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Generosity of Spirit: A Tribal Holiday Tradition

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Giving runs deep in the heart of Indian country — particularly during the holiday season.

The benefactors of tribal giving are most often families in need. From gifts and services ranging from modest to substantial, tribes are helping to feed their hungry neighbors, and giving children the priceless joy of opening a gift on Christmas morning.

The below list of 10 tribal donations represents just a small sample of the myriad acts of generosity performed by tribes this holiday season.

Morongo Band of Mission Indians

The Morongo Band brought holiday cheer to 3,500 children of low-income families. The tribe gifted $100,000 to sponsor a shopping spree with Christmas Cheer All Year.

The nonprofit hosted the shopping spree at the Toys R Us in Ontario, California. Children, selected by local charities and nonprofit, emerged from the store clutching toys from the new Star Wars: Rogue One movie, or other popular Disney films. Others carried Legos, Avengers action figures, Barbie dolls, Nerf toys, skateboards, stuffed animals, footballs, and games.

“For some of the children here today, this will be the only present they will receive this holiday,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “It’s wonderful to see the joy on their faces as they shop for the toy of their dreams.”

Since 2010, Morongo has donated more than $650,000 to the annual shopping sprees organized by Rick Lozano, founder of Christmas Cheer All Year and a longtime Fox 11 News journalist. To date, the program has reached more than 20,000 children.

“I can’t say enough about Morongo’s generosity and commitment to children and families in need. Year after year, the tribe helps us make sure that local kids who are in the greatest need get to enjoy the holiday season,” Lozano said.

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has a long tradition of giving. The tribe contributes more than $1 million annually to support communities and nonprofits across the Inland Empire and Southern California.

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

Throughout the month of December, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community hosted toy drives, and the tribal enterprise Playworks, a provider of high-quality early childhood care and education, partnered with a local organization on a Share the Warmth Mitten Drive to keep area youth properly clothed and warm.

"Wookiye" (helpfulness) has defined the Dakota people for generations. The SMSC is the largest philanthropic benefactor for Indian country nationally, and one of the largest charitable givers in Minnesota. According to the latest 2015 report, the SMSC has donated more than $325 million to organizations and causes, provided $500 million in economic development loans to other tribes, and contributed millions more to support regional governments and infrastructure.

Seminole Tribe of Florida

Volunteers from the Seminole Hard Rock helped grandparents who raise their grandchildren this Christmas. Together they picked out Christmas toys. Volunteers wrapped the gifts, and carried the gifts to the elders’ cars. “This is the most beautiful thing in the world,” said grandmother Alicia Parrish, reported 7 News Miami.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., and its President Mitchell Cypress also organized a toy drive at Seminole Classic Casino in early December.

Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma

Kiowa Casino has collected and wrapped 25,000 toys for Texoma children in need. Gifts will be distributed to organizations around Texoma, situated on the Texas/Oklahoma line, including Faith Refuge, Salvation Army, Child Advocates, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, and more.

Also, in November, Kiowa Casino donated more than 40,000 pounds of canned goods to local food pantries.

United Auburn Indian Community

On December 15, Thunder Valley Casino Resort delivered more than two tons of food to families in need for the holiday season.

 Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians

This holiday season, the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians donated $100,000 to Operation Christmas Hope, a local Arlington, Washington, group that provides presents to children of families in need.

“We really like to focus on children, elders and things that bring the community together,” Shawn Yanity, tribal chairman, told heraldnet.com.

Operation Christmas Hope tries to assist 700 to 800 children each year, volunteer Tina Davis said. “We’re making sure every child has something,” she said.

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians

On December 20, for the second year, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and its Four Winds Casinos joined other local organizations to deliver 500 food baskets to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. Each basket contained a Christmas feast fit for a family: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn, and apple pie, plus a gallon of milk. A total of 1,200 baskets will be given to families in the community.

The Potawatomi Hotel & Casino also recently announced its record donation of $1.17 million to 31 local children’s charities through its Heart of Canal Street program.

Located in the heart of Milwaukee (and in the heart of the Menomonee Valley), Potawatomi Hotel & Casino’s signature charity program, Heart of Canal Street, has contributed nearly $16 million to hundreds of local children’s charities since it began in 1994. Each year, funds are generated through special Canal Street bingo games and other promotions. This marks the fourth straight year the program has surpassed the $1 million mark in fund raising, reported CBS.

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians

Chumash Casino Resort hosted a Toys for Tots fundraiser in conjuction with a performance of The Nutcracker by the Moscow Ballet on December 15. The event netted $25,000 for toys for children in the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, reported the Santa Barbara Independent.

The tribe began supporting Toys for Tots 13 years ago during the resort’s first concert. “We continue to support this program year after year because of the positive impact provided to the children in our community during the holidays,” Tribal chair Kenneth Kahn said. The area Toys for Tots program has benefited more than 6,000 families since its inception in 1994.

The Chumash Foundation additionally showed strong support for the Santa Ynez Valley Music Boosters, presenting the group with a $7,500 check to at their December 7 Winter Concert.

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community donated $20,000 to the Upper Peninsula Drug Enforcement Team (UPSET) to help fight illegal drug use in the area. Among other things, UPSET works toward finding and dismantling methamphetamine labs, and stopping the increasing prevalence of heroin.

Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians

The Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe recently gave 18 checks for $2,000 each to 18 foods banks in Douglas County, Oregon, to feed the hungry during the holiday season.