An Easy and Efficient Way to Make a Difference

Circle of giving

Charity_Navigator_4_Star_120x60We invite you to join a special group of champions – our Circle of Giving – who help promote First Nations Development Institute’s mission to strengthen American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities. Through our Circle of Giving (our “monthly sustainer” program), First Nations is able to provide an ongoing and dependable base of support for our partners in Native communities while also saving time, PUT SEAL_platinum_2016-06-22 copybanking fees and paper. That means even more of your donation goes to support the good work happening in Native communities. That’s because your monthly donation is set up to be completely automated through your credit card. This program is easy and convenient. You’ll also continue to receive updates about the incredible difference you’re making.

How It Works

  1. To become a monthly supporter, please go to our website at, select the “Ways to Give” tab and then click on “Circle of Giving.” Then just follow the instructions.
  2. You may cancel your monthly contributions at any time – there is no obligation. Just notify First Nations by email or by phone.
  3. For tax purposes, you will receive one gift acknowledgment each January reflecting all your donations from the previous year. Your credit card bill will also serve as a monthly record of your contributions.


Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Jona Charette at



Training Brings an ‘Ah Ha’ for Sheep Grower

TahNibaa Naataanii of the Navajo Nation with one of her lambs, in Table Mesa, New Mexico

TahNibaa Naataanii of the Navajo Nation with one of her lambs, in Table Mesa, New Mexico

TahNibaa Naataanii of the Navajo Nation lives on the land where her family has raised sheep as part of their traditional life and culture for hundreds of years. Just south of Shiprock, New Mexico, and the Four Corners area, about half an hour away, is Table Mesa. That’s where you’ll find Naataanii tending to her sheep. She takes pride in being able to raise her Navajo churro sheep and use the wool in both traditional and new ways to provide a living for her and her daughter, and to keep up the cultural traditions and obligations of her family.

For the past 13 years she has woven rugs, entered juried art shows, and has sold her weavings from the wool her sheep provide. Her Navajo weaving business and her sheep ranching have become a full-time business.

Naataanii made a good living and managed to weather and survive the recessions of 2008 and 2009, but as she says, her business began to feel a bit “topsy-turvy.” She knew she needed to diversify.

“I do use some wool for my weaving, but I started looking at other ways of bringing in revenue with my sheep by selling wool in its raw form and creating other products such as felt ponchos and scarves, and I hand spin the wool. Over a period of two to three years I’ve seen my business change and grow, and with that growth other responsibilities and opportunities came out.”

Business of Indian Agriculture Training

Bus_Indian_Ag_logo NEWOne opportunity that appeared was the chance to attend The Business of Indian Agriculture (BoIA) training offered by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) as part of its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative.

The Business of Indian Agriculture is designed to help farmers and ranchers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers useful topics like how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, and marketing. It also covers important topics like risk management, personal financial management, and using credit wisely. The two-day training offers attendees the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of agricultural businesses and the opportunity to network with other producers.

Naataanii took The Business of Indian Agriculture training in March 2016 at the WeKoPa Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills, Arizona, a facility that is owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. The training curriculum has five modules that cover business, accounting, financial management, agribusiness economics and marketing, land use and management.

Business of Indian Agriculture CoverJackie Francke (Navajo), First Nations’ Vice President of Programs and Administration, said the benefits of BoIA training are many. “Attendees might already be conducting business, but the training provides resources and strategies to take their business to the next level. It provides producers the opportunity to reflect on their business and identity subtle changes that could increase profit and provide much-needed motivation by networking with other Native ranchers, farmers or producers in attendance.”

John Phillips, Ph.D., First Nations consultant and BoIA training facilitator, provided insight and strategies about developing a business plan, unique considerations in agricultural business, and other tools to improve an agricultural enterprise.

Business Plan Question Hits Home

Phillips asked the participants how many had a business plan. Naataanii had been in business 13 years without a real (or finalized) business plan, and the question brought out some clarity for her.

“I had an ‘ah ha moment.’ I had to understand what was happening in my business. I was struggling to understand where and why I was struggling, what I was struggling at, and it [the training] helped me understand where I needed to make changes,” said Naataanii.

TahNibaa Naataanii's flock of Navajo churro sheep enjoy the New Mexico sunshine

Naataanii’s flock of Navajo churro sheep enjoy the New Mexico sunshine

The training helped her to be a better business owner and take charge of her future. She had between 60 to 83 sheep – too many for her to handle.

“There were many components in the business plan that stood out to me,” she said. “It’s not just about working, being productive at work and happy about your products, but it’s about having a balance with family, too. Listening to the facilitators ask what are your priorities in your business statement, I realized my time is a commodity and my daughter is my priority and she needs my time and understanding. I am glad I took the training as I realized there were leaks in my business bucket.”

In order to repair those leaks, Naataanii learned how to look at how much time she was putting into each project or product she was creating. She learned to think about what her time was worth and to determine pricing strategies. She started keeping track of her time to determine the hourly wage for her work.

Naataanii not only had to consider how to value her time, but how the use of her time with her sheep connects back to her as a Navajo and her cultural values.

