Jacqueline Johnson Pata listens to her elders: “My tribal leader…told me the lessons of leadership. He told me I needed to reach out to communities outside of our own community. That our strongest advocates would come from voices outside our tribal communities.”
When you look at the realities faced by Native Americans, the need for collective action across racial lines is clear. Eight of the ten poorest counties in the United States are home to Indian reservations. Unemployment for Native Americans is double the national average. The obesity rate among American Indian and Alaska Native youth is approaching 50%, which is twice as high as white American youth.
As the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, based in Washington, D.C. Jacqueline works advocates for the rights and welfare of Native Americans. Heeding her tribal leaders words, she reaches to other communities of color to find solutions to common problems, working collaboratively on issues such as HIV/AIDS, early and adult education, affordable housing, environmental protection and ensuring equity and fairness in the government’s response to the economic downturn, which has disproportionately affected communities of color.
This “common vision” of social justice, as Jacqueline sees it, is the best way for both American Indians and the nation as a whole to move forward.