Recognizing the Important Role of Fathers in the Native Home

Father’s Day is June 21, and we’re recognizing the critical importance of Ates (Lakota for Fathers) in the development of young minds and hearts. Fathers have a hand in teaching their children life skills, guiding smart life choices and, in early life, providing a sense of safety. They teach us both by what they do as well as what they do not do. Even fathers who are absent from their children’s lives teach us vital life lessons, though sometimes difficult, and children who grow up without a father or father figure are at higher risk of high school dropout, addiction, incarceration, homelessness, and the list goes on.

Surely, one of the most resonant questions for future fathers everywhere is, “Will I be a good father?” Children do not come with a reference manual, nor does fatherhood. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t resources available to help guide new fathers in the right direction.  

One such resource comes from Albert Pooley, a Hopi and Navajo father and grandfather who has helped many Native American fathers discover their strengths. Pooley realized social programs often fall short of the real help that is needed, and in 2002 he founded The Native American Fathers and Families Association (NAFFA) to help Native fathers who are struggling.

When we look to our fathers for help, we often forget that many times they are alone with their own doubts – even those who are in the home. At the heart of the NAFFA philosophy is the wisdom that families are sacred, and that while many families often see the father as the problem, these fathers can also be the solution to the family’s problems (i.e, the “white sheep” of the family).

Through their “Fathers are Sacred” program, NAFFA inspires self-motivation and encouragement and provides culturally relevant support to give fathers the tools they need to help their children succeed in life. NAFFA facilitators and programs offer fathers ample opportunities to grow and learn from the experiences of others.

All fathers have great influence over their children and therefore the world. This Father’s Day, we recognize fathers everywhere for the gifts you bring and sacrifices you make for our families. Our very connection to you holds the promise of life.

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