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Celebrating and Supporting Native Fathers

June 10, 2013

ACF’s vision for fatherhood is that every parent is actively engaged in his child’s healthy development, and intellectual, emotional and financial well-being.  Strengthening and supporting families is the mission critical effort to all of the programs that ACF operates from Head Start to TANF, to the Office of Child Support. 

Photo of Native American dad holding his child.
Research tells us that children thrive and develop to the best of their abilities when the adult in their lives are doing well.  For Native American children, there is an additional layer of historical trauma that can interfere with children’s emotional and intellectual development. ANA’s mission of promoting cultural preservation and self-sufficiency makes ANA uniquely suited to provide support to communities for Native fatherhood initiatives

Earlier this year ANA was able to partner with ACF Region X Office and the ANA Alaska Technical Assistance Center to support the 2013 Alaska Native Fatherhood Summit, read more about that event we blogged about in February. We also hosted a webinar recently about the Aha Kane movement in Hawaii, and how the return to cultural teachings and traditions for Native Hawaiian men is restoring their self-esteem and mental health.  

Al Pooley and ANA Commissioner Lillian Sparks standing in front of a larger banner that reads National Native American Responsib
The capacity to be a responsible father or mother is formed over a lifetime, and many of ANA’s grants contribute to a healthier community and improved learning and economic opportunities that create an improved environment that supports family self sufficiency.

For example the Minneapolis American Indian Circle of Generations aims to reduce the intergenerational involvement in the child welfare system through the use of cultural teachings. They host an elder’s lodge, conduct monthly cultural activity groups that form a support network, and provide case management that connects parents to resources and services to create a healthy and supportive home life.  

Many ANA projects, like the White Earth Band of Chippewa’s Healthy Families Healthy Communities project seeks to address the impact of historical trauma and its manifestations through a culturally validated educational program that includes parent mentoring.

Photo of Native American Nooksack dad holding up his son.
In addition to these competitive grants, ANA is working with the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association on a national campaign to promote the importance of fatherhood in Tribal communities in a one-year cooperative agreement.  Fathers, according to NAFFA President Al Pooley, are Indian Country’s greatest untapped resource.  Using a positive approach, NAFFA encourages fathers to take a leadership role in their families emotionally, spiritually and economically. 

As part of this Fatherhood initiative, we are strongly encouraging all Native communities throughout the United States, including American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to organize events on or around Saturday, June 15, for National Native American Responsible Fatherhood Day to celebrate and promote Fatherhood. Activities can be as simple as a Tribal Proclamation or community barbeque, or as elaborate as a weekend canoeing and camping trip with their children.  The purpose of these events is to celebrate and encourage active engagement. They can also be an effective tool to connect fathers and families to community services.

We are especially encouraging Tribal ACF programs and Tribal Housing Authorities to register their participation in local events. Too often our thoughts are focused on what is wrong in our community, and this event is an opportunity to celebrate those that strengthen our communities with their wisdom, skills, generosity and time.

If you want to learn more about ACF Responsible Fatherhood Initiative, ANA’s Strengthening Family Resources, click on the links or visit

Lillian Sparks, a Lakota woman of the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, is the Commissioner of the Administration of Native Americans.  Miss Sparks was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Commissioner on March 3, 2010, and was sworn in on March 5, 2010.  She has devoted her career to supporting the educational pursuits of Native American students, protecting the rights of indigenous people, and empowering tribal communities.

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