Updated: Nov 3
This month – National Native American Heritage Month – we want to introduce you more fully to our new partner, Peacekeeper Society, also known as Peacekeepers. Since 2015, Peacekeepers has been serving the Yakama Nation on the largest Indian reservation in Washington State, with approximately 6,000 Tribal members living there.
Peacekeepers is a female, Indigenous-led nonprofit with a vision “to provide life changing opportunities for Indigenous people." In the words of Interim Executive Director Lucy Smartlowit, their organization asks, “How can we contribute to our tribal community, representing ourselves and our people in a dignified way?”
This has led to the development of programs related to grief recovery, traditional foods, water access, emergency response, and cultural preservation. As Lucy says, “preservation is prevention,” with the potential to increase resilience and bolster both mental and physical health.
About the Partnership – Paaxamit Design School
If you’re familiar with Minga’s work, you know that, while our partnerships include monetary grants, we focus on extending the reach of those dollars – and of our partner organizations – by supporting project development and capacity building.
In our partnership with Peacekeepers, we will be supporting the Paaxamit Design School, dedicated to preserving and celebrating the revitalization of traditional cultural practices. At the heart of Design School is Indigenous artist and fashion designer Mersaedy Atkins. Mersaedy is working with community participants to design, sew, and bring to life one of each of eight traditional powwow dance regalias, as well as a database and library of sewing patterns.
“We hope to bring our participants full circle,” Mersaedy says, “by not only teaching them how to make their outfits, but also the songs, dances and protocols. Then, [we] finish with their ‘Joining in Ceremony.’ This not only honors these new outfits, but the dancers as well.”
Together, we aim for the Design School to become a federally funded “best practice” or “evidence-based” program, in the hopes of sustaining and extending its benefits for individual and community health. Necessarily, this will involve steps to define and quantify the work in the context of traditional academic and philanthropic structures.
As Lucy puts it, “We know the systems in place have not worked for us. It’s our responsibility to create new systems.” That’s why we will be following Peacekeepers’s lead as we navigate areas such as Indigenous data sovereignty and White saviorism, and work to build strengths-based approaches.
“We can’t change [these systems] today,” Lucy acknowledges, “but we can leverage our resources and provide some reprieve.” Minga hopes to be part of that through this collaboration, and are deeply grateful that Peacekeepers has put their trust in us.
See all of the 2023 Design School Offerings
Community Hidetanning Class – February 2023 – 7 trainers – 50 participants
Jingle Dress Regalia Making Class – March 2023 – 15 trainers – 35 participants
Joining In Ceremony – 12 New Dancers ‘Joined the Circle’ from class
PNW Plateau Shell Dress Regalia Making Class – June 2023 – 2 trainers – 60 participants
Mens Round Bustle Regalia Making Classes – Fall 2023 – in progress
Powwow Dance Class – Aug-Dec 2023 – in progress
Applique Class – Sep-Dec 2023 – in progress
Feather Work/Bustle Classes – Nov-Dec 2023 – in progress
Joining In Ceremony/Powwow/ Fashion Show – December 2023
Support the Partnership
You’re the reason this partnership is possible. And your donations, coupled with our board members volunteer service, are the reason Minga has lasted twenty years. Your support today will facilitate our work with Paaxamit Design School, as well as a new partnership in Central America, to be announced soon.
We’ve raised almost $16,000 toward our $20,000 goal for our 20th Anniversary. Can you help us get there?