Back to a Desk Job?

sheep2Prior to taking the training, Naataanii was considering selling off the sheep and returning to “mainstream society” to take a desk job. It saddened her to think that she had to sell all the sheep and not carry on the tradition.

“Sheep are very special to the Navajo people. In our creation stories sheep came with us,” she said. “It’s a traditional agribusiness with my sheep. You have to love your business to be motivated, and all I can say is my sheep – they are my family, too. I had to look at the land, too, and the land can’t produce enough grass for 100 sheep. So I had to do the right thing – for the sheep – and they realized it, too.”

However, after attending the BoIA training in March 2016, Naataanii did not have to return to a desk job. But what she did do was reduce the flock or number of sheep gradually. Now she has a total of 16 sheep, and five baby lambs.

Naataanii said she works at her business plan on a regular basis. “I always revisit the big plan because things change. I understand that now and I am excited about that.”

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

Participants in First Nations’ “The Business of Indian Agriculture” training held in March 2016 at the WeKoPa Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills, Arizona

Participants in First Nations’ “The Business of Indian Agriculture” training held in March 2016 at the WeKoPa Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills, Arizona

Shakopee Dakota & Red Lake Share Deep Food Knowledge

Darwin Summer, Eugene Standing Cloud and Michael Van Horn of Gitagaanike (RLLFI) work together to construct a high tunnel during a training at Wozupi Tribal Gardens in Prior Lake, Minnesota, in March 2016.

Darwin Summer, Eugene Standing Cloud and Michael Van Horn of Gitigaanike (RLLFI) work together to construct a high tunnel during a training at Wozupi Tribal Gardens in Prior Lake, Minnesota, in March 2016.

Over the last year, the Wozupi Tribal Gardens, owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Prior Lake, Minnesota, and Gitigaanike (Red Lake Local Foods Initiative, or RLLFI) in Red Lake, Minnesota, have engaged in a key peer-to-peer learning opportunity to further food sovereignty work in their respective communities. They were brought together through an effort by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations).

Gitigaanike - 5 layeredThe two reservations are located at opposite ends of the state, with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) located southwest of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the Red Lake Nation in the northern part of the state, over a 500-mile round trip from SMSC.

While the two tribal communities are many miles apart, the distance was not apparent when talking to the folks at Wozupi and Gitigaanike (RLLFI). Both spoke well of each other and their dedication to the food sovereignty work in their communities.

Wozupi Tribal Gardens

Andy Grotberg is the Season Extension Specialist with the Wozupi Tribal Gardens, owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Grotberg helped Gitigaanike (RLLFI) with its high-tunnel construction in the summer of 2016. He received Red Lake's world-renowned Miquam Bay maple syrup as gesture of appreciation.

Andy Grotberg is the Season Extension Specialist with the Wozupi Tribal Gardens. He helped Gitigaanike (RLLFI) with its high-tunnel construction. He received Red Lake’s world-renowned Miquam Bay maple syrup as gesture of appreciation.

Rebecca Yoshino serves as the Wozupi Tribal Gardens Director and Andy Grotberg is the Season Extension Specialist. The dedication to their work is apparent – as Wozupi is vast. It is made up of 13 acres of organic vegetable fields, 3.5 acres of organic fruit trees, chickens produce organic fresh eggs, and the beehives make honey that is sold at the Wozupi organic farmers’ market in Shakopee and other farmers’ markets in Minneapolis. Wozupi also grows seeds in its greenhouse for transplanting, and offers a custom transplant program where it “grows certified organic transplants from our farm for anyone who doesn’t have a greenhouse or the space,” said Yoshino. There is a children’s garden and educational tours for the SMSC and surrounding communities to cultivate and inspire young ones to grow and enjoy fresh produce.

Beginnings & Sharing Knowledge
The impressive production set up at Wozupi made them the ideal partner for Gitigaanike (RLLFI), a tribal program under Red Lake Economic Development and Planning, which received funding from a First Nations Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) grant, funded by the Otto Bremer Trust. The funding supported the solidification of the peer-to-peer learning relationship, on-site training on the best practices for food production, the evaluation of food and agriculture assets, and the implementation of a greenhouse and high tunnel.

“Encouraging peer-to-peer learning is an approach that First Nations has been incorporating into our programming to further asset-building and relationships. In this case, it’s a great example of how the sharing of agricultural knowledge goes beyond location,” said Raymond Foxworth, Ph.D., First Nations’ Vice President of Grantmaking, Development and Communications.

Cherilyn Spears is a Red Lake tribal member and served as the Gitigaanike (RLLFI) project coordinator for 2016. Spears is interested in all aspects of food production and sees possibilities all around her. Her vision of a farm like Wozupi for her community is what drives her enthusiasm and dedication to her community.

“It’s good to see what other people are doing and to see their challenges and their successes. We want to have chickens, a windmill, a maple syrup farm, like they do,” said Spears.

Sam Strong, Director of the Red Lake Economic Development and Planning Department, loads a truck of plants from the Wozupi Tribal Gardens to take back to the Red Lake Nation to plant in Nitaawigitoon Gitigaan (community garden).

Sam Strong, Director of the Red Lake Economic Development and Planning Department, loads a truck of plants from the Wozupi Tribal Gardens to take back to the Red Lake Nation to plant in Nitaawigitoon Gitigaan (community garden).

