Food insecurity, access to quality health and dental care, resources to provide mental health support: For far too many people across Indian country, these barriers to optimal health are the norm, a way of merely getting by that is more similar to life in so-called third world countries than here. When diapers, fuel, underwear, even indoor plumbing are extravagances beyond the financial reach of Natives in need, Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations steps in to fill the economic gaps that separate the people from better, healthier, living.
Formed in July 2009 “under the jurisdiction of a covenant with Creation,” Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations provides “warmth” in the form of blankets, coats, clothing and shoes, as well as diapers, infant care products, and personal hygiene products “to Native children and elders who are most in need,” says Alex “Kisa” Jimenez (Hopi), the organization’s founder and executive director. Jimenez emphasizes the spiritual aspects of the volunteer work he and his staff do. Indeed, he identifies spirit as the force that compelled him to found the organization.
“Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations was formed because our Grandmothers are crying and praying every night for our help,” he says. “After many years of traditional ceremonies they came during ceremony and whispered: ‘For far too many years our people have been suffering in severe poverty. Elders freeze to death in winter. Our children are ending their lives. Because of these conditions, and the residuals of these conditions, it is time to make a change.’”
After this spiritual revelation, Jimenez says, “Our founding members went into the ceremonial place. We prayed about the hurt, the pain, the fears, and insecurities we were still dealing with many years after our youth. We were those children. We understand the hardships. We lived it.”
According to Jimenez, spiritual leaders helped him go through sacred ceremonies “to ask for guidance and help. When these Ceremonies were completed, Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations began to address, and meet, the needs of the seemingly forgotten and the overlooked children and elders in Indian country.”
With a mission to “advance quality of life while promoting social dignity though relief of the poor, the distressed and the underprivileged, honoring all paths of cultural and spiritual traditions,” Jimenez says, Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations staff members participate in traditional ceremonies, honor the teachings of the past, and seek the guidance of elders in the work they do. Jimenez believes basic necessities must first be met among the dispossessed in Indian country, to empower people with the tools to begin to disentangle themselves from the ties that bind far too many. Only after they have food, clothing, adequate plumbing and shelter, will people be able to effectively address the deeper issues that cause suicide, health disparities, domestic violence and substance abuse.
Unlike other organizations that, Jimenez says, might have to go through bureaucratic levels of red tape or that might lack funding, Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations can help people in immediate need, like a mother and her children who have run from a domestic abuse situation with only the clothes on their backs. Jimenez’s organization can get them clothing and other basic necessities right away.
Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations has other initiatives in place, according to Jimenez, including the implementation of community gardens. He and his staff, “are working on delivering bee hives,” he says, and adds, “we are currently working on establishing TSA’ POW UM (Healing Together) a ‘traditional’ teen suicide intervention program.”
With zero dollars received in corporate sponsorship or government grant funding, Jimenez says “We raise our hands in thanks and prayer to all the individuals who have donated funding, ‘warmth,’ and their services.”
This non-profit is sponsored by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the Snoqualmie Tribe, the Chehalis Tribe, and the Squaxin Indian Tribe. According to Jimenez, each sponsor not only provides Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations with financial support, but also provides “a voice in the process of carving out a path for creating future programs.” Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations also has a Private Executive Board, Jimenez says, that “is comprised exclusively of tribal elders, who are spiritual leaders, who make the final decisions.”
The organization also has a small, unpaid staff, according to Jimenez, that is “comprised solely of volunteers, including our grant writer and publications specialist, and our website specialist.” Jimenez says this structure insures that “all donations and funding” go “directly to the Elders and children in need.” Of course, more funding would allow the organization to help more people. “We are working to eventually receive the funding that will enable us to hire staff to assist us with our mission,” he says. “This would allow us to provide more outreach and programs.”
“We at Goodthinking 4 All Our Relations,” Jimenez says, “understand our people are in a very serious situation, we take our people’s suffering in severe poverty very personally. After all, they are our family, not just someone on this or that rez. Not just another damn Government statistic or numbers on a fact sheet to get grant funding.”
He identifies the people of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota; the pueblos of Nevada; the Covelo Reservation in Central California, at Hoh River on the Northern Washington coast; the Lower Brule Indian Reservation; the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota of the Great Sioux Nation; Hopi’s mesas in Keams Canyon, Arizona; and Kykotsmovi Village on the Kewa Tribe’s Reservation in Arizona; Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico; the Navajo Nation, the Duckwater Paiute Reservation in Nevada, the Pima of New Mexico, Fort McDermitt Shoshone in Nevada; and other children from many of the 566 federally recognized tribes, living in unbelievable poverty as those his organization serves.
“What we have witnessed in spite of the conditions is our people wanting to be educated, wanting to succeed, wanting to keep their dignity, when it seems as though nobody cares,” Jimenez says. “It’s the not wanting to give in or give up and the willingness to better themselves we see as prevalent. With all the issues above we see our people wanting to survive and grow and live with Honor and Dignity.”