Report Shows Gaps in Funding for Native Causes

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A report released recently by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) highlights that community foundations often fall short when it comes to philanthropic giving to Native American organizations and causes.

In Community Foundation Giving to Native American Causes, First Nations researchers found that, on average, only 15/100ths of one percent of community foundation funding goes to Native American organizations and causes annually. The report looks at giving by 163 community foundations in 10 states.

In all of the states studied except Alaska, which was an outlier, the dollar amount of grants given to Native American organizations and causes was much lower than might be expected given Native American population size and levels of need.

“Our data suggest that there is very little funding interaction between Native communities and local community foundations,” said First Nations Vice President Raymond Foxworth, who was the lead researcher on the project. “Obviously we think that’s a problem that can be addressed, so we conclude the report by highlighting strategies and practices we think can expand collaboration between community foundations and Native nonprofits. Overall, we hope that community foundation giving can, in the long term, become more reflective of the rich diversity within states, and this includes supporting Native American organizations.”

The states studied were Alaska, Arizona, California, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota. For the full findings and recommendations, you can download the report for free from the First Nations website at (Please note that if you don’t already have one, you will need to create a free online account to download the report.)

This research project was supported by Fund for Shared Insight, a national funder collaborative working to improve philanthropy by advancing the practice of feedback loops and elevating the voices of those least heard.

Food Sovereignty Report & Videos Highlight Exemplary Work

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First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) recently published a new report on Native food sovereignty assessment efforts, as well as four new videos dealing with food sovereignty, ranching and agricultural issues.

The report, titled Food Sovereignty Assessments: A Tool to Grow Healthy Native Communities, details some of the outcomes and lessons learned from a project that funded numerous Native American communities in conducting food sovereignty assessments, with the goal of collecting valuable localized data, creating action plans, and eventually moving toward more control over their local food systems for improved health and nutrition, and for the economic well-being of those communities. It is available as a free download from the First Nations Knowledge Center (under the “Nourishing Native Foods & Health” section) at (Please note that if you don’t already have one, you will need to create a free online account to download the report.) The report was authored by First Nations Vice President Raymond Foxworth, with data-collection assistance from consultants John Hendrix, Michelle Desjarlais and Joseph Madera.

In 2016 and 2017, First Nations provided 39 grants totaling nearly $640,000 to Native communities. This allowed these communities to develop and implement efforts to assess their local food systems and establish forward-looking plans designed to transform the future of those systems. Much of their work was conducted using First Nations’ Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool (FSAT), which was first developed in 2004 and significantly updated in 2014. Food sovereignty assessments have been a starting point for many communities as they work to develop mechanisms to increase local food-system control. A community food sovereignty assessment is a community-developed and community-led process for assessing local food-system control. A food sovereignty assessment puts Native communities in the driver’s seat, as it empowers them to identify their own goals, methods and process for data collection, analysis and strategy development.

Some of the grantees specifically featured in the publication are the Chahta Foundation in Durant, Oklahoma; the Nisqually Indian Tribe in Olympia, Washington; the Nebraska Indian Community College in Macy, Nebraska; and the Seneca Nation of Indians in Irving, New York. Most of the participating organizations (56%) were Native-controlled nonprofits or grassroots community groups, while 44% were tribes or tribal departments.

The four new videos, posted on the First Nations YouTube Channel, deal with food sovereignty, ranching and agricultural issues. They feature current and past grantees of First Nations in Arizona, New Mexico and Washington. They were produced for First Nations by Frybread Productions.

“As part of our work under our Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative and other efforts, we think it’s important to document and publicly highlight some of the successful projects that are making good strides in Indian Country,” said A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations’ Director of Programs for Native Agriculture and Food Systems. “We think these efforts and grantees exemplify some of the great work that is happening at the grassroots level in Native food systems, agriculture, youth programs and general community and economic development.”

