Every November, we celebrate Native American Heritage Month. What we call Thanksgiving is a powerful opportunity to honor Native culture, history, achievements. But as a leader of the Return to the Heart Foundation, an Indigenous Women-led organization empowering and amplifying Indigenous sisters focused on healing, narrative change, climate justice, civic engagement, restorative and regenerative development – we uplift our people today, and every day – not just during November.
This year, we celebrated our first year in the community. We uplift the leadership and voices of Indigenous women and girls and celebrate their many and varied accomplishments.
Return to the Heart Foundation empowers and resources Indigenous Womxn bringing holistic health and healing to their communities and beyond. Through this work, Return to the Heart cultivates a world where Indigenous Womxn and Girls are protected, valued, and supported — and where Mother Earth thrives for future generations. In support of this vision, we established the Traditional Helpers and Healers Micro Grant as part of our foundational programming.
This initiative funds projects by Native Womxn and Girls who are restoring traditional lifeways to improve physical, mental, spiritual, cultural, and economic health in their communities. Our grantees do deep, cultural-spiritual healing work, reconnecting their tribes and communities to ancestral wisdom and practices through traditional food and medicine, ceremony, Indigenous knowledge, and Native languages.
November brings complexities, and as Native people, the Thanksgiving holiday highlights the myths and misconceptions that many in society hold as the U.S. education system did not teach accurate history. It was a bloody one, filled with land grabs, forced relocations, biological warfare, marches of death, and forced removals of children into boarding schools.
These boarding schools were not places children were sent to get a good education. In the early days, it was forbidden to teach Native children to read or write. They were forcibly taken as a strategy to “kill the Indian, and save the man.” There was rampant abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse with cultural genocide as the goal which caused destruction of family systems. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland created a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to investigate the impact of this troubled legacy. As light is shed on these schools, like those similar to Canada, maybe thousands of additional bodies will be found most likely in unmarked graves. It will soon be time to face some hard truths.
While some tribes see Thanksgiving as a Day of mourning, I will embrace any day to spend with family. To eat wonderful dishes, see new babies (even fur babies), and just enjoy the laughter that comes when we are together and appreciate the strong love we have for one another. Sikowis, aka, Christine Nobiss an activist coined the term “Truthsgiving,” which takes the opportunity to talk about the true history of the land we are standing and living upon. For us in philanthropy, it can be a time to reflect and talk about how the wealth in this country was accumulated; was it from the taken land, its people, its resources?
Truth is good but actions are everything. Our country is in a great time of racial inequity, and truth is being unveiled. Let’s bring us into a great time of healing. This is the critical moment and opportunity to support an Indigenous Women-led organization, Return to the Heart Foundation, focused on uplifting initiatives to achieve long-term narrative change strategies from within social movements.
As Native innovators, activists, artists, and entrepreneurs build power, communities become stronger. By supporting womxn leaders in their communities, healing occurs individually, collectively and beyond.
We must recognize and honor Native Womxn for their role in shaping and strengthening our communities. As we approach Thanksgiving Day and #GivingTuesday, we’re celebrating the many ways our members leverage the power of philanthropy to strengthen and advance the intersectional feminist movement for equality and justice for all.
About the author:
Gina Jackson, MSW is Western Shoshone and Oglala Lakota. She is a dreamer and a doer. She worked on groundbreaking Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Guidelines and Regulations then joined the Obama White House Community Solutions Team. She recently worked for Native Americans in Philanthropy bringing the Truth and Healing Movement to the philanthropic sector. She has 20 years experience encompassing state/tribal justice, collaboration, policy, and philanthropy. She is a connector, igniter, innovator, and equity builder to bring healing for our nation. You can reach Gina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Return to the Heart Foundation is an Indigenous Women-led grantmaking organization empowering visionary Indigenous Women-led initiatives invested in healing through: narrative change, civic engagement, restorative development and climate justice.