New York City's oldest Native American nonprofit brings together dozens of tribes

Kemberly Richardson Image
Thursday, November 17, 2022
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This Native American History Month we are taking a look at the oldest Native American nonprofit in NYC. Kemberly Richardson has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- This Native American History Month we are taking a look at the oldest Native American nonprofit in NYC and how it is working to keep its culture alive.

It's a time of transition and reflection at The American Indian Community House on Governor's Island, which is dedicated to raising awareness of indigenous culture and bringing together dozens of tribes across the country.

"We want to keep our culture alive and traditions alive," Deputy Director Patricia Tarrant said.

Since 2019 this has been home base for what is the largest and oldest Native American nonprofit in New York City. It's now composed of people from 72 different tribes.

"We make up less than 1% of the population so it's hard to find Native Americans here, it's nice to come together and be with your own people," Tarrant said.

Tarrant is extremely proud of what the organization has accomplished but feels there's much more work to be done.

An exhibit there aims to do just that.

The collection of dresses, red for solidity, is a way to bring awareness to missing and murdered indigenous women -- cases which are often underreported.

"On tribal land it's tribal police and they don't talk to other police," Tarrant said.

There is also a nod to iron workers who in the '30s and '40s helped build some of the city's grandest skyscrapers.

"They lived in Brooklyn and even some of the churches had mass in Mohawk language because there were so many of them," Tarrant said.

The nonprofit will soon leave Governor's Island and is looking for a more permanent space where it can hold job training workshops and have a food pantry.

It's new chapter for the group which since 1969 has been a crucial source of support for the community.

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