The Rich Cultural Identity of Native Americans in ABQ

From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Dawn Begay

Native American Affairs Coordinator for the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque is home to the 7th largest urban native population in the U.S., with more than 400 tribal nations represented within and around the city. Indigenous populations, however, are some of our most vulnerable communities.

I am Dine from the Navajo Nation. Since time immemorial, my maternal family lived on Black Mesa near Shonto, Arizona. My family has been subjected to displacement and forced relocation by the government for generations. My great, great, great grandmother returned from the Long Walk upon release by the Federal Government soldiers at Bosque Redondo. My great grandmother was forcibly removed due to the Hopi-Navajo Land Dispute Settlement Act. My grandmother was taken as a young child and forced to attend boarding school in Fort Wingate, New Mexico and then relocated to San Francisco, California upon graduation to assimilate into urban life. However, she did not stay in California, but returned to New Mexico to obtain her degrees in education; ultimately retiring as an educational administrator after 45 years. As for myself, I live in Albuquerque because I can’t go back and there are more opportunities afforded to me in the city than on the reservation. My family’s story is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Indigenous families that were forced to relocate. But going to school here, getting a job here and buying a home here was extremely difficult. So, how can Indigenous communities build wealth when every generation has been and is still being affected by forced removal and relocation policies?

I have been working with the City of Albuquerque for two years and serving as the Native American Affairs Coordinator within the Office of Equity and Inclusion. We believe that people of all backgrounds are our greatest asset and we work to achieve racial equity and social justice. Understanding the history of the people who live here, celebrating their cultural identity, representing the people at every level of government and advocating to create space for our community to insert their voice is a step towards building capacity and providing equitable and inclusive services and resources.

In our partnership with Living Cities, we specifically focus on housing and homeownership. The community voiced their concerns of Native Americans experiencing homelessness and difficulty achieving housing security. My work centers around creating opportunity for Albuquerque’s native population to create and develop their own wealth through homeownership. Generally speaking, individual ownership and wealth is a fairly new concept to indigenous communities as we value what benefits the community. But I think our work can do both. There has to be a way for individuals and families to build wealth through homeownership while simultaneously uplifting native-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. To achieve this, multiple jurisdictions need to work together, from tribes to city to state and federal governments, providing Indigenous communities with the tools and resources needed to create their own wealth within cities and overcome generations of disadvantage.

Ultimately, we want the narrative of Native Americans not to be seen as a burden or the face of homelessness, but to shine as a part of our city’s rich cultural identity.




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Cultural Equity to Achieve Social Change in New Haven, Conn.

From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Adriane Jefferson
Director of the Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs for the City of New Haven, Connecticut

To achieve true, cultural equity, we need to work across intersections, within different departments and industries, to address all aspects that affect livelihoods.

In New Haven, Connecticut, we are actively striving to create a place of belonging for residents and those looking to join our community. As the city’s Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs we’re taking an anti-racist approach through arts and culture to create momentum for social change and activism. In order to achieve this and true, cultural equity, we need to work across intersections, within different departments and industries, to address all aspects that affect livelihoods.

Because my department is housed beneath the Economic Development Administration, my team has a unique opportunity to work with the economic development team, in addition to the Mayor’s office, and play a leading role in shaping the city’s work to be more equitable, and anti-racist. And while our work with Living Cities has just begun, we have already seen what the power of these experts, and having access to a network of individuals all working within the same space, really have, particularly in an advisory and supportive role, helping us to encourage our Mayor to join the Government Alliance of Racial Equity. Now, we have not only been able to expand our programs, but to center our work of arts and culture around social activism.

After the murder of George Floyd, there were many solidarity statements, but what do those really mean, in terms of impact, if policies and practices are not being implemented? To address this, my team released an anti-racism pledge last year, which serves as a toolkit and process of learning among a cohort of art and cultural organizations of what it means to be anti-racist. Since then, it has become a national tool, being used by more than 30 organizations — across municipalities.

At the end of the day, I just want to make sure everything we are doing is actually impactful and making a difference within our community. I would feel accomplished, if we can see those unjust systems in our city, and throughout the U.S., changing, shifting and being disrupted for the better.




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National Community Solar Programs Tracker

19 states have policies allowing some form of community renewable energy. This quarterly update (2020 Q4) shows the capacity built in states with most active programs: Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York. It focuses on programs in investor-owned utility service territory.… Read More

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Youth and Philanthropy Co-Design an Equitable Minnesota

From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Marcus Pope
Vice President of Youthprise

In order to promote equity in our state, we need to uplift young people in a deep way and prepare them to lead today and into the future.

Although I was born in Minnesota, my family has deep roots in Mississippi. Seeing the disparity in the North while having a sense of the South’s historical roots raised my level of consciousness and influenced my commitment to equity. I wanted to work in a space where I could have the opportunity to actually make a difference for my state, my community and our youth — which I’ve found at Youthprise.

After nearly 10 years of working with Youthprise since our founding by the McKnight Foundation, I am looking forward to transitioning from my role as Vice President to President at the end of the year. Our work is centered around increasing equity with and for Minnesota’s indigenous, low-income and racially diverse youth. And we do that through helping others serve more and serve better. By mobilizing and investing resources, advancing knowledge and best practices and advocating for change, we are making progress towards a more equitable Minnesota — all alongside our state’s youth.

We are seeing rich diversity among our youth cohorts and in order to promote equity in our state, we need to uplift young people in a deep way and prepare them to lead today and into the future. I’m excited about our work with Living Cities and to learn from their expertise and ability to influence equity on a systemic level. Through Living Cities, we now have the opportunity to network and learn from individuals across the country that are dealing with the same challenges and working towards similar goals. Being a part of this learning community has me excited for our future and our ability to break through our nation’s disparities across every outcome area.




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