The videos are:

14R video thumbnailNahata Dziil 14R Ranch, located on the rural Navajo Nation, utilizes community, land and long-cultivated ranching skills through a cooperative business model to provide local beef to community and businesses that serve the Navajo Nation. Where few businesses exist, 14R Ranch has managed to create and maintain a sustainable and responsive business model. This video can be found on YouTube at

Ndee Bikiyaa Peoples Farm video thumbnailNdée Bikíyaa – The People’s Farm, on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, seeks to reconnect the community to its food, traditional lifestyles and, ultimately, a healthier mindset. The People’s Farm is a mentorship organization that is growing young Native American farmers and challenging notions of Native American health. This video can be found on YouTube at

Muckleshoot video thumbnailThe Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project is reconnecting Native American foods and diets to Native value systems. The project focuses on activities ranging from breastfeeding to gathering traditional foods to improving diets. This video can be found on YouTube at

Zuni Youth video thumbnailThe Zuni Youth Enrichment Project focuses on connecting youth to movement and food. It challenges young people to think critically about building community through action and food choice. This video can be found on YouTube at

NICC & Partners Expand Food Project’s Reach

Omaha Tribe's Farmers' Market

Omaha Tribe’s Farmers’ Market

Coming together with partners can often help stretch valuable resources for a project, but it can also amplify and improve the outcomes of the project itself. That’s what happened in northeast Nebraska when Nebraska Indian Community College joined forces with the Omaha Tribe, the Santee Sioux Tribe and the Center for Rural Affairs to get more bang for the buck on a food sovereignty assessment effort.

NICC logoNebraska Indian Community College (NICC), a federal land-grant institution since 1994, serves the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska at its Macy Campus, and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska at the Santee Campus. It also has a campus site in South Sioux City, Nebraska, according to Mike Berger, NICC grantwriter

In keeping with its commitment to serve the two tribal nations, NICC was one of the recipients of grants awarded to 39 Native American tribes and organizations to help them conduct food sovereignty or community food assessments in their various locales, from 2016 to 2017. First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) provided the grants, totaling nearly $650,000, under its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, with generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Indigenous People’s Fund of Tides Foundation.

The grant allowed NICC to partner with the Santee and Omaha tribal governments and programs, and the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) located in Lyons, Nebraska, to carry out activities to encourage community participation in the food sovereignty assessments. Berger is the grantwriter for NICC and the grant manager with the project.

Expanding Reach

nicc7 crop 600px“We serve 170 students at three locations, and have less than 10 faculty members. We’re a very small tribal college and without partnering we couldn’t have implemented a food sovereignty project. We have limited staff, and partnerships with this project greatly expanded our reach into our communities,” said Berger.

The tribes, NICC and CFRA first held group and individual discussion groups to talk about the food sovereignty projects for both tribes, and the goals of gaining a “broader understanding of the current Santee Sioux and Omaha food systems, and how to build interest and support” from the communities being served, according to their project report to First Nations.

Information was shared at several locations in each tribe’s community, including the Omaha Pow Wow Committee meetings, Omaha Advisory Health Fair, the Santee Health Center, and the Walthill library, to name a few.

NICC's campus demonstration garden

NICC’s campus demonstration garden

Surveys were handed out to community members at various events, and were gone over one to one at some events like the Rosalie Old Settlers Days, the Santee Health Center Diabetes Program’s Greek salad cooking class, and the Omaha tenant education class.

In-Person Activities Important

While social media was used to get initial information out to the communities, it was the activities that were held in person that were the most successful when talking about food sovereignty and getting surveys, which in the end numbered more than 500 participants total for both tribes.

“The survey established and identified what we need to address and the interesting pathways that we are looking at delving into for the delivery of vegetables – such as mobile ‘veggie vans’ and working with the tribes to develop a delivery system for people who request fresh vegetables. At the local grocery store, vegetables are imported, but with a mobile grocery store – that could create a market for area farmers,” said Berger.

The idea of mobile “veggie vans” would not only provide access to fresh produce, but also fill in the transportation gap that many tribal members experience on both reservations. Even if someone has access to a car, they face an hour or longer drive, one way, just to reach the nearest big-box store. Add on the cost of gas and car upkeep, and this often puts a trip for fresh produce out of the reach for many tribal members.

Jelly workshop demonstration

Jelly workshop demonstration

In addition to creating access to heathier fresh fruits and vegetables, the surveys indicated there is a strong interest in revitalizing the growing of traditional foods within the existing community gardens and providing access to traditional foods to community members who can’t grow their own.

