What is Grassroots Organizing?
Grassroots organizations are formed by groups of individuals who come together to address a common theme or concern within their community. Due to the number of Reservations and large population of Native Americans in Seattle and in the Northwest, Native American grassroots organizations total a higher number than most other regions in the country. Individuals who organize include youth, parents, administrators, and community members. Many Native American grassroots organizations are led by Native Americans themselves, and are designed to support Native American youth and provide them with opportunities to build leadership skills, learn more about their history and culture, and further their education. Many of the organizations that I found were either youth led, or focused on Native American youth.
What do these organizations do?
Grassroots organizations advocate and support those who are facing social or political challenges within their schools, communities, and other institutions. In my findings of Native American grassroots organizations, these groups support Native American youth who are not being given the proper tools and opportunities that they need in order to succeed, both educationally and within their communities. Organizations such as Urban Native Education Alliance, American Indian Business Leaders, Western Native Voice, and the Native Youth Leadership Alliance work to support and advocate for youth within Native American communities through educational opportunities both in their schools, but also through higher education and internship/jobs. These organizations strive to achieve equal opportunities for Native American students to succeed. Though these organizations have not changed federal policy or become directly involved in institutional education, they have created spaces where Native American students can feel comfortable with embracing their culture. These organizations are extremely helpful in advancing opportunities for Native youth to go further and eventually bring these underprivileged students out of the lowest category of achievement in schools nationwide.
It is difficult for these organizations to change the actual environment within the schools that these Native American students attend. They have not taken the strides to go further and actually change federal policy or directly effected the high school and college graduation rate of these students, but instead, they create spaces within their communities for Native American youth to turn to for help and support. These cultural spaces allow them to express their heritage and tradition. Organizations empower them by providing leadership, educational, health & wellness, environmental, and internship opportunities to set a positive path forward for not only themselves, but their communities. By attempting to reach their goals of a healthier and happier community, their work has brought support and services to the lives of Native American youth and families who were in need of them. By advocating for these individuals, they have successfully affected the path that these children take and created positive educational and leadership opportunities that they would never have had otherwise.