A new Native American Budget and Policy Institute launching this week aims at empowering Native American communities to improve their health, education and economic well-being.
The NABPI will conduct research, budget and policy analysis, social justice advocacy, litigation and community lawyering to encourage Native American communities to create self-determined and systematic change.
"This Institute is solution oriented and will provide the basis for bringing constructive change." - Cheryl Fairbanks, Esq., Institute Interim Executive Director
The Institute is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy of the University of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. It is funded, in part, by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). The Institute is an outgrowth of the work and ideas of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School.
“Our Native American communities deserve to be healthy, educated and empowered,” said Cheryl Fairbanks, Esq., Institute Interim Executive Director (Tlingit/Tsimpshian). “We have the opportunity at this Institute to develop indigenous policies which will have a positive effect to justify and access the much needed funding for our tribes. We are not the Indian problem; we are the Indian solution. This Institute is solution oriented and will provide the basis for bringing constructive change to our children, families, and communities here in New Mexico.”
The NABPI seeks to forge a collaborative pathway to racial equity in New Mexico and across the nation. By working in cooperation with Native American scholars at UNM, graduates of the Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program and tribal elders, the Institute will coordinate research activity across the state to improve public policy decisions at all levels of government through a Native American lens. The Institute will work in cooperation with the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School and utilize the resources available at UNM as well as the expertise of the RWJF Center for Health Policy and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. It will also engage and mentor young Native American researchers and students in a variety of projects.
“As indigenous peoples, we have survived systemic oppressive governmental policies that sought to terminate our languages, our culture, and our way of life. Today it’s important that laws and policies are informed with a tribal perspective in a new collaborative way,” said Alvin Warren, Kellogg Foundation Program Officer for New Mexico programs. “We have learned from past assimilation policies, and we can now move forward to effect change for future generations.”
The Institute will soon develop the initial leadership structure and strategic plan with direction from its Governance Council, which includes representatives from the Pueblos and Tribes of New Mexico ,with extensive experience in leadership, law, medicine, behavioral health, education and cultural literacy.
“We are in a new era of developing laws and policies based on our tribal core values, which have withstood the test of time. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, and it is their values that will enable us to heal and move forward,” said Regis Pecos, Leadership Institute Co-Director at the Santa Fe Indian School and Native American Budget and Policy Institute Co-Founder (Cochiti). “The Institute will provide a venue for collaboration, healing, and unity. Together, we can move forward in the spirit of respect and understanding, so we can truly make a difference here in New Mexico.”
One of the new organization’s first activities is a series of meetings, “Keeping the Child at the Heart of the Circle,” with partners that will start Wednesday. It will focus on incorporating culture, tradition and healing into judicial systems. For example, one meeting will discuss offering a resiliency court and a peace circle model as options to improve current legal processes. Another panel of experts will share their knowledge on tribal, state and federal relations.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has supported the work of the Institute through a grant to the Regents of UNM of $1.5 million for a period of five years. Dr. Gabriel R. Sanchez, RWJF Center for Health Policy Executive Director, serves as the Principal Investigator of the grant.