“The communities would like to see a Native seed bank happen, where seeds and roots stocks can be reintroduced. But instead of sending out seeds, keep it in the community and then they own stock in community,” said Berger.

Traditional Foods Draw Interest

There were some traditional foods that drew a large interest in terms of learning how to grow or access the foods, and how to prepare the traditional dishes.

“Venison, squash and corn were the top three traditional foods requested by survey participants, so for us as a college, we’re interested in what types of foods the community members are interested in. It’s also good for us to find out what local farmers were interested in cultivating,” said Berger.

CFRA oversees farmers’ markets on behalf of both tribes and there is a great interest by both the food producers and consumers to have access to more locally-grown foods. In addition, interest in family or community gardens and container gardens has been on the increase for the past few years in both tribal communities. CFRA works with both tribes and offers garden technical assistance for the challenging growing conditions. In 2017 alone, there were nearly 300 requests for support.

farmers marke1 crop 600px“The community gardens have really started taking off. Also, cooking and canning workshops are offered so we can better educate the community on food safety, drying and canning,” said Suzi French, Community Food Specialist with CFRA and an Omaha tribal member.

Berger added that often it is hard for people to imagine that there are food inequities or food deserts in their part of the country, as “here we’re surround by corn, but it’s all feed for cattle.”

The food sovereignty assessments have already had a great impact on the Omaha and Santee Sioux tribal communities and the Nebraska Indian Community College, Berger added. The assessments now provide the groundwork and direction for further community-developed proposals to address such areas as the seed bank, how the college fits within food sovereignty, and the overall impact on the health and wellness of all the communities.

‘Power of We’ Part 2: Passion Resonates at Conference

Left to right at the Power of We training are Regis Pecos of the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute (SFIS), Bianca Mitchell of IPCC, Carnell Chosa, Chasity Salvador and Diane Reyna of SFIS, and Corrine Sanchez of Tewa Women United

Left to right at the Power of We training are Regis Pecos of the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute (SFIS), Bianca Mitchell of IPCC, Carnell Chosa, Chasity Salvador and Diane Reyna of SFIS, and Corrine Sanchez of Tewa Women United

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), in July 2017, awarded 15 Supporting Native Arts grants and three professional development mini-grants to Native American tribes and organizations under First Nations’ Native Arts Initiative (NAI). Launched in early 2014, the purpose of the NAI is to support the perpetuation and proliferation of Native American arts, cultures and traditions as integral to Native community life. Funding for it is provided in part by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

NAI grantees have been using their grants to strengthen their organizational and programmatic infrastructure and sustainability to reinforce their role in supporting the field of Native arts and artists as culture bearers in their communities and, ultimately, the perpetuation and proliferation of traditional Native arts, traditions and cultures. In addition to financial support, the NAI grantees receive individualized training and technical assistance as well as professional development opportunities for staff members.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC), Inc., located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was one of the grant recipients. IPCC used the grant to support its Daily Artist Program by providing Native artists with an Investing in Artist Success workshop series in which the artists gain tools to promote themselves as artists, market their work, submit their work to art shows, and build professional portfolios.

Left to right are Monique Fragua, IPCC Museum Director and now Vice President of Operations; Marla Allison of Laguna Pueblo, featured artist for the IPCC Artist Circle Gallery; and Bianca Mitchell, IPCC Development Director

Left to right are Monique Fragua, IPCC Museum Director and now Vice President of Operations; Marla Allison of Laguna Pueblo, featured artist for the IPCC Artist Circle Gallery; and Bianca Mitchell, IPCC Development Director

Bianca Mitchell is from the Pueblo of Acoma, and serves as the IPCC Development Officer. She joined the organization in July 2016 as the volunteer and membership coordinator, after serving three years as the executive director for the Grants MainStreet program that promotes economic vitality for the rural city. Mitchell gained management experience by overseeing the program and through the creation of large events to bring tourism dollars into the area. She saw her move to IPCC as a natural one, to see what she could do on behalf of the 19 Pueblo nations that IPCC serves.

