“Without your language or your land, you are not who you say you are.” Loretta Afraid of Bear, Oglala Lakota

The month of February is a celebration of LOVE, and Running Strong for American Indian Youth® LOVES Native American culture!

Like any great love story, however, it’s not without its share of tragedy. Today, all over the United States, American Indian communities are overcoming historical boundaries to keep their traditional languages and cultures alive.

Luckily, thanks to supporters like you, we’ve been able to partner with groups across Indian Country that have culturally-based programs designed to educate the next generation of Native youth. 

Here are just a few reasons why Native American culture is so important to us. 

Culture is a home for community and purpose.

  • From coming-of age-rituals and story-telling circles to lacrosse leagues and powwows, studies show children who are immersed in their Native culture do better in school, have higher self-esteem, and lead happier, more productive lives.
arvol with kids

Native Cultures are a celebration of Native resiliency.

  • Though Native cultures have struggled to survive an ever-changing relationship between self-determination and self-preservation, they remain as vibrant and resilient as ever with 573 federally recognized tribes as of 2020.
  • For more than 100 years, the Yuchi people have been counting down the number of speakers with fewer each year. The decline of the language has been from about 24 native speakers 20 years ago, to 6 speakers five years ago, to now only 1 fully fluent elder speaker. But for the first time in the long history of overcoming oppression, the Yuchi are finally counting forward and adding first language speakers to the list.

Native Cultures are the roots of modern life in America as we know it.

  • Today, 60% of the world’s food supply comes from American Indian agricultural methods, especially those for corn and potatoes.
  • The Iroquois’ written constitution of government was in place for many years before becoming the inspiration for the U.S. Constitution, mainly the relationship between many states and a single federal government.

Learning about Native Cultures creates a healthier population for us all.

  • Increased awareness of Native culture helps everyone be more truthful about the roles Native American land, labor, and culture played in creating modern American life.
  • Native Americans today are rebuilding Native communities that they have never seen, but that their elders once lived. Native ancestors have brought their culture this far, and now it is up to us to bring it home.

For so many of us, our heritage is one of the most defining characteristics of who we are, and Native Americans are no different.

For over 30 years, our programs have touched the lives of tribes living throughout the United States. From the Lakota people of North and South Dakota and the Yuchi tribe of Oklahoma to the Diné in Arizona and even Native Hawaiians, our mission to assist these distinct tribes comes from our love and respect for their people.

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