Native Organizers Alliance

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Native Organizers Alliance


The Native Organizers Alliance, is a project of the Alliance for a Just Society, is dedicated to building the organizing capacity of activists, organizers and groups building people’s power among native peoples across the continent. It also provides a forum for Native organizers and organizations to work in collaboration with each other, share best practices, and promote their work with national allies.

The Native Organizers Alliance (NOA) supports grassroots-driven social change particularly to advance the health and welfare of rural and urban communities and reservations across Indian Country.

Our goal is to help local organizers engage those most affected by disenfranchising policies and lead policy change efforts that address root causes, develop leaders and build organizational strength.

We work closely with organizations to develop plans, execute campaigns and provide ongoing contact as campaigns proceed. NOA has developed and leads a four-day Native Organizing Training annually to provide culturally appropriate training to community organizers, service providers, tribal government members and leaders. Skill-building webinars and issue briefings are also held on a regular basis.

Our goals:

  • Build and support a network of Native organizers and organizations that believe in grassroots organizing for change;
  • Organize training and capacity-building opportunities, locally and nationally;
  • Provide technical assistance to community and service groups, and tribal governments;
  • Support funding for campaigns in partnership with allies to increase the impact on Indian Country;
  • Seek funding for campaigns to advance the work of organizations in the Native Organizers Alliance network;
  • Develop both social and traditional media opportunities to highlight Native organizing efforts.[1]

Advisory Council

Native Organizers Alliance Advisory Council, 2016; [2]

Council members

Native Organizing Training

Judyleb.PNG

According to Judith LeBlanc, thirty organizers and activists from across Indian Country came together in Seattle in June 2015, for a special training opportunity hosted by the Native Organizers Alliance: the annual intensive four-day Native Organizing Training.

Grassroots organizing is both an art and a science. In Indian Country, the art of organizing is reflected in the Native-led action against oil drilling in the Arctic by the ‘Kayaktivists’ in the “Paddle in Seattle”, and the round dance flash mobs of Idle No More.

In four days our aim was to study the science of organizing – Native style, in keeping with our traditions and with our history.

In our jam-packed, daylong sessions, we explored ways to build Native organizers’ skills to meet the unique challenges of organizing in Native communities, on reservations, and in urban and rural centers. We shared lessons, best practices and examined the techniques for building a stronger grassroots movement for social change in Indian Country.

This is just the beginning! The future of Indian Country rests on growing a broad infrastructure of Native organizers and activists who facilitate campaigns that get at the root causes of the lack of jobs, healthy communities and protect treaty rights, sovereignty and Mother Earth from destruction.

The training provided an opportunity to share stories of the tremendous challenges our communities face and our vision and passion for bringing about structural change that will help Native communities not only survive, but also thrive.

Especially impressive were the younger participants,coming from cutting edge Indian Country experiences. For instance, one of the activists is a part of the occupation to protect sacred Apache land from uranium mining in Oak Flat, AZ. Another was a Native radio talk show host, and one young man will be headed to the White House for the Native youth gathering in the next week.

One woman representing the “AIM generation” (radicalized in the 1970s) is a traditional Dine organizer. She has been fighting for decades for compensation from the coal and uranium mining companies for the contamination of Navajo land, water and air. She felt uplifted by the energy of the young organizers in the room, who are just beginning the fight for justice in their communities.

One of the most popular sessions of the training was on power mapping. David Bender, the community organizer for the American Indian Center of Chicago, said learning how to map the potential allies and likely opponents in an organizing campaign will help him prepare both his leaders and grassroots members to think and engage more strategically in their work.

At the end of fast-paced week, participants – whether they work in small villages in Alaska, on the Navajo or Hopi Reservations, or in the heart of Chicago, Portland or Billings – went home inspired by the knowledge that they are a part of something bigger. Our hope is that the participants will continue to work together with support from the Native Organizers Alliance to amplify a stronger Native voice on key issues at the national level.

The sheer demand for this training says something powerful about the groundswell of the grassroots upsurge in Indian Country: in a few short weeks, more than 130 people submitted applications for the 30 available slots.

Now the work will continue at home and at the Native Organizers Alliance. Some of the participants will help organize local Native trainings in Alaska, Montana, and South Dakota. One participant even volunteered to become a Native Organizers Alliance trainer.

I was also struck by the heightened awareness of the need for unity in Indian Country. There is so much more that unites us than divides us. The unity that exists between those who organize on the Rez, in rural areas or urban centers, and those who continue the struggle for tribal recognition, serves as the key to building alliances with the vast cross section of people in the U.S. – those who can and must be a part of the movement for justice in Indian Country.

The curriculum, preparation, and training, was a collaborative effort and would not have been possible without Ozawa Bineshi Albert (former organizer for the Center for Community Change and Native American Voters Alliance in New Mexico) and Donavon Hawk (activist and leader from Montana), my co-facilitators.

With much love and respect to all who participated in the 2015 Native Organizing Training. A new circle of movement building in Indian Country has begun. [3]

References