“Monique Fragua, the museum director for IPCC (now the vice president of operations for IPCC), felt it would be a good opportunity for me to jump into the development role after I mentioned to her that I was interested in the position, as there was not an established development donor program. We have several events throughout the year at the IPCC which gives our Pueblo artisans the opportunity to showcase and sell their work to guests from all over the world. As the development officer I am responsible for planning, organizing and implementing fundraising and development strategies to increase our donor base in support of the IPCC Programs. So we’re exploring how we begin to develop our major donor program,” said Mitchell.

It was Mitchell’s new role as the development officer that prompted her to be part of First Nations’ Power of We – Fundraising, Sustainability and Telling Our Stories training in September 2017. She was one of 54 attendees representing Native nonprofits and tribal programs from across the country. The informative and engaging training focused on sustainability, and provided the attendees an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of fundraising best practices and communicating the impact in a peer-learning environment.

“It was an eye-opener to be involved with other nonprofits who are trying to create their own and develop programs as well. Areas such as annual fundraising programs, crafting the message, and determining the organizational values are more than just measuring the value. I enjoyed Kim Klein’s presentation and her book. I also enjoyed meeting and learning together with my peers,” said Mitchell.

Corrine Sanchez presenting at the Power of We training

Tewa Women United Executive Director Dr. Corrine Sanchez of San Ildefonso Pueblo speaks from the heart about her experience heading a rural Native nonprofit to the Power of We training participants

One Power of We speaker in particular who struck a connection with Mitchell was Tewa Women United (TWU) Executive Director Dr. Corrine Sanchez of San Ildefonso Pueblo. Sanchez’s presentation was entitled: “The Irrigator: A Metaphor for Organizational Sustainability.” She shared how TWU is incorporating the farming and early legacy of their ancestors into their vision and strategies for organizational financial sustainability. The story covered the “herstory” of Tewa Women United and lessons learned over 28 years of evolution in addressing social change and transformation.

In recalling her presentation, Sanchez said “technology failed and it was a good thing,” as due to technical difficulties she was not able to show her slide presentation and she had to speak directly from the heart.

“It was a really good session. I was nervous and so I focused on nonprofit programming in a rural community, and the struggle with finding funding, planning and sustainability. How do you sustain an organization, a budget over the years, how things happen, the struggle – I wanted to convey what it feels like to deal with all this,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez and Tewa Women United are a part of, a project of First Nations Development Institute which has been supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. After many years navigating a small nonprofit, she understands the challenges many face.

Dr. Sanchez, center, with other participants at the Power of We training

Dr. Sanchez, center, with other participants at the Power of We training

“I think the common thread that I hope everyone took away was that in order to make pottery or art to sustain community, whether it is through fishing, hunting or harvesting, we had to have the planning in place. Some think that Native communities don’t plan well, but it’s the Western bureaucracy which doesn’t allow us to move the way we should have. We already have the knowledge and the skills needed to translate and transform our communities,” said Sanchez.

It was Sanchez’s passion and commitment to her organization that resonated with Mitchell, and the advice and support given by the speakers and other participants, which Mitchell took home with her.

“The advice to keep learning about what is going on in the community, to advocate, to learn more about the culture and heritage, and give back to the community itself – this I preach to my son. I tell him to explore, but come home and give back to the community, be a role model for the younger community members, the people, and his siblings. The training material was very useful for me, in reference to developing programming, how to plan effectively, and how we craft our message to supporters. It was a really great conference. I appreciated First Nations’ continued support and the funding to bring us all together.”

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

A Poem of Zuni Cultural Identity

Tyla Kanteena

Tyla Kanteena

A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations’ Director of Programs for Native Agriculture and Food Systems, recently presented via the internet about agriculture in Indian Country as part of a distance learning session for Arizona State University graduate and undergraduate students. The class is about contemporary American Indian issues, and A-dae spoke about how food is closely and culturally tied to identity in many American Indian communities.

As an assignment, the students were asked to write their reflections. One of them, from ASU student Tyla Kanteena, was a poem.

