"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." Chief Sitting Bull’s words have always inspired Melody Redbird-Post, our project director for the National Center on Tribal Early Childhood Development.
Today, she puts those words into action. Melody’s team provides training and technical assistance to Tribal educators who receive grants from the Office of Child Care’s (OCC) Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). This fund provides assistance to low-income families who need child care for work and other purposes.
This ICF team, many of whom are Native American, works with 539 out of the 575 federally recognized Tribal Nations in the U.S. to create effective plans that positively impact their communities.
Empowerment is the key. As our program team members make decisions, they carry with them their own Tribal knowledge. And they use it to create trainings that are responsive to Tribal program needs and that respect each individual Tribe’s unique language and culture.
This is crucial, as Melody knows all too well: She was once a CCDF Administrator for her own Tribe, the Kiowa Tribe, in southwest Oklahoma. And she has experienced the feeling that her community was not understood. “That’s why my team is intentional about using an Indigenous knowledge lens to inform how we design and implement our technical assistance activities.”
These intentional relationships, built on trust, create a safe atmosphere where grantees can share their vision. Trust doesn’t come easy, she admits. But “building relationships with each Tribe has helped our team better facilitate conversations.”
Pivoting during a pandemic
Because of these relationships, Melody’s team has a better understanding of how to meet their constituents’ needs—even in a global crisis.
“Tribal communities have been hit so hard by the pandemic, disproportionately so,” Melody admits. When COVID-19 first took hold, the team scheduled virtual roundtables to gather honest commentary amongst grantees in all 10 OCC regions. Their efforts helped the agency—the recipients of CCDF funds—move quickly to provide critical policy clarifications and changes to programs impacted by the pandemic.
“We’ve given Tribal Nations a platform to share challenges and learn from each other. And now that OCC staff understand what the Tribes are facing, they can better help those most impacted by COVID-19.”
— Melody Redbird-Post
A support system in place
In times like these, Melody is grateful to be working with a team that shares her vision and puts the client first. “I’m incredibly proud of my team. We’ve come to lean on each other, and really rely on each other in ways we never imagined,” she says. It’s further proof: You achieve great things when you bring your passion to work.