Helping Our People Overcome Economic & Social Disadvantage
Indian Country, by which we mean all Indian reservations and Indian communities, can be a strange, bewildering place to anyone who doesn't live there. With 573 tribes and about 326 reservations, our mysterious, misunderstood pockets of ancient cultures and societies dot the American landscape.
And that is amazing and wonderful, don't you think? But after 200 years of night, Indian Country has more than its fair share of problems and challenges, with little consensus (and not a whole lot of success) on how to fix things.
But one thing is certain: Indians don't live in a vacuum and we can't make progress and solve our problems alone. A victim mentality, sense of entitlement, and adversarial stance gets us nowhere. We need help, we need friends, we need a renewed sense of pride, we need mutual understanding between us and those that have good will towards us.
So the American Indian Partnership's mission is twofold: First, to reach out in friendship to people of good will and help them understand Indians and Indian Country. Conversely we seek to educate our own people in how the outside world works so they may use that knowledge and perspective to make better lives for themselves and their families.
Second, to partner with donors that wish to see their money and resources do good work in Indian Country, across an array of issues and programs.
Anyone can see that Indian Country is sick, but AIP believes that too much attention is paid to treating symptoms and too little to curing the disease. Addictions, corruption, violence, crime, lack of education, lack of work ethic, and ignorance are symptoms. Do these symptoms need to be treated? Of course, but until the underlying disease is cured the symptoms will forever keep roaring back.
We believe the disease in Indian Country is primarily a combination of myopia and the absence of viable local private sector economies on most Indian reservations. The micro-economies on many Indian reservations are dysfunctional aberrations in the Western world because, with the exception of the handful of tribes with large casinos, most of the money comes from federal grants and flows through tribal government, as opposed to everywhere else in the capitalistic world where most of the money flows through private enterprise thereby creating a local tax base. (For more info, read the 2nd half of the essay linked here.)
So in our view, the main problem in Indian Country is a myopic failure of many Indian leaders to look at how the outside world works and adapt those capitalistic and economic lessons within the reservation boundaries.
308 N. Piegan, Browning, MT
Our Mission & Objectives
Empowered by the good will and compassion of goodhearted people the world over, we build bridges between our world and yours.
Together with you, our donors / partners, we move heaven and earth to lift Indians up to help them become successful, productive, contributing citizens.
We go about our work with a good heart and a pure spirit, and the Creator does the rest.
All of us at The American Indian Partnership are Indians and we know how tribes and reservations work so we can cut though the morass and steer around tribal politics and infighting to reach Indians with the greatest need.
We find and work with the people and groups on reservations that can get things done.
We make every dollar count by putting your money to the most effective, efficient, high impact, long lasting use.
We show you how your money was spent and what was achieved.
Because if people have enough money to live comfortably and feel good about their lives and surroundings, then all the other social ills shrink to the "normal" proportions found in more prosperous societies.
You want a shock? A survey last month found that of the last 10 babies born in Blackfeet Community Hospital, 7 had drugs in their system. You read that correctly.... 70%! Would that ever happen in Tacoma or Austin or Denver? For this and other horrors about what children and women on the reservation face, READ THIS.
Thus our mission is very different from most Indian charities, most of whom focus on the symptoms. We try to get at the disease, the root cause.
In this world there is an ocean of good will towards Indians and Indian tribes. Many people would like to see their money do good work in Indian Country. But the problem is that much if not most of the money that people donate to nonprofits or directly to tribal governments goes to waste and never reaches the intended Indians or programs, getting burned up along the way in executive salaries, overhead, waste, and misuse. Same story with taxpayer money intended for tribal services because most of that money is eaten up by Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal governmental bureaucracy. In the end, only pennies actually get spent on what the dollars were intended for.
We began with the Blackfeet Children Christmas Fund and over time helped fund, assist with, or operate other projects for veterans, anti-drug efforts, various children’s programs and events, and projects that fund and foster individual tribal member entrepreneurship and new enterprises on reservations.
Starting in 2009 and until recently, we coordinated our projects with the Blackfeet Tribal Council and Tribal government. But we have never asked for or received money from the Tribe.
But over time, all tribes experience good councils and bad councils. Ours went off a cliff in July 2012 and was highly dysfunctional for two years. The bad press about the Blackfeet just got worse and worse and never seemed to end.
So we cut ties with the Blackfeet Tribal Council and Tribal government in 2014 and worked to secure our own 501(c)3 status and establish ourselves as a separate and completely independent legal entity. (We had been using one of the Tribal 501(c)3 certifications.)
We learned what everyone learns eventually: Any connection to a tribal government (or any government, really) will eventually prove to be an impediment or worse. Our mission is to serve Blackfeet members and reservation residents in ways the Tribal government cannot or will not. Our mission is too important to be impeded by tribal politics and the operational and productivity problems typical of all governments, but greatly amplified in tribal governments.
We also think we are going about things in a better way than many of the non-profits that raise money by claiming a connection to Indian Country. Frankly, some of the biggest “American Indian” or “Native American” non-profits seem to be mainly in the business of generating cash for executive salaries than doing the most good with donor dollars. For example, many of these are run by non-Indians and employ very few, if any, Indians. Did you know that some contract with call centers in the Philippines for their aggressive telemarketing, fundraising efforts? Why not hire Indians to staff call centers on reservations instead? Why is it that the stuff they collect gets sent to reservations (for example, out of date text books, unwanted clothes, odd toiletries) while so much of the cash they collect never makes it there?
The bottom line is that we believe donors want to partner with an organization that can efficiently and effectively do the good work they want done.
Thank you for reading.