“I feel that Tyla’s poem speaks to what we do at First Nations, because we are trying to ensure the perpetuation of tribal nationhood, and our most important partners are those folks in tribal communities all across the country who ensure their communities remain tied to their identities.” A-dae noted. “We are working on more than just getting additional money to Indian Country. We are trying to support people like Tyla who are tied to their people, but on the pathway of forging solutions for their own people – on their own terms. Tyla’s journey begins with her daily greeting to Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

Here’s is Tyla’s poem. Please enjoy it:

I am Zuni
By Tyla Kanteena

I am Zuni, I am Shiwi,
I come from the ones who searched for the Middle Place,
a sacred place, protected from disasters like tornados
to live by the guidance of our Koko,
to greet Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

My mother showed me, my father taught me,
as well as hotda, wowo, nana, kuku
to love and care for my family, my siblings,
to breathe in life and blessings,
to greet Ho’n A:wan Yadokkya Datchu.

They gave me strength, they gave me protection
using the words of our ancestors
they showed me the way and how to pray,
to be happy to live and see another day
to greet Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

Like my family before me, like our ancestors before them,
like the prayers passed down to keep our people living,
we will breathe in life and blessings for you to pass on
strength and protection while you sprinkle your offerings at dawn
to greet Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

‘Power of We’ Part 1: Leilani Chow Finds Inspiration

Chow gives a practice fundraising pitch to a panel of Native American leaders.

Chow (right) gives a practice fundraising pitch to a panel of Native American leaders at the Power of We event. The “judges” represented First Nations, AISES, American Indian College Fund, Native American Rights Fund, and First Nations Oweesta Corporation

Leilani Chow was born and raised on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. One of seven children, Chow knows how important the sustainability and resiliency of the island is to its 7,500 residents, most of whom are Native Hawaiian.

At 16, she got involved with Sustʻāinable Molokai, which “seeks to restore Molokai to the food- and energy-secure island of the past by supporting local agricultural and renewable energy resources from the island.” The organization is a longtime grantee of First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and participates in First Nations’ project that is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Hui Up is an effort that conducts energy audits aimed at the 3,500 homes on Molokai that have some of the highest electricity rates in the U.S.

Leilani Chow

Leilani Chow

“I thought it was pretty cool. I was really happy to help people save on electric bills at home. It’s necessary and it has helped a lot of people. When I started it was the first year – we did the applications by hand. Now it’s easier to get the audits done, we have an online application. The first year we updated 100 refrigerators. This year we did 207, and we have a waiting list of over 100 people,” said Chow.

Now 24 and a recent graduate of the University of Hawaii, Chow trains Molokai youth to conduct energy audits.

“There’s a team of six with two to a team, and we have youth volunteers. My team was made up of middle schoolers and they did a great job. I was so proud of them,” said Chow.

Chow is expressive about how important the island and the work of Sustʻāinable Molokai is to her. It’s one of the main reasons she returned home the summer of 2017 after graduation.

“I want to go back home and have a more permanent position and do more projects with Sustʻāinable Molokai. I want to help build my community,” said Chow.

Chow (right) poses with some other attendees at the conference

Chow (right) poses with some other attendees at the conference

Chow’s passion and commitment to Sustʻāinable Molokai and her community lead her to be one of the 54 attendees, representing Native nonprofits and tribal programs from across the country, at the Power of We – Fundraising, Sustainability and Telling Our Stories training event held by First Nations in September 2017. The informative and engaging training focused on sustainability, and provided the attendees an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of fundraising best practices and communicating the impact in a peer-learning environment.

Two speakers who especially impacted Chow were Regis Pecos (Cochiti Pueblo), Co-Director of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS), and Diane Reyna (Taos Pueblo), a Consultant with the Leadership Institute at SFIS. Chow connected with how they develop curriculum and that the students get to determine the rules.

Emillia Noordhoek is the Co-Executive Director and the Director of Renewable Resources of Sustʻāinable Molokai, and has known Chow for the past 12 years. She sees the importance and the need to create a place for the youth to come back to for the sustainability and resiliency of the island.

Sustainable Molokai“We work hard to keep the youth engaged so they can come back after college, but they can’t earn as much as they would on the mainland or in Honolulu if we didn’t have stipends. So part of our leadership program, as we’re reimagining it, is that someone can work on a project, go back to college or other training, and be able to return to Molokai and pick up the project where they left off,” said Noordhoek.

