This article was originally published at Napa Valley Patch.

When facing the challenges of life, we seek to bolster our strength through the help of those closest to us. We as the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake feel that it’s the job of groups like ours to fulfill such a function in the community and not just with programs, but with a spirit of amiability and appreciation that we share with our neighbors. This sharing is the fundamental function of a community, something that we as the Upper Lake Pomo have been happy to make a top priority.

Our tribe uses internal support systems that provide the opportunity for our members to flourish and meet basic financial and personal needs. We are fortunate to be able to offer a number of programs and initiatives that provide assistance to those in our tribal family, lessening the need to appropriate resources available to all in the larger region. Ingrained in our initiatives is the strong belief that as the Tribe endeavors for self-reliance, our programs goals should promote our people to strive for the same. The sense of duty we feel to both our members and the community ensures that both continue to benefit from the Tribe’s presence and participation in the region.

Building prosperity, financial or otherwise, comes from the bedrock of a quality education. Our dedicated Education Department engages with local schools to ensure that the minds of our youngest members are receiving the support that they need. Towards that same end, we offer these children an early childhood development program, focused on giving those developmental years a foundation for a thriving future. In-house after school tutoring for older children (K-12) led by educational professionals guides them along their journey, making the path to college open to all.

In addition, the extracurricular classes and activities that we offer not only act as a supplement to our children’s learning but gives them a place to meet with their friends and neighbors, strengthening bonds and further establishing our Tribe as a tight-knit community. It is at times of need that we are able to lean on those we love and trust, and these connections often happen early on in childhood.

When we support our children’s education, we are helping to inspire a lifetime of learning and mental exploration. We’re proud of our internal programs, but seeing our membership off into further opportunities truly makes us proud. As they chase their dreams at institutions of higher learning, they carry the Habematolel Pomo name to places that might have seemed impossible just a generation or two ago.

It’s to this end, our Seven Generations Scholarship Fund offers students entering college monetary help with tuition and extracurricular activities, with plans underway to expand the program to vocational and trade schools. This way, even more working opportunities are open to those in our Tribe who wish to improve their lives, whether in college or more focused hard-skills training.

We’re also able to extend rental assistance to our college student youth, bolstering their independence as they set off into the professional world. When they can count on their Tribe as a source of support, they’ll feel that encouragement from our large family.

We know that a stable living situation, for those of every age, offers a foundation from which to build a thriving and successful life. The Tribe’s Housing Department seeks to address the housing needs of our members so that all can enjoy the benefits of a safe, healthy home. Our emergency rental assistance program allows us to lend a helping hand to families that find themselves in temporary need. The ability to help each other in times of need reinforces our mission of ensuring that all members are able to live the best life possible, even when they are hit by unexpected obstacles. This emergency assistance also extends to help with home repairs, as well as utility bills that can often pile up in times of dire need. In the case of a sudden weather emergency, our membership knows that they will not be left in the cold. It’s fundamental to our cause that every Habematolel Pomo family knows they have all of our support.

Further, the Housing Department is able to help foster the hopes of those members who wish to take the step from renting to owning their own property. It’s a fact that homeownership provides multiple positive outcomes for both the people living in them and society as a whole, so it’s a privilege for us to be able to help make those dreams a reality for our membership. Our assistance program offers help with down payments, often a major hurdle for first-time homeowners. By offering a hand with this major step, we grow the ranks of our tribal homeowners and increase quality of life in our community.

Our most senior residents make up the backbone of tribal society. These elders are the people who provide a link between our Tribe’s history and the future, and it is part of our solemn obligation to afford them the care and respect that they deserve. Our transportation program ensures that the mobility struggles of age aren’t a barrier to conducting their daily lives. In addition, the Tribe’s Honored Elders program demonstrates our appreciation with monthly financial assistance to carry them through their advanced years. This supplemental income is our way of thanking them for bringing to us the culture that has thrived for so many years.

One of the most important actions we can do is help protect our shared environment. We feel the ultimate gift we can give to our membership is to preserve the land and water we all share, and to ensure that our children will inherit a better world. Our dedicated Environmental Department enlists our membership as well as private contractors to carry out various sustainability-related projects which help preserve the lush California lake land we call home.

Under this initiative we’ve also established a community vegetable garden, which serves as not only a source of organic produce for our Tribe and neighbors, but a learning place for our children to help them understand the importance of a healthy relationship with the natural world. With the chill of winter solstice approaching, root varietals and deep leafy greens await planting for the new-year harvest.

By providing these services, we not only improve the lives of those closest to us but we reinforce the Tribe’s status as a singular unit. The Upper Lake region is a place where the problems of one are a concern for all. Our members know that there is always somewhere to turn when they need help, and by providing for those needs we can assure that the vital connections that make up our tribe are only growing stronger with time.

This article was originally published on Patch, and you can view that here.