Gedakina focuses on the challenges and hardships that Native America youth, women, and communities face on a daily basis and that are rooted in multi-generational exposure to systemic poverty, oppression and violence. While statistics can provide a rough snapshot of the challenges that Native American youth, women and men face, they often do not reflect the complex picture of the systemic and epidemic problems we are seeking to overcome. The urban, rural and reservation communities we work within have extremely high unemployment, substantial food security issues, and challenges to health and wellbeing far above national rates. Many youth do not see a future out of poverty; and they cannot envision the potential opportunities and positive life experiences that can be reached. Gedakina works to expose our young people to these possibilities, providing resources and opportunities and enable them to choose and pursue positive life paths.
Challenging Racism and Continual Colonialism
First and foremost when looking at social change philosophy is that we incorporate a core philosophy of equality – we do not discriminate or prohibit participation in our activities based upon whether someone is a federally, state or non-affiliated/recognized Native American. This is an incredibly important position to take, as identity issues between federally recognized tribes and non-federally recognized native/indigenous people is a major area of conflict among Native people today. This inclusive philosophy has helped us to be successful in our efforts to build collaborations, and bring together families and communities that are often divided and at odds with each other. Additionally a long term challenge that we face, as an organization committed to social change, are the difficulties involved in working to deconstruct the lateral violence and internalized racism that is rampart among Native American people. Lateral violence can take the form of Intertribal racism, oppressive colonial power relations that lead to discrimination between and among the various federally recognized and non-federally recognized Native nations, and Intra-tribal racism, which takes place within a community, between individuals and especially extended families. Intertribal racism is often rooted in ignorance of others’ history or in competition for scarce federal or regional resources, and it can include discriminatory efforts to discredit other individuals or groups. Intra-tribal racism can have deep historical roots, with conflicts between families ongoing for generations. Gedakina works to deconstruct racism and continual colonialism, gathering people together from different families, communities and regions to work on issues of mutual importance and impact.
Inclusive, Not Exclusive
Gedakina prides itself on being inclusive and we are known for the public stands we take on a number of diversity issues. Our various councils truly represent our constituency and our philosophy of an anti-racist and anti-oppression approach to organizing. All of our programs include anti-racism/anti-oppression work, especially when it comes to internalized oppression and violence. Gedakina challenges continuing colonialism, racism and oppression, not only as it relates to native people, but as it relates to all people being oppressed in mainstream society. Our motto, “Building a Network of Relations,” represents an inclusive model, which our ancestors maintained, not only with each other, but also with the many groups of settlers who came into our land. As our ancestors understood, many if not all of the social obstacles that we, and other oppressed groups, face can only be challenged effectively through collaboration and alliance building.
“Building a Network of Relations”: Gedakina works within Native rural, urban and reservation communities from across our region and beyond. We seek to reconnect native people from family bands to tribal nations, strengthening community and historical alliances. Our Governing and Advisory Councils demonstrate our inclusiveness, representing not only tribal communities in our region, but also native and non-native activists, educators, and social change advocates with whom we have collaborated for years. Since our conception we have forged collaborative relationships with numerous organizations from across the region including colleges and universities, tribally based Boys & Girls Clubs, tribal cultural and historic preservation officers and departments, and organizations that provide health and wellness services.
Inclusiveness and Diversity: Even as we build our coalitions and work towards expanding our “Network of Relations,” Gedakina maintains its activist roots. In fact, our traditions have always relied on maintaining a balance between cultivating relationships and standing up for the needs of our constituency. Our work encompasses a variety of diversity issues including internalized racism/lateral violence (intercommunity and intra-community), external racism and continual colonialism, classism, homophobia, LGBT/gender equity, women and girls’ issues, homelessness/poverty, food security, cultural stereotypes, inappropriate mascots, and disability. Gedakina works very hard to bring people of all ages and experience together for and through our programs. We support and encourage our young people who want to initiate ideas and programs, and take on leadership roles. We always include our Elders, inviting them to share their knowledge and life experience with us.