Supporting tribal communities through collaboration

Hello everyone, welcome! My name is
Joanna Whittaker and I’m with the National American Indian/Alaska Native
Headstart Collaboration Office. I’m here with my colleagues Mike Richardson and
Pam Carter to talk a little bit about the work we do with tribal nations. [Mike speaking in his native language] My name is Mike Richardson, I’m the National American and Alaska Native Head Start Collaboration Director from the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe. And, I’m here to hopefully share
some things. [Pam] Yeah, and my name is Pam Carter. I am Lumbee of North Carolina and I work with the National Institute for Work and Learning. I do some evaluation work with the tribes. [Joanna] Yeah so, one of the things that we work with tribes on in FHI 360 is community building and developing relationships to help them be
successful in their endeavors. So how do you view, Mike and Pam, some of the work
we’re doing with the tribes in this area? [Mike] Well, the first thing is always that relationship building. So we always start out by first establishing meeting the
people, the tribal people the tribal leaders, whether if… we’re
working with the Head Start Program, at the Head Start level, or whoever, and
everybody’s tied into that particular tribe, the community as a whole, to
establish a relationship with them. That relationship is going to make the
a difference of whether they wouldn’t want to work with us or not and we work
through… we do a lot of language revitalization work, as well as working within the cultures itself, establishing those things, and
that helps build that relationship with them, end establishes that trust. So that’s one of the things that we start with because nothing we do can be done
without that relationship being established… with us, and we do that
directly with them so they know who we are, and how we can best support them
from their viewpoint, from their perspective and not so much from ours. [Pam] Yeah, I think that’s probably the big difference there, is it…it does take a different approach than when we’ve worked with some of our other clients, right, so, you know, it is getting in and figuring out – which, it’s
just a good way of doing practice period – but getting in and knowing who they are,
giving them that opportunity to…to be the lead because they are the lead, and
say, we’re just going to say how can we help, and what does that look like. And we
bring in the capacity in different ways to be able to assist them in whatever, whatever it is they’re doing, right. But at a different…a different level, not us
just going in and doing it for them… it’s like having that long conversation, that
total understanding of what it is that they want, and then saying, “Is this
something that might help you? Can we help you and assist you to get to that
a place?” I think that’s kind of the important point. [Mike] Yeah and that’s the key thing
is asking “What do you want?” you know? and how can we support you from your
perspective and what you want, not so much from ours, but you know if we are
establishing that relationship, if we’re supporting that them in their endeavors
then we’re starting with what do you want first, which is one of the things
that most people don’t ask the tribal programs, is what… they come up with
ideas but they’re not asking them, and I think that’s one of the things here at
FHI 360 is that we work very hard to be able to establish those relationships
and doing it from working from their perspective, and finding ways to help support
their mentality and their way of looking at things, through the language and
culture aspect, as well as, understanding the environment that they’re in
themselves. [Joanna] The thing is a lot of these communities they’re doing the work, right? We’re just there to help them make the connections they need to make, and it
takes a long time to develop those relationships and a lot of trust. Because
how long have you been doing this for? You have been doing this for a long time? [Mike] It’s pretty much a lifetime… [all laughing] It’s been a lifetime endeavor, yes. and it’s really you know, I’m always
learning. Every program I work with, every tribe I work with, I’m always learning…
and we start out just by having conversations with the people and just
letting them get to know us from the start, and then finding out exactly what their perspective is like, and with our
partnerships, you know with the NIEA, the National Indian Education Association, and
working through the education side is… is all about de-colonization of how
do we do it from our perspective? How do we bring in our language and culture? And
let that be the basis for everything else, the
foundation for everything we’re building off of and working from there. [Pam] We’ve talked about this before Mike, where it’s almost if…as if, you know what, we’ve
established these relationships and we know how to do it, but every one of them
is a little different. [Mike] Yes. Yes. [Pam] And that’s an important piece to keep in mind, too. [Mike] Yes, whether we are working in the Southwest, whether we’re working in… you know, the West Coast, the Plains area, the Minnesota, Wisconsin within the Ojibwe territories, or the East
Coast, everybody is different. And then, even with that, if we’re working with one
pueblo we’re gonna… it’s going to be different than it is working with the
pueblos right next door to them. And understanding those differences and
learning to support that, and to find ways to work within that, to support them
in what they’re doing through their way of doing things, and then very important for us. [Joanna] Some of the community building you’ve done, Pam is with youth – is that correct? [Pam] Yeah, yeah… which kind of starts with the same way right? You still have
to get to the community, and you start with the elders of the community, you
start with the leaders in the community, and say what is it that you want? And
then and then you work in…to the kids and you also want to know what it is
they want? Because they’re…they’re… raised to listen to elders and to do
what they’re told, right? So, a lot of that is going back and making sure you’re
culturally responsive, and understanding what it is that the community is…wants
you to do with the kids. Why do they, why do they have you there. You know, and then
you’ve had that understanding before you actually do any of the work. But we do
some work around youth leadership, providing some different aspects of how
to help them be more confident and to bring out themselves and to teach them
how to become leaders within their communities. Or sometimes it’s just
helping them understand what it is they want to be when they grow up, and helping
them with thinking about school, and staying in school for things. So yeah, we
do a lot of that and then some of the other work that we do is around the
evaluation piece, and we’ve had a lot of conversations around that, or how
that’s kind of a tough topic for… for us to think through, because just as with
other pieces there’s a different way of thinking- it’s
just kidding and figuring out what that means and sometimes a number, or an
academic score may not be the most important for me. It’s an important point,
but there’s something else out there and it’s going back to say, “What is it that
you want out of this?” How can we help you assess whatever it is that you need to
move you forward and to progress your community, your culture, your
language. [Mike] One of the things that we take pride in here is that we first want to establish that, what are you going to receive? What are you going to get out of
this yourselves. This is for you, and it’s about you, so what are you gonna get from us. Not so much what we’re gonna get, but
what are you going to get from it. And, I think that has has been a difference in
our approach to our tribal programs has been very different from a lot, because
we want to go about it from a native perspective. That’s what it’s all about. That’s how we support our communities, and it really begins with the language
and cultural aspects, and understanding that area, and building from that – it
makes for a very strong foundation for… for the program, as well as for us to to
work through, and as we continue to add partnerships… I think that’s a
strong thing, and knowing who to work with and how to work with them is going to
bring the best perspective. [Joanna] Exactly. [Pam] And understanding our role in that. [Mike] Yeah, exactly and understanding our role is a huge thing. [Joanna] Yeah, and I know the trust that has been built – some of the tribal leaders are even coming back and
reaching out to you at this point, like saying we need some assistance with this. We have this vision and how can you help us implement that? Which is key to the
relationship building and the community building. Well, thank you both for sharing
your insights with us about how we’re working with tribal nations at FHI 360,
and thank you to all of you for sharing your time with us. [Mike] Pi:la’huk

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