The Gitigaanike (RLLFI) staff for 2016 included David Manuel, Spears, Michael Van Horn, and Sharon James. James is the Small Business Development Manager for Red Lake Economic Development, which oversaw the project.

The Oshkiimajiitahdah workforce supplied four dedicated workers: Marlon Black, David Defoe, Darryl Giizhick and Pete White. The staff and workforce crew traveled to Wozupi in the summer of 2016 to help put the plastic “skin” on the high tunnel. Later, in October, they traveled down to Wozupi to help harvest and clean vegetables.

Manuel now serves as the Gitigaanike (RLLFI) coordinator and said Spears’ “diligence, hard work, commitment and persistence” over the years got Gitigaanike (RLLFI) up and running. The gardens also began in a good way.

The naming of the garden “Nitaawigitoon Gitigaan” by one of the Red Lake elders — as part of their cultural customs and traditions — gave the garden a spirit. The “raising of a garden is not unlike raising a child. It needs constant care and guidance in order to raise it to adulthood,” said Manuel. “Nitaawigitoon Gitigaan” in the Ojibwe language means the “raising and/or taking care of the garden.” “Gitigaanike” is the Ojibwe name for the Red Lake Local Foods Initiative (RLLFI), and translates “to making a garden,” according to Manuel.

Working the Soil

Wozupi Tribal Gardens staff and Gitigaanike (RLLFI) crew work together to put the plastic "skin" on the high tunnel at Wozupi.

Wozupi Tribal Gardens staff and Gitigaanike (RLLFI) crew work together to put the plastic “skin” on the high tunnel at Wozupi.

The pairing of the two tribal programs was an opportunity for the Gitigaanike (RLLFI) to learn from the Wozupi staff about conducting a food assessment, food safety measures, safety plans, gardening, planting in a greenhouse, how to put up a high tunnel, growing seedlings, and putting a drip irrigation system in place. Wozupi and the Gitigaanike (RLLFI) made reciprocal trips to see and experience each other’s gardens and food-production facilities firsthand.

“I went up there twice to help with their greenhouse and their high tunnel. I liked the excitement and dedication of the Red Lake folks. They wanted to learn. They’re dedicated to their programs. They were really appreciative. It was nice being up there,” said Grotberg.

Both Wozupi and Gitigaanike (RLLFI) talked about how the different soils in their communities impacted the planting season, and how to plan and when to do things in order to prepare for it. Red Lake is farther north and colder, so its planting season is shorter and the soil is rich and “amazing,” said Yoshino. Wozupi’s planting season is longer with it being farther south, and its soil is thicker, heavier and has more clay in it.

The hands-on experience benefited both communities in ways they had not foreseen.

“For us, it was an enriching experience, to share what we have done here with other tribal communities. They (Gitigaanike (RLLFI) are just starting their food initiative work, and we offered support where we could. Our work – we’re integrating it into a larger food movement in Indian Country. It’s created a deeper, richer experience for me. We were really pleased to work with Red Lake.”

Spears and Manuel, along with the rest of the Gitigaanike (RLLFI) staff, appreciated the hands-on experience they received, and that there is a valuable resource just a call away as the Gitigaanike (RLLFI) grows into the future.

“We don’t have to start from scratch. They have the experience. We want to get set up to the capability that they are … there’s a friendship there, we can call on them and they can call on us,” said Spears.

Continuing Ties

Gitagaanike (RLLFI) crew (left to right) Darwin Sumner, Eugene Standing Cloud and Cherilyn Spears help transplant strawberries at the Wozupi Tribal Gardens greenhouse.

Gitigaanike (RLLFI) crew (left to right) Darwin Sumner, Eugene Standing Cloud and Cherilyn Spears help transplant strawberries at the Wozupi Tribal Gardens greenhouse.

The Red Lake Economic Development and Planning Department and the Gitigaanike (RLLFI) received a grant in 2015 from First Nations under the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI), which was underwritten by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s Seeds of Native Health campaign. The project focused on improving nutrition in the Red Lake Reservation and stimulating the local food economy. The tribe educated community members on growing their own food, coordinating a pre-diabetes program, and enrolling participants into educational 16-week trainings to promote health.

Seeds of Native Health is a major philanthropic campaign to improve the nutrition of Native Americans across the country. The SMSC committed $5 million to the campaign, which was launched in March 2015. The SMSC has enlisted three nationally significant, strategic partners in the campaign: First Nations, the Notah Begay III Foundation, and the University of Minnesota.

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

Help Grassroots Native Nonprofits Meet the Challenge!

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We are excited to share with you some incredible news! Again this year, a generous donor has announced that they will MATCH contributions for each Native American-led organization featured on up to $500 each through January 31, 2017.

DSCN3375 500pxCreated by and for Native people, this giving platform exists to raise awareness of the remarkable initiatives making a real difference in the lives of Native children and families. All of the participating organizations are small, community-based nonprofits that rely on grants and generous donations to do good work in their communities. was developed by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) because it recognizes that Native American youth are the very future of our communities. Ensuring their well-being is crucial to the prosperity of Native communities. All of the participating organizations have been vetted by First Nations’ grantmaking process, one that has been around for more than 20 years.

