Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance (LAIPA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit grassroots organization founded to work for human rights, culture, and the continual development of indigenous peoples living in the Los Angeles and the Southwest. We fulfill this commitment through promoting and facilitating the creation of decolonizing projects that address health, cultural, and family needs for low income indigenous youth and their families. LAIPA promotes a holistic approach to community organizing and is committed to advancing the cause of unity among diverse indigenous peoples and organizations on the basis of the Indigenous Human Rights principle One Continent, One Peoples.
LAIPA’s focus is toward equity and empowerment through culturally responsive, indigenous human rights centered strategies. We recognize that reclaiming our cultural identity is a political act of self-empowerment.
LAIPA has successfully provided services to low-income youth and their families for the past 30 years. After meeting with the EZLN in Chiapas, LAIPA prioritized the creation of local Centros de Resistencia. The centros had the goal of providing a safe space to practice our cultures and learn to critically look at the world. Our first centro was Cyber Espacio- (Family Cyber Space) Project was a key space for youth and parents to access and participate in a computer literacy project, ESL classes, Theater, Community Forums, ceremonies and cultural preservation events in SouthEast LA. In 2004, we open our 2nd Centro in Highland Park. This was the first Xinachtli home. In 2008 LAIPA partnered with the Children’s Institute Inc. to establish the Project Fatherhood program. This program was designed to work with low-income indigenous urban fathers to become quality and present influences for their children.
In 2011 LAIPA began developing the Macehual Leadership Program to provide support, rites of passage and and leadership training for boys. The word Macehual is in Nahuatl, one of the largest Indigenous languages spoken in Mexico, and translates to “Servant of the People” which refers to a family and community oriented individual in all aspects of life. The focus of this program is to use culturally relevant teachings and concepts as the basis for providing youth with clearer understandings of their Native histories and cultural achievement as a means of ensuring cultural continuity. Historical colonization after European contact is presented as well as current social injustices and economic disparities are discussed and addressed to achieve a higher level of knowledge in these areas and identifying root causes of trauma in today’s Native Peoples experiences. A child/parent component is also included within the activities of the program to increase positive communication, strengthen family bonds in order to decrease influences and pressures towards self destructive lifestyles and promote a thriving way of life. LAIPA has collaborated and been funded by the California Endowment, The California Wellness, The Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, NoVo Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation.
The key project of LAIPA is the Xinachtli Rites of Passage for girls*. This project provides comprehensive support, leadership and health education to Indigenous, Chicana, and Latina youth. Xinachtli (Nahuatl for germinating seed) is a gender responsive, culturally-based rites of passage process and philosophy that promotes healing, resilience and leadership capacity girls. Xinachtli was developed out of the spiritual distress of oppressive systems experienced by communities of color, reframing a new narrative of transformation healing and advocacy and rooted in a racial justice, anti-oppression framework. Xinachtli was born in Highland Park, Los Angeles and is now being provided in over 60 organizations throughout the US.
The Xinachtli Comadres National Colectiva (XCNC) mission is to advance current local, regional and national work to facilitate the collective advocacy of girls, ultimately catalyzing grassroots effective advocacy and organizing power to impact policy and systems change advancing wellness. The goal of the network is to coordinate efforts of grassroots organizations and allies to facilitate girls’ voices and agency. The nation’s current political climate requires a movement that provides space for girls to become self-empowered and to organize collectively.
LAIPA has assisted and collaborated in various community projects and programs with other grassroots groups and cooperatives. Amongst these were developing community gardens/farming that promote the importance of self sufficiency, traditional food systems, and community building. LAIPA has also contributed to the coordinating of community events focused on re-introducing indigenous health and medicinal practices and thereby positively impact families and seniors in the community with accessible and effective methods of self care and healthcare.
LAIPA has re-enforced our work toward systemic social change by focusing on empowerment through culturally responsive, human rights centered strategies. LAIPA’s projects recognize that reclaiming our cultural identity is a political act of self-empowerment. Pride in traditional ways and worldview go hand in hand with developing leadership and skills that will lead to family health, and economic and community empowerment. In addition, all LAIPA efforts are based on collective decision-making, holistic and culturally appropriate approaches, and with the objective of facilitating leadership, community mobilization and building from within rather than without to create solutions.