Seeking to serve Native Americans

By Kristen Johnson

Reel Injun is a documentary about how American Indians have historically been portrayed in Hollywood. It was made by a Native American filmmaker and it details the portrayal of Native Americans from the silent film era, all the way through today. Needless to say, Hollywood has contributed to the overall problem of doing nothing but a disservice to American Indians throughout the history of our country. The scenery of the film is beautiful, the interviews of actors, directors and producers is fascinating, and the stories and message are heartbreaking. Basically, we’ve spent the last several hundred years destroying Native American culture and we continue to do so today.

After generations of genocide, broken treaties, forced moves, and re-education camps, how do American Indians fare today?

  • Recent protests against the pipeline in North Dakota prove that the government continues to be completely uncaring about the environment in which Native Americans live.
  • 28.3% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives live in poverty (the highest of any race in the U.S.) (
  • The median income is $37,277 for Native Americans and Alaska Natives in the U.S., compared with $53,657 for the nation as a whole (
  • 23.1% lack health insurance, compared to 11.7% of the nation as a whole. (
  • Native people die at higher rates than other Americans from alcoholism, diabetes, TB, and suicide, among other diseases. (National Congress of American Indians).
  • Aggravated assaults are more common among Native Americans and Alaska Natives – roughly twice that of the country as a whole. (National Congress of American Indians).

What can we do to help our Native American neighbors, in spite of such terrible statistics? The sad truth is that the situation is so removed from my reality, in spite of my volunteer work with a number of social justice agencies, that I had to research to find some good places that we can contribute to help. (My first step at this point is to start talking about it with my Church groups!) I should also note that several charities I researched I could not list because they did not receive good ratings at Charity Navigator. (It’s a pretty sad situation when charities can’t even do a good job for Native peoples.)

  • Contribute to the Native American Heritage Association: They have a high rating on Charity Navigator. They serve two of the poorest counties in America, in South Dakota, by providing Native Americans with emergency food supplies and basic life necessities. They also provide self-help programs.
  • Donate to the Native American Rights Fund, also highly rated at Charity Navigator. They are a nonprofit law firm which assists in defending the rights of tribes and individuals.
  • Donate school supplies, handmade goods, arts & crafts supplies, and books to Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation. All items are given directly to people in the Olglala Sioux Tribe

Galatians 6:2 (NRSV): 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill[a] the law of Christ.

Serve all with love.

Photo courtesy of:


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