Will you please help them meet their matching-gift challenge? Your gift of $10 will become $20 with the match, and $20 will become $40. Double your impact today!

Photo by D.Kakkak

Photo by D.Kakkak

If you make a donation to any of the organizations through the fundraising platform, it will be matched by this generous donor – dollar for dollar – until we hit a total of $500 in gifts for each of the eight organizations. That’s $4,000 in additional funding for Native organizations! Give today to double the impact of your gift to any one or more of these organizations.

And, of course, your gift to us is tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Beyond the match, your gift will have even more power! That’s because each of the organizations is eligible for additional incentives that will help further their missions. A generous donor has pledged to award the following prizes: The Community Investment Award for the organization that raises the highest amount of support (1st Prize $600, 2nd Prize $400), the Impact Award for the organization that enlists the highest number of gifts (1st Prize $600, 2nd Prize $400) and the Engagement Award for the organization with the highest number of supporters who gave in prior years (1st Prize $600, 2nd Prize $400). That’s an additional $3,000 that will be invested in grassroots initiatives! Help one of these organizations earn more funding by giving today!

TWU group 500pxPlease give now, because match and prize opportunities will end at midnight on January 31, 2017. A gift to a grassroots Native initiative on will allow organizations to greatly increase their reach and effectiveness in each of their communities. #GiveNative today!

About is a project of First Nations Development Institute. is dedicated to strengthening and improving the lives of Native children and families while raising awareness of the needs of the communities we serve. Consistent with Native American values of sharing and reciprocity, the goal of this unique initiative is to increase giving to philanthropic efforts in Native communities. aims to direct more investments to worthy nonprofits such as those featured on the site. The featured nonprofits have developed successful and innovative projects that promote educated kids, healthy kids and secure families.

Find a great organization to support and double your gift!

First Nations Reaches Top “Platinum Level” on GuideStar

PUT SEAL_platinum_2016-06-22 copy

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has earned the Platinum GuideStar Nonprofit Profile Seal of Transparency, the highest level of recognition offered by GuideStar, the world’s largest source of nonprofit information. By sharing metrics that highlight the progress First Nations is making toward fulfilling its mission, the organization is helping donors move beyond simplistic ways of nonprofit evaluation like basic overhead ratios.

“We are honored to achieve the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, and proud to share key metrics that highlight the progress and results we’re making possible,” said Michael E. Roberts, First Nations President and CEO. “We believe it reflects our dedicated accountability to all of our constituencies – our generous donors and the Native American communities that we serve – and it demonstrates our commitment to pursuing our important work in a clear, honest and fiscally responsible manner, using good stewardship of charitable contributions while maintaining the public trust.”

To reach the Platinum level, First Nations added extensive information to its Nonprofit Profile on GuideStar, including more in-depth financial informCharity_Navigator_4_Star_125x125ation; qualitative information about goals, strategies and capabilities; and quantitative information about results and progress. By taking the time and making the effort to provide this information, First Nations has demonstrated its commitment to transparency and to giving donors and funders meaningful data to evaluate First Nations. To learn more about GuideStar Platinum, see

Accred_charity_ltrFirst Nations also holds the highest ratings with other charity-monitoring agencies. For the fifth year in a row, First Nations has achieved the top 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator, an accomplishment that
only 6% of the nonprofits rated by Charity Navigator ever achieve over five consecutive years. First Nations is also an Accredited Member of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.


ONAC Building Assets in Oklahoma Tribal Communities


The Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition (ONAC) is a Native-led coalition in Oklahoma whose work strives to ensure that Native families have multiple opportunities to grow their assets by participating in culturally-relevant Native asset-building programs.

ONAC works with Native communities to design, implement and sustain asset-building programs such as financial education, Children’s Savings Accounts, emergency savings accounts, and credit builder/credit repair programs. Supporting the sustainability of these programs is a priority of ONAC and Executive Director Christy Finsel, an enrolled member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma. Finsel has been the continuous catalyst behind ONAC’s strategy over the last five years. She took over the duties as executive director in 2011. She has 15 years of experience as an asset-building researcher and program administrator, and 12 years as a trainer and technical assistance provider.

Christy Finsel

Christy Finsel

In November 2016, under Finsel’s leadership, ONAC announced the launch of an endowment campaign to ensure that its operating expenses and program support continue long into the future. The endowment was launched with a generous donation of $250,000 from the Chickasaw Nation, which is one of the federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma that ONAC serves along with Native-led nonprofits in the state. The endowment makes ONAC’s dream closer to reality that tribal members will have access to asset-building tools and programs to help their families achieve financial security.

The tribes in Oklahoma include the Absentee Shawnee, Alabama Quassarte, Apache, Caddo, Cherokee, Cheyenne and Arapahoe, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Citizen Potawatomi, Comanche, Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians, Eastern Shawnee, Fort Sill Apache, Iowa, Kaw, Kialegee, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Miami, Modoc, Muskogee (Creek), Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Ottawa, Pawnee, Peoria, Ponca, Quapaw, Sac and Fox, Seminole, Seneca-Cayuga, Shawnee, Thlopthlocco, Tonkawa, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, Wyandotte and Euchee (Yuchi).

