Through her work with One Nation Walking Together, Laura Chickering says she has seen the beauty and resilience of Native Americans and their culture.
“It is truly to be admired,” she said.
Chickering is development director for the nonprofit, which is built around people helping people rather than a cause, striving to make a positive impact in the lives of Native Americans.
The nonprofit delivers up to $2 million worth of goods to reservations annually, Chickering said.
“We load the 53-foot semis with basic necessities for life, such as food, furniture, clothing. Sometimes we send Christmas gifts, school supplies and medical supplies,” she said.
The organization works directly with community leaders on the reservations who help the One Nation team in Colorado Springs understand the needs of their particular communities, she said. The organization leaves the task of distributing donations to those community leaders.
One Nation provides services to Native Americans, on and off the reservation, in Colorado, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
The organization also has an emergency services program for Native Americans in the Pikes Peak region “who are low- to no-income, or who are facing crisis situations and trying to get out of those situations,” Chickering said.
One Nation works with those individuals to assess their needs on a case-by-case basis and then helps them find housing, enroll in workforce programs and access other assistance.
Chickering recalled a single mother with two teenage children. The organization helped the family find an apartment and assisted the mother with beds and kitchen items. The organization is also helping her obtain bedspreads, hoodies for her children, curtains, rugs and other items to help transform their apartment into a home.
“We’re very similar to other human service organizations in that the people who we see often need help with housing or an apartment,” she said. “Oftentimes we will see people coming from the reservation, and they don’t know where to connect for services.”
The organization also helps individuals secure state identification and job references, and get placed in employment programs.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chickering said One Nation has seen an increased need for emergency services.
“We’ve seen more people from the reservations who really need help,” she said. “The Navajo reservation has had more deaths per capita than anywhere else in world. We’ve seen that reservation really struggle. We’ve seen people coming here looking to relocate, not necessarily because of that, but it has played a role.”
Chickering said the pandemic has impacted Native American culture in “heartbreaking” ways but that Native Americans continue to show resiliency, as they have for hundreds of years.
“They have such a beautiful culture ... [and] they have a wonderful sense of humor. With everything that they have had to go through — with our country and the bias, the genocide and so on — I think their sense of humor has kept them going. They also have a strong sense of family. It’s beautiful and it should be respected.”
As Chickering looks toward the future, she said One Nation Walking Together hopes to grow its emergency services program to help more people in the community.
“We are so thankful to our community for everything they do to support us,” she said. “We have a very amazing, giving community. We are very grateful to be here.”
For more information or to donate, visit indygive.com.