Our world is in constant change. As a result, the work of Red Feather is also constantly evolving, based on the needs of our partner communities. For the first twenty years of our existence, we focused on building straw bale homes, with volunteers from around the world, for tribal members in need of housing. A desire to impact a larger number of families, and aspirations to continue strengthening local resilience, shifted our efforts toward providing do-it-yourself home repair workshops. While the workshops have been and continue to be well received, there has also been consistent demand for home repair assistance. This led to the creation of our Native Home Resource Network housing repair case management program. More recently, we saw the largest coal-fired power plant west of the Mississippi shutter its doors and with it, the closure of the coal mine that fed the plant and the heating stoves of many local homes. Families and tribal leaders from Hopi and Navajo nations are now urgently seeking solutions to a world without coal, not only from a heating standpoint, but in terms of tribal operating revenues. For the Hopi, that income comprised more than 70 percent of their annual budget.
Ironically, we’re back to a starting point of sorts, when our founder, Robert Young, heard about tribal elders freezing to death on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. So moved by the plight of Katherine Red Feather, he organized his friends to build her a new home, which planted the seed that would eventually grow into who we are today. Fortunately, we have had several donors and grants over the past year that have helped us develop a new DIY Healthy Heating class, an alternative healthy heating community demonstration site, and the installation of new heating systems in a handful of homes. As we look to the future, we will continue to solicit support as we expand these efforts, in hopes that all people in our partner communities have access to healthy heating options in their homes.
Of course, it is not just our programs that evolve, but our staff as well, as you will read in the stories that follow. In July of this year, I took the reins as Executive Director, after spending eight years in program development positions within the organization. My own path to Red Feather involved a deep interest in humanity, and a belief that no matter our geography, religion, political views or economic status, we are all connected and should strive to support each other as we endeavor to survive in this chaotic world.
Having worked in the remote corners of West Africa (hand-in-hand with Muslim and Christian communities) and the bustling city of Nairobi, Kenya, I purposefully found my way to the southwestern United States. It was here that I connected with our native communities, who have so many beautiful attributes and whose teachings are of great benefit to our global community. Sadly, they have also endured many injustices and traumatic hardships. Despite this, they keep on thriving and evolving as people. They are not the only native communities to have encountered such a reality.
On a recent, much-needed vacation to Australia, I had the chance to learn more about the aboriginal communities there. Facing much of a similar plight to Native Americans, such as genocide, forced assimilation and theft of their homelands, they remain resilient. I was amazed to see outside the Sydney airport, next to the Australian National Flag, an equivalently sized Aboriginal Peoples Flag. Let’s not pretend to think that having such a flag indicates all is well for Aboriginal Australians or that they live in a world free of prejudice or economic, social, and environmental injustice. However, let their flag be a beacon, reminding us that all people are equally entitled to a healthy and harmonious life.
As the year comes to a close and we soon begin yet another, let it be filled with visions of hope and excitement for stories untold. Endeavor to continue spreading goodwill to all. We recognize that many of our supporters have already donated all they can during the year, but for those who are able we ask that you consider Red Feather in your year-end giving.
If you would rather contribute in other ways, one of the simplest things you can do is share our work more broadly with your family, friends and colleagues- for as our family grows, so does our impact. And, while our volunteer programs are not as robust as in years past, you can still let us know of your interests by giving us a call or through the following link: https://www.redfeather.org/volunteer.html.
Wishing all of you a peaceful and prosperous holiday season.