galas that include an evening of toasting an incredible organization, engaging in an opportunity to network with peers and a chance to support a great cause and forum for building long-lasting relationships. During the evening, philanthropists hear the success stories, see the faces of those they’ve helped, and ultimately, feel compelled to give. This gala is a once-a-year celebration which recognizes the success of a nonprofit organization and helps attendees gain a better understanding about the impact they create. Attendees want a night to remember: the opportunity to contribute to change, an event tied closely to the cause, to feel as though they matter to the organization. With the right strategy, a nonprofit organization of nearly any size can host a successful gala for Native American causes such was the experience at a recent gala held by the True Sioux Hope Foundation.