For the past 16 years, ONAC has worked with Native asset-building practitioners in the state to build the coalition and has a long relationship with First Nations Development Institute (First Nations). In 2001, an initial meeting was held with Oklahoma-based tribal asset-building practitioners, the Center for Social Development (CSD), and First Nations “to determine the interest in the development of an intertribal consortium or coalition of tribes having initiated, or about to initiate, asset-building programs,” according to ONAC’s website.

From 2001 to 2006, Karen Edwards, who is Choctaw and then-CSD Project Director, oversaw ONAC along with the dedicated, all-volunteer ONAC leadership team. In 2006, ONAC became a project of First Nations. Edwards continued coordinating the coalition until she retired in mid-2011 and passed the reins to Finsel. ONAC remained a project of First Nations until 2014 when ONAC obtained its own tax-exempt status.

Sarah Dewees, Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs at First Nations, has worked with ONAC since 2009. She has watched its steady and strategic development led by a dedicated board of directors and executive director. Long-term ONAC leadership team members include Anna Knight and Shay Smith of the Cherokee Nation, Dawn Hix with the Choctaw Nation, Cynthia Logsdon of the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation and Mary Elizabeth Ricketts of Osage Financial Resources Inc. (retired). Newer leadership members include Ed Shaw with Osage Financial Resources, Inc., Terry Mason Moore of the Osage Nation, Lahoma Simmons with FlintRock Development, and Christy Estes of the Chickasaw Nation.

“ONAC has grown from a small, volunteer organization to a formal organization with a successful track record,” Dewees said. “ONAC represents a long history of promoting economic development among tribes in Oklahoma. It is very exciting to see their growth and continued success over time.”

Over the years, ONAC has received consistent, multi-year funding and support from the CSD, the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and First Nations.

“First Nations is extremely proud of the tenacity and dedication of all involved with ONAC to get it where it is today,” said Michael E. Roberts, First Nations President and CEO. “It takes an incredible amount of resources, hard work and a long-term commitment from those working in the communities and from funders to take an all-volunteer organization off the ground to a sustainable one with an endowment campaign in place. First Nations’ support over the years to ONAC and other tribal and Native nonprofits derives from the belief that by investing in Native peoples it builds sustainability, not only economically, but culturally and spiritually, which is our mission as an organization.”

Finsel says such long-term support by funders is critical to its continuance.

“This support has been instrumental in helping ONAC have the resources needed to develop and grow the nonprofit to fulfill its mission to build and support a network of Oklahoma Native people who are dedicated to increasing self-sufficiency and prosperity in their communities. We are grateful for this investment in ONAC and Native communities. Without this support, ONAC would not exist to serve tribal citizens.”

ONAC currently provides three programs:

  • Children’s Savings Account (CSA) Program: ONAC opens and/or funds CSAs for Native youth to help them build a nest egg of savings. ONAC’s CSA Program currently serves 15 tribal and Native nonprofit partners. ONAC has funding to open 635 accounts by April 2018 (there is documented need, from ONAC’s constituents, for more than 400 additional accounts).
  • Mini Grant Program: In 2014, ONAC established its own grants administration infrastructure and has awarded 13 grants for a total of $46,000 since 2014 to tribes and Native nonprofits in Oklahoma for various asset-building programs. ONAC also provides technical assistance to grantees.
  • Professional development programming for Native asset-builders and program building in which ONAC plans and hosts its annual conference; offers free technical assistance to ONAC constituents as they design and implement asset-building programs; submits administrative policy guidance requests; conducts evaluation of asset-building programs; and participates in state and national advisory groups related to tax policy, women and wealth, child support, Native financial education, and racial equity.
Della Wolfe, the United Keetoowah Band Education Intake Specialist (left), presents the Award of Excellence for outstanding participation in the “Save and Secure Financial Literacy Program” to Natalie Christie from the Vian Public School in Vian, Oklahoma. The program was funded by the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition and First Nations. Photo by Sammy Still

Della Wolfe, the United Keetoowah Band Education Intake Specialist (left), presents the Award of Excellence for outstanding participation in the “Save and Secure Financial Literacy Program” to Natalie Christie from the Vian Public School in Vian, Oklahoma. The program was funded by the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition and First Nations. Photo by Sammy Still

The establishment of the endowment campaign aims to raise $5 million for general operating expenses and program support. In terms of impact, the endowment allows ONAC to serve more families, tribes and Native-led nonprofits in Oklahoma, which has the second-largest Native American population per capita in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The endowment enables ONAC to continue to serve on advisory boards across the country that want to access ONAC’s innovative knowledge and models.

Dewees sees the impact of the leadership team and their consistent commitment and hard work to advance ONAC’s organizational infrastructure, programming and constituent base for the benefit of Native communities in Oklahoma.

“The Native asset-building movement has grown a lot in the past 10 years. It is wonderful to see the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition working with tribes and Native nonprofits to design financial education programs and help hundreds of families grow a nest egg and save for their future. The Children’s Savings Accounts will help hundreds of children and families open a savings account and learn the savings habit.”

native-givingONAC is also involved with the, a project of First Nations that is generously supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation under the Foundation’s “Catalyzing Community Giving” initiative and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. is dedicated to strengthening and improving the lives of Native children and families while raising awareness of the needs of the communities served.

