The BasicsMany thanks for coming to NAICOB's crowd-funding page. The short story is that we are a non-profit in Boston that has provided assistance to Native peoples in and around Boston for over forty years. Unfortunately, our building needs to be repaired - and before we can get additional funding, we have pretty much been told that we need to make the repairs. If you can give even a little, or just spread the word by sharing the link to this page, there will be many people who will be very grateful. If you're wanting the longer story, feel free to read on below and/or watch the video? and if you have any other questions, please feel free to send us a message! You can also see answered questions at the bottom of the page (just scroll down!).
The Longer StoryIn the late 1960s, a group of Native Americans living in Boston set up the Boston Indian Council (BIC). They did so recognizing, in the midst of civil rights progress, that life for the indigenous people of North America was still hard and unforgiving - and nowhere was this fact more true than in the cities where, bereft of what little aid was available on reservations, life was especially tough. Despite this additional difficulty, Native Americans migrated (and continue to do so) to cities like Boston in search of employment and social advancement; in the late sixties the native population of Boston numbered roughly five thousand - nowadays it is pushing towards thirty thousand.
The founders of the BIC recognized that when these men and women arrived, many of whom had never left their own communities, they were overwhelmed and underprepared; cut off from people of their own cultures, and under-educated (thanks to the substandard education offered to native peoples), many became lost - mental illness and alcoholism spread even more quickly through urban communities than it did through reservations.
The BIC was originally just a place where native peoples could meet up and engage with one another, but it quickly became a roaring success. It started with just a handful of Indians meeting across the street from the Boston Common, progressed to larger meetings in a Funeral Parlor in Dorchester, but in 1974 - as the need for services became obvious - they acquired the building that NAICOB inhabits to this very day. In those heady days, with the U.S. recognizing the wrongs it had done to so many, there were always new programs: computer training, education services, employment assistance, cultural programs, and so much more - they even ran a halfway house (called Tecumseh House) for alcoholics. It was through organizations like BIC that genuine advances began to occur...
Then the backlash against the civil rights and anti-poverty programs began, and picked up pace particularly during the eighties. The Boston Indian Council, who were by then the center for the Indian Health Service in Boston, suddenly found itself with a continued need for all the programs but a drastically reduced budget. Furthermore, the federal recognition process was initiated; this has been a blessing for so many, allowing tribes to acquire sovereignty and self-sufficiency. However, it did have one drawback: it drew away even more funding from urban centers like the BIC, which led to reduced opportunities to many native peoples - those whose tribes had been unable to achieve recognition, and those urban natives who were very far away from these newly available resources. To save itself from complete destruction, it reformed itself as a non-profit organization in 1991 - the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB).
At the turn of the twenty first century, the building that has housed all these services was beginning to show its age - there were a number of things that needed fixing. NAICOB's board recognized the need to address these issues, and applied for additional funding through its Indian Health Service contract to undertake these repairs. Unfortunately, due partially to politicking, a changing emphasis on funding within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and health and safety concerns related to the same repairs for which the additional money was requested, their contract was terminated.
Now NAICOB found itself stuck in a catch-22 situation in which it remains to this very day - they need funding to make repairs, but the large majority of funding sources require the repairs to be made before any money gets handed over. At the same time, due to a continuing drawdown in available funds, and an increase in the number of organizations looking to support people living in poverty and despair, it is simply more difficult to get the funds at all - and despite decades of service, and the lifetimes of experience represented by its staffs and volunteers, something as small as a few ancient windows and some rewiring requirements is enough to wreck an organization's chances at a successful application... especially those related to health and education, the areas that are most sorely needed by Native peoples.
NAICOB has soldiered on regardless. Some canny negotiating ensured that, despite the city's desire to move them on entirely, they have the building itself on a ninety nine year lease that is practically free. Unfortunately, this cost them the outside plot which was used for powwows and outdoor gatherings (now being developed into condos). However, it means they have been able to keep the doors open - and despite their troubles, they continue to offer education services, employment assistance, and programs like the Grandparents Program (funded through the Administration for Children and Families); this latter service was a support group for elderly Native Americans in the city who have been required, due to issues with alcohol and addiction, to become primary caregivers to their grandchildren.
The truly sad thing is that the work of organizations like the BIC (and later NAICOB) truly did begin to make a difference. Urban health and employment disparities were beginning to be addressed - the statistics show this to be true. The slow disintegration of such services, and the general disinterest which has aided and abetted this process, means that such things are getting worse again. For example, a large study of urban indigenous populations in the U.S., undertaken by Mei Castor and her team, shows that urban native communities are at much greater risk of drug addiction and death - one and a half time more likely than natives who live on reservations (who are already at higher risk than the non-native population). This number of deaths is also increasing four times as quickly in the urban native population than it is in the non-native urban population of the U.S. Furthermore, native peoples living in cities are still more likely to become alcoholics, and suffer increased health concerns compared to the non-native urban population. Problems like this are made even worse by successive governments essentially ignoring the movement of Native peoples within the US; though over two thirds of native peoples living in the U.S. now live in cities, only a tiny percentage of federal funds (only one percent, for example, of funds earmarked for healthcare) are directed towards urban centers.
NAICOB provided cultural, economic and educational support for a group of people who far too often fall through such cracks, and who are often almost totally invisible to the majority of people - in the northeast of the United States, many people do not even realize that their are federally recognized Native Nations, and that there are thousands of tribally enrolled and non-enrolled Native American men and women living amongst them. NAICOB has given many of these people hope when everything seemed blanketed by despair, and helped many advance their prospects and begin to achieve great things. If it is going to continue to achieve such great results, and begin to once again turn the tide of poverty and isolation (that fosters that blanket of despair), it needs just a little bit of help.
If you can give a small amount, or even just spread the word about this campaign, then NAICOB can rise again - and once it is back on its feet (as has been proved time and time again through decades of community assistance), it can and will continue its good work. Going forwards, NAICOB is interested in setting up programs that will target the particular problems that Natives (especially those in urban settings) face: addiction, abuse, alcoholism, unemployment, under-education, and loss of culture. If we are successful here, those who backed the campaign will receive regular updates on both the repair work of the Center and its continued operation.
One question people have asked is: aren't there other non-Native programs that Native peoples could use? Sure, there are some - but they are already overloaded, and are often targeted at particular communities in a way that has been proven (see for example Stephen Kulis' 2013 study on culturally adapted drug prevention program) to be ineffective for Native peoples. There is also an unfortunate (if understandable) level of distrust--especially amongst older generations--towards non-Native programs.
On a new location: It wasn't so very long ago that the NAICOB building was packed to bursting on most days. There are more than enough Native peoples in Boston, and the building is perfectly sized to house the programs that should be running; especially considering the generous terms of the lease, moving (even to a smaller building) would actually end up costing far more than the amount we're looking to raise with this campaign. The best long-term solution is to find a way to fix up what we have, and then win back the contracts? and that, of course, is why we're on Indiegogo!