Who is PWNA?

PWNA is one of the largest Native-led and Native-serving nonprofits in the U.S. Founded in 1990, we address immediate needs and long-term solutions related to food and water, education, health, emergency services, holiday support, and animal welfare. We do this through eight programs: American Indian Education Fund® (AIEF), Northern Plains Reservation Aid® (NPRA), Southwest Reservation Aid® (SWRA), Navajo Relief Fund (NRF), Southwest Indian Relief Council® (SWIRC), Sioux Nation Relief Fund (SNRF), Native American Aid (NAA), and Reservation Animal Rescue® (RAR). We also have a NativeAware® program to support public education and address misconceptions about Native people, history, and funding. In addition to goods and services, PWNA provides the administration, accounting, and fundraising for these programs. PWNA is not a third party, and you may restrict your contribution to your program of choice simply by writing "Restricted" on your check or return form. This way, 100% of your donation goes to your program of choice. 

Please see our Directors and Key Staff page. 

Yes, PWNA is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt charity. Our Federal Tax ID is 47-3730147. An independent, certified public accountant firm, as described by the IRS, prepares our Financial Statement and Audit. You can be confident that your contribution to PWNA is tax deductible.


We partner with reservation programs (aka our Program Partners) across 9 priority states if they request our aid and their programs fit out services and guidelines. We emphasize services for those most vulnerable — Elders and children. Many of PWNA’s services benefit these populations, from food and personal healthcare items to school supplies and scholarships. What we provide depends on the unique needs of each Program Partner and their community. In other words, we strive to get the right goods to the right people at the right time. 

PWNA is an accredited charity that meets or exceeds all 20 of the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. More than 70% of revenue goes toward programs. Please access our most recent IRS Form 990 and Annual Report for a complete financial picture and the impact your gifts created. 

Although the BIA has a large budget to serve the 574 federally recognized tribes, it has been cited as the least effective government agency and the most mismanaged. About three-fourths of BIA funding is directly used on behalf of the tribes – but not in payouts. Most of it is spent on contracts, grants, or compacts for social services, job training, school facilities, some housing improvement, and land concerns and loans. Still, about a fourth of BIA funding goes to operate the Office of Indian Services for disaster relief, education and child welfare, Tribal governments, reservation roads, and Indian Self-Determination; the Office of Justice Services for law enforcement, Tribal courts, and detention facilities on Tribal lands; the Office of Trust Services for management of trust lands, assets, and resources; and the Office of Field Operations with 12 regional offices and 83 agencies that carry out the BIA’s mission at the Tribal level. At least 80% of the 5,000 BIA employees are Native or Alaskan Native. 


Contrary to popular belief, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) does not disburse cash to individuals or mail out basic assistance checks to people simply because they are Native American. Many Tribal members are veterans, disabled, or retired after years of serving as railroad workers, artists, and educators in Tribal jobs or general labor. These people receive V.A. or disability or social security checks from the government, as would any other American. Throughout PWNA’s service area, the main forms of governmental aid seem to be energy assistance and food commodities (arising from treaties and connected with the loss of reservation lands and natural food sources), although many Elders say it is hard for them to wade through the line to receive the commodities. TANF is also available for single mothers but often requires them to volunteer for 40 hours a week in a supervised work program leading to job placement. Other social programs such as WIC and SNAP (food stamps) are available on the reservations; these are the same programs available to all Americans, with eligibility based on demonstrated need.  

Simply put, budget cutbacks and governmental policies have made it hard for many Native Americans to feed their families. With housing in disrepair and overcrowded, many Native Americans on the reservations lack any permanent address. This makes them ineligible to receive food stamps or public assistance. In remote communities, those able to receive SNAP benefits often lack the transportation to shop off-reservation at a regular grocery store where options and prices are more affordable. In many reservation communities, there is only a convenience store where food options are limited and costly, so SNAP doesn’t go very far.  


Simply operating a casino does not guarantee Tribal riches or guarantee payouts to individual Tribal members. Only the 574 federally recognized tribes are allowed to operate casinos – more than 400 tribes in the U.S. are not federally recognized.  

Further, the National Indian Gaming Commission reports only 244 tribes in 29 states operate casinos (as of 2022) – less than half of the federally recognized tribes. Of the 244, only 45% (about 110 tribes) earn more than $25 million in gaming revenue and 55% earn less than $25 million. In the Rapid City area, each gaming facility earns an average of $930,000, covering operating expenses and creating some local jobs. So, roughly 19% of the federally recognized tribes may earn enough to give payouts to Tribal members, aid other tribes, and aid surrounding communities, but even this is regulated by the federal government. 

As with all marketing, the research shows gaming is about location, location, location. Casinos within 50 miles of a metro area with 10,000 or more residents have the potential to be highly profitable – not those located in remote reservation communities where PWNA works. 


Please visit the official website for the Department of the Interior atwww.doi.govor www.ancestry.com. 

For more information, download Explore Your Native Roots. 


Please visit the official Tribal website of the reservation that you would like to visit. You can also learn more on the PWNA Blog by searching for "can I visit a reservation." 

Because we serve entire groups, such as every Elder at a Senior Center or every child in a school, we need items donated in bulk quantities and in like kind. For more information on donating bulk items such as new toys, clothing, school supplies, or other needed items, please call our Donor Relations Department at (800) 416-8102. 


PWNA is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate based on age, race, or gender. Every position is filled with the most skilled candidate for the job. We have a diverse staff, including Native Americans, and we encourage Native Americans and employees from other ethnic groups to apply for any opening for which they qualify. 

About a third of all Native Americans live on the reservations today. They are free to leave, but leaving family behind is difficult for many. Family is especially important to Native Americans, and for most, the reservation where they grew up is "home." 


Leaving the reservation also means a loss of community support. Families in reservation communities sometimes combine their resources to cut costs and stay together. Some willing candidates are unable to leave due to a lack of transportation. Many do leave to find work or complete a college education, and they, in turn, help support the ones they left behind. Many also leave for work, only to face hiring discrimination, unequal pay, or other social/racial bias. 

The Indian Child Welfare Act expressly discourages the placement or adoption of children outside of their Tribe. In the case of a permanent adoption, the social worker typically looks for: 1) a member of the child's extended family, 2) other members of the child's Tribe, 3) other Indian families of similar Indian heritage, or 4) other Indian families. Adoption is not an acceptable plan unless the child's Tribe concurs with a permanent termination of parental rights and adoption. 


Children placed outside of the Tribe, even in foster care, lose a sense of belonging unless they maintain their connection with their extended family, tribe, and guardians. The extended family holds great importance within the Indian culture, and Indian children usually remain with one of their many grandmas.  


Download our ICWA Fact Sheet to learn more about the Indian Child Welfare Act and protections for placement of Native children.  


All our Chairpersons are primarily Native American Program Partners who share the needs of people living on the reservations, as do the hundreds of Native community partners we work with year-round. They advise us on the changing needs of the people and help us portray conditions accurately and respectfully in our messaging to donors. If you have a question, please contact our Donor Relations department at (800) 416-8102.