Report Explores How to Strengthen Urban Native Organizations

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First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) recently published a new report that provides insights into the current state of Indigenous organizations in urban areas of the U.S., as well as recommendations that can increase the capacity and leadership of human service organizations and urban Indigenous America overall.

Titled A Systems Thinking Approach for Increasing Wellness in Urban Indigenous America, the report is part of a recently-completed three-year project led by First Nations, in partnership with the National Urban Indian Family Coalition. That Urban Native Project was funded primarily by The Kresge Foundation with additional support from the Comcast Foundation, and was aimed at urban-based Native American centers/nonprofit organizations. The project’s goal was to support new and expanded activities in urban American Indian environments, with the objective of improving opportunities that can be attained in all Native American urban communities.

The report synthesizes and summarizes discussions among 30 leaders and team members of urban Indigenous organizations who gathered in Denver, Colorado, in July 2016. The cohort represented organizations making substantial contributions to the lives of Native people in the areas of housing, education, workforce development, homelessness, financial wellness programs, health wellness services, and child and family welfare.

Montoya Whiteman

Montoya Whiteman

“This report is a key outcome of the Denver meeting, but another success of this engagement was how urban Native organization leaders can start to think of how they may help each other in their work and identify trends or patterns between their respective organizations. Participants gained inspiration and insights from other like-minded, service-related individuals who are motivated to making a difference in helping Native people and their communities,” said Montoya Whiteman, First Nations’ Senior Program Officer and the head of the Urban Native Project. “I encourage readers to recognize and support their local urban Indigenous organizations who are facing complex human service challenges in environments that are constantly changing.”

The report was written by Matthew Hayashi of Headwater People Consulting, based in Seattle, Washington. Hayashi also facilitated the July meeting in Denver.

The full report can be downloaded free from the Knowledge Center on the First Nations website at this link: (Note: If you don’t already have a free account, guests need to create one in order to download the report. Your account will also give you access to numerous other resources in the First Nations Knowledge Center.)

Grantmaking Efforts Reach Numerous Communities

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First Nations has two current grant opportunities for tribes and Native American organizations, both with an application deadline of February 17, 2017. One is for project grants of up to $35,000 for efforts that aim to strengthen local food-system control, increase access to healthy foods, and decrease food insecurity in Native communities, while the other is for grants of up to $15,000 to conduct Food Sovereignty Assessments. The full Requests for Proposals can be found here:


Meanwhile, First Nations’ Grantmaking Department has been busy providing critical funding to numerous projects across Indian Country. Here’s a roundup of some of those efforts:

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First Nations Awards $310,000 in FDPIR-Related Nutrition Education Grants to 21 Tribes and Native Organizations in 12 States

First Nations selected 21 tribes and Native American organizations to receive grants to start or expand nutrition education programming in their communities as part of the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

With the generous support of the Walmart Foundation, First Nations awarded a total $310,000 to 21 grantees across 12 states. The award amounts vary by grantee. Under this project, the FDPIR programs will expand access to nutrition education programs in Native communities and measure the effectiveness of education interventions. These grants allow tribes to design or expand culturally- and community-based nutrition education projects that encourage individuals and families to improve their nutrition, healthy habits, plus generally broaden access to nutrition education programs.

Because of a variety of issues including inadequate funding, many FDPIR programs do not have the opportunity to provide nutrition education to their constituents. These grants are intended to expand these opportunities through activities such as nutrition workshops, cooking classes/food demonstrations, healthy recipe development, development and dissemination of educational materials, and more.

The recipients were:

  1. Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, $20,000
  2. Cheyenne & Arapahoe Tribes of Oklahoma, Concho, Oklahoma, $20,000
  3. Fort Belknap Indian Community, Harlem, Montana, $10,000
  4. Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, Arizona, $10,000
  5. Lummi Nation Service Organization, Bellingham, Washington, $10,000
  6. Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, Ponca City, Oklahoma, $10,000
  7. Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Red Lake, Minnesota, $10,000
  8. Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Wewoka, Oklahoma, $20,000
  9. Seneca Nation of Indians, Irving, New York, $20,000
  10. South Fork Te-Moak Shoshone Indian Reservation, Spring Creek, Nevada, $10,000
  11. Spirit Lake Tribe, Fort Totten, North Dakota, $20,000
  12. Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, La Conner, Washington, $10,000
  13. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, Oneida, Wisconsin, $20,000
  14. White Mountain Apache Tribe, Whiteriver, Arizona, $10,000
  15. Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Keshena, Wisconsin, $26,000
  16. Choctaw Fresh Produce, Philadelphia, Mississippi, $15,000
  17. Painted Desert Demonstration Project DBA the STAR School, Flagstaff, Arizona, $15,000
  18. REDCO (Rosebud Economic Development Corporation), Mission, South Dakota, $15,000
  19. Bishop Paiute Tribe,  Bishop, California, $15,000
  20. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, Porcupine, South Dakota, $15,000
  21. Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Auburn, Washington, $9,000

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First Nations Awards 21 Grants Totaling $400,000 for Food Sovereignty Assessment Efforts

First Nations awarded grants to 21 Native American tribes and organizations to help them conduct food sovereignty or community food assessments in their various locales.

