What Service Means for Native American Communities!
Today’s guest blog comes to us from Philandrian (Philan) Tree and is part of AmeriCorps Alums’ REALTalk series on race, equity, and AmeriCorps alumni as leaders. Philan served with the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (now called Arizona Conservation Corps) in 2010-2011. She is currently a Tribal & Program Liaison for the Coconino County District 4 Supervisor.
Native American culture is known for its consistent civic engagement to provide for one’s community, whether it’s providing food or partaking in traditional ceremonies. Though these opportunities are now more difficult and costly to partake in during today’s reality due to remote locations, travel costs, and little to no access to basic everyday necessities, or inadequate funding for wrap-around service delivery, there are avenues that are complementary to our societies. I was able to experience this through Americorps. I served two terms as a mentor for Energy Efficiency Crews who provided Weatherization for the housing on the Navajo Nation.
It was during our service that my Energy Crew members and I were able to utilize our language to educate our Navajo communities about modern-day energy efficiency measures for their homes. This is not to say that our communities are wasteful of energy. In fact, we probably use far less energy than the majority of the communities across the US. Many of the residents lack electricity and running water, and heat their homes by way of wood and/or coal. Yet, by weatherizing the home, they would then use less wood/coal during the winter, and their homes would stay cooler in the summer.
In addition to providing services, we were able to enlighten local governments about the reality of the housing issues on the Navajo Nation which allowed for new partnerships within the region to address the problem. Many of the crew members I worked with were over-qualified for the entry-level positions, but they insisted that their communities would benefit from their expertise as well as their younger peers. In a place where the unemployment rate sits at 70% they found added value through the comradery with each other and our extended clan systems throughout the region.
It doesn’t take much to implement a service program or to volunteer. Choosing to serve and the results of service speak volumes about where we come from, and where we chose to go. I hope you choose to keep—or start—serving today too.