By Kim Benally
November is the month of giving and the month of gratitude. Both of these concepts are not foreign to Indigenous people, giving and gratitude are woven into our community and family values, something we’ve always done.
In my own Navajo culture, when a baby first laughs, we celebrate with food and family. The baby gives away salt to those present to give thanks and blessings. When a young lady goes through her kinaalda (puberty ceremony), she will do a give away, where she gives away food, candy, and other items as a way of saying thank you. The giving away of salt during a baby’s first laugh dinner and giving away food and other items during the kinaalda is an integral part of each ceremony. When a person leaves this life, the community comes together to help the family bury their loved one. Meetings are held by the family and community is invited. During this time, family and community give their time, give food, and give money to help offset funeral expenses. Giving to others and expressing gratitude are woven into these important cultural events and ceremonies. Giving and gratitude are woven into our Indigenous being.
There are many reasons why I and countless others give to charities and non-profit agencies doing tremendous work. Maybe we have a relative battling cancer, so we give to the American Cancer Foundation, or we have a child that attended a youth camp, so we give to a positive youth development nonprofit, or we survived a sexual assault or a violent relationship, so we give to domestic and sexual violence organizations. We all chose our own reasons for giving.
Giving is my way of showing gratitude for people doing the work that is challenging, that is difficult, that is heart-breaking. I give because I understand, from a non-profit perspective, that people who do this work, who work for a better world are often underpaid and undervalued. My giving goes to, in many cases, desperately needed unrestricted funds or funds that can be used for anything the organization needs. Funds can be used for capacity building, for staff training, to show staff appreciation.
As we approach the end of the year, thank you all who have given to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women and to our member organizations. Any and all giving is always appreciated.