First Nations provided the grants, totaling $400,000, under its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) with generous support from the NoVo Foundation Fund at the Tides Foundation. Earlier in the year, First Nations launched an application process for the grants. Most of the grants were for $20,000, but a few were for lesser amounts.

Also referred to as a “community food assessment,” a food sovereignty assessment (FSA) is a collaborative and participative process that systematically examines a range of community food assets in order to inform social and economic change and begin the process of strengthening a food system. The FSA takes a solutions-oriented approach that looks at assets and resources as well as problems. This process has the potential to truly promote local food-system control by increasing knowledge about food-related needs and resources, and by building collaboration and capacity. Using a participatory approach that advocates for community control of the food system, FSAs can (and should) be conducted by communities and their members.

The grant recipients were as follows. Grant amounts were $20,000 each unless otherwise indicated:

  1. Aleutian/Pribilof Islands Association, Anchorage, Alaska
  2. Bii Gii Wiin Community Development Loan Fund, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  3. California Indian Museum & Culture Center, Santa Rosa, California
  4. Center for World Indigenous Studies, Olympia, Washington
  5. Chugach Regional Resources Commission, Anchorage, Alaska, $19,979.85
  6. FAST Blackfeet, Browning, Montana, $2,665.15
  7. Fort Belknap Community Economic Development Corporation, Harlem, Montana
  8. Ho-Chunk Housing & Community Development Agency, Tomah, Wisconsin
  9. Hunkpati Investments, Inc., Fort Thompson, South Dakota, $19,803
  10. Kodiak Area Native Association, Kodiak, Alaska
  11. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Onamia, Minnesota
  12. Native Village of Kivalina, Kivalina, Alaska, $18,400
  13. Nez Perce Tribe, Lapwai, Idaho, $19,682
  14. Nisqually Indian Tribe Health Services, Olympia, Washington, $19,595
  15. Pueblo of San Felipe, San Felipe, New Mexico
  16. REDCO (Rosebud Economic Development Corporation), Mission, South Dakota
  17. Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, Hogansburg, New York
  18. Seneca Nation of Indians, Irving, New York
  19. Tribal Nations Research Group, Belcourt, North Dakota
  20. Waimanalo Market Co-op, Waimanalo, Hawaii, $19,875
  21. Walker River Paiute Tribe, Schurz, Nevada


First Nations Awards $432,000 to Support 24 Native Youth Programs

First Nations recently announced the selection of 24 American Indian organizations and tribes to receive grants through its Native Youth and Culture Fund (NYCF) for the 2016-17 funding cycle. The grants total $432,000.

First Nations launched the NYCF in 2002 with generous support from Kalliopeia Foundation and other foundations and tribal, corporate and individual supporters. The NYCF is designed to enhance culture and language awareness, and promote youth empowerment, leadership and community building. To date under this fund, First Nations has awarded 328 grants to Native youth programs throughout the U.S., totaling $5.55 million.

For the 2016-2017 cycle, grants went to:

  1. Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Poplar, Montana, $18,615
  2. Bad River Housing Authority, Odanah, Wisconsin, $20,000
  3. California Indian Basketweavers Association, Woodland, California, $10,000
  4. Cheyenne River Youth Project, Inc., Eagle Butte, South Dakota, $10,000
  5. Chief Joseph Foundation, Lapwai, Idaho, $18,900
  6. Dzil Dit L’ooí School of Empowerment, Action and Perseverance, Navajo, New Mexico, $20,000
  7. Four Directions Development Corporation, Orono, Maine, $20,000
  8. Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Odanah, Wisconsin, $18,250
  9. Ho-Chunk Nation, Black River Falls, Wisconsin, $14,630
  10. The Hopi School, Inc., Hotevilla, Arizona, $17,380
  11. Keres Children’s Learning Center, Pueblo de Cochiti, New Mexico, $20,000
  12. Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Pembroke, North Carolina, $20,000
  13. Ogallala Commons, Inc., Nazareth, Texas, $10,200
  14. Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, $20,000
  15. Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Nixon, Nevada, $20,000
  16. Quileute Tribe, La Push, Washington, $20,000
  17. Santa Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, New Mexico, $20,000
  18. Santo Domingo Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico, $19,705
  19. Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation, Suquamish, Washington, $14,320
  20. Tewa Women United, Española, New Mexico, $20,000
  21. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, Porcupine, South Dakota, $20,000
  22. Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Association, Belcourt, North Dakota, $20,000
    University of Arkansas / Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative,
  23. Fayetteville, Arkansas, $20,000
  24. Utah Diné Bikéyah, Salt Lake City, Utah, $20,000


More Women in Top Jobs at Native Nonprofits

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A report recently issued by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) examines gender and leadership within the Native American nonprofit sector. Overall, it finds that the leadership ranks of Native American nonprofits look very different from the national or mainstream nonprofit sector, with Native American nonprofits largely headed by women.

The new research report is one of few that exist that attempts to examine leadership trends within a specific nonprofit subsector, namely looking at gendered leadership within mostly rural and remote reservation-based nonprofits that primarily serve Native American populations. Titled Native American Women, Leadership and the Native American Nonprofit Sector, it was authored by Raymond Foxworth, Ph.D., Vice President of Grantmaking, Development and Communications at First Nations, a national Native American-created and led nonprofit organization.

The report documents that around 61 percent of Native nonprofit organizations are headed by women, compared to only about 45 percent of other nonprofits nationally. It suggests that the Native nonprofit sector seems to be doing a better job with issues of gender and equity than the national nonprofit sector. Though interviews, the report also offers some possible explanations for this gendered leadership trend and also highlights other challenges Native women face as leaders in this sector.

The 2015-2016 cohort of Independent Sector’s American Express NGEN Fellows Program

The 2015-2016 cohort of Independent Sector’s American Express NGEN Fellows Program

Foxworth researched and wrote the report as one contribution to his participation in Independent Sector’s American Express NGEN Fellows Program. In the yearlong leadership fellowship, the 2015-2016 cohort (photo at left) examined issues related to gender and leadership within the nonprofit sector. “As part of this fellowship, it was important for me to provide voice to the Native nonprofit sector as it relates to gender and leadership,” Foxworth noted. “As this report notes, contrary to national trends around gender and leadership, Native women are leading the way in Native nonprofit sector, which perhaps offers some valuable insights into conditions that facilitate and encourage more women in key leadership positions.”

The full report is available as a free download at or in the Knowledge Center section of First Nations’ website at this link: (Note: In the Knowledge Center, if you don’t have one already, you will need to create a free online account in order to download the report. Your account will also give you access to numerous other free resources in the Knowledge Center.)

Generous Funding Enables Our Work

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First Nations relies on the generous support of foundations, tribal donors, individuals, corporations and other entities to do its work in Native communities across the U.S. Over the past few months, crucial funding has been received from the following:

$200,000 USDA-NRCS Grant for Ag and Food Training

First Nations received a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) grant of $200,000 for a broad effort to increase the capacity of Native American farmers, ranchers and tribal communities so they can advance their farming or ranching businesses, or so tribal communities can work more effectively to improve local control of community food systems.

Under the grant, First Nations will conduct various in-person trainings and workshops, plus online webinars, for Native farmers, ranchers, tribal departments, nonprofit organizations, food entrepreneurs and others that will focus on business-management systems and techniques. The effort also will include training in conducting local food sovereignty assessments. In many cases, First Nations’ existing The Business of Indian Agriculture curriculum and Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool will be utilized, and NRCS experts will also participate to provide relevant information on USDA resources available to participants. Some trainings will be “train-the-trainer” sessions for people who, in turn, will be able to assist Native American farmers and ranchers in their communities.

The project will provide individualized technical assistance to as many as 10 Native American food producers who will assist in the development and implementation of business plans to advance their operations and increase production and/or gain access to new markets; and provide a series of 12 webinars on a wide variety of related topics such as food policy, food safety, marketing, food hubs, farm-to-school programs and others.

$150,000 Fidelity Charitable Grant for Capacity-Building

First Nations received a $150,000 grant from the Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund (Fidelity Charitable®) to be used for First Nations’ capacity-building needs in the areas of accounting, human resources, information technology, grantmaking and fundraising. The grant was made possible through the generosity of The Trustees’ Philanthropy Fund of Fidelity Charitable®, an independent 501(c)(3) public charity with a donor-advised fund program.

First Nations will use the funding to expand its professional staff-development efforts, upgrade the organization’s computer hardware and software – including its accounting and financial systems to improve efficiency – and diversify its national fundraising efforts for long-term sustainability.

Fidelity Charitable® is an independent public charity that has helped donors support more than 219,000 nonprofit organizations with more than $23 billion in grants. Established in 1991, Fidelity® Charitable launched the first national donor-advised fund program. The mission of the organization is to further the American tradition of philanthropy by providing programs that make charitable giving simple, effective, and accessible. For more information, visit

Grant to Help Expand Tribal Ecological Stewardship Project

First Nations, under funding provided in part by the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, will expand its “Mapping Ecological Stewardship Opportunities in Northern Great Plains Native Communities” project into 2018.

First Nations originally launched the project in early 2015 with the aim of helping tribes achieve a balance between ecological stewardship and economic development. In particular, it aims to help tribes explore and inform ecological stewardship practices in the Great Plains of South Dakota and Montana by facilitating the dialogue around and active implementation of strategies that catalyze tribally-controlled ecological stewardship initiatives that are compatible with community tribal values and contribute to tribal economic and community development opportunities. The long-term vision is for tribes to capitalize on and regain control of their natural resource assets in a sustainable manner and to thrive in their communities, keeping their cultures and worldviews intact and reducing their reliance on federal programs and soft money by strengthening economic development opportunities that are guided by Native communities.

First Nations has worked collaboratively with the Lower Brule Sioux, Oglala Lakota Nation, Rosebud Sioux, and Fort Belknap Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes. Work will continue with those tribes and will expand to involve eight additional tribes, for a total of 12 over the next two years. Further, First Nations will provide capacity-building and networking activities that will build the tribal capacity and ecological sustainability in the region, as well as addressing dynamic situations and issues for long-term planning and stewardship of tribally-controlled natural resources.