Building their capacity to create positions for Chow and the youth of Molokai is a key effort of Sustʻāinable Molokai and Noordhoek. Attending the Power of We training gave Chow and the other attendees an opportunity to see what other Native communities are doing, to learn from other emerging and accomplished, committed community leaders.

“I had no idea what to expect as this was my first Power of We conference that I’ve been to. I was blown away with the speakers as they were so amazing. It was well-planned and fun. I learned a lot. I had never thought about fundraising in those ways – it’s an area that we need to look at,” said Chow.

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer

Show Me the ($pending Frenzy) Money!

Custom $pending Frenzy Bill created by Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Custom $pending Frenzy bill created by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation

With more than 80 partnering communities, hundreds of events, and thousands of participants, First Nations’ $pending Frenzy has become a super-sized hit. From Mashpee, Massachusetts, to Newhalen, Alaska, the riveting financial skills simulation is the gold standard for interactive youth financial education training throughout Indian Country.

SpendingFrenzylogoCreated in 2011 in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and Shawn Spruce Consulting, the $pending Frenzy program was designed to assist tribal youth with managing lump-sum minor’s trust payments derived from gaming revenues and natural resource dividends.The approach was novel in that participants received the actual amount of their pending payments in brick-sized bundles of play money bills. Then they took a stab at managing their windfalls while going through a maze of real-world decisions, challenges and obstacles.

Original $pending Frenzy play money featuring EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks

Original $pending Frenzy play money featuring EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks

It’s important to point out that the idea wasn’t to condone the practice of carrying around armloads of cash like rapper Lil Wayne jetting off to a Vegas weekend. Instead, the play money was an old-school teaching tool to encourage youth growing up in the digital age to appreciate the value of money by handling it physically as opposed to just inserting a credit card or scrolling through a mobile payment app. Since then the $pending Frenzy has embraced a broader audience of Native youth, most of whom do not receive sizable payments on their 18th birthdays, but do share a common need to gain financial knowledge and independence.

Meskawki Nation $pending Frenzy bill produced by tribally-owned Pinnacle Bank

Meskawki Nation $pending Frenzy bill produced by tribally-owned Pinnacle Bank

The cool-looking play money has always been a huge part of the $pending Frenzy’s success. This is especially true when the participants eagerly eye a mountain of “hundies,” stacked to the rafters, at the onset of the simulation. Later, when the bills are zipped through a currency counter, participants often enjoy helping re-strap the bundles for the next event – more quality time with the money.

The original $pending Frenzy bills were printed by CBC Printing, a tribally owned-enterprise, and featured former EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks. Dubbed “Hicks Bucks,” the bills displayed a grinning headshot of Hicks on the front, with a picture of the historic EBCI Tribal Council House on the back.

First Nations dollar backside with pre-colonial map

First Nations dollar backside with pre-colonial map

When First Nations began producing $pending Frenzy kits for communities nationwide to host their own $pending Frenzies, it designed a new bill replacing Hicks and the Council House with a portrait of prominent Native American chiefs and a pre-Columbus map of America. These new bills were an instant smash with Native youth from a wide range of tribes.Printed in a realistic green hue on high-quality paper, the non-tribal-specific play money added a culturally diverse element to the $pending Frenzy. The same dimensions as real U.S. currency, the bills also worked perfectly in the currency counters included in the kits.

The Jim Thorpe bill

The Jim Thorpe bill

As the $pending Frenzy phenomena continues to grow in popularity, numerous partners have requested to print their own $pending Frenzy bills. These custom bills often feature tribal seals and local landmarks that add a personal touch to the events that these partners host. Moreover, many trainers who teach financial education classes and workshops with Native groups will use $pending Frenzy money in their other activities and lessons.

Bills designed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Bills designed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Recently our team redesigned the standard $pending Frenzy bills for a third time. Our latest version features the legendary Jim Thorpe and is quickly gaining a following among $pending Frenzy enthusiasts. Take a quick tour through the history of $pending Frenzy money by checking out the pictures of the various $100 bills in this article. We look forward to many more $pending Frenzy events in the future along with more partners offering creative play money designs.

For more information on the $pending Frenzy or to order a $pending Frenzy kit for your community, please contact Ben Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer, at

By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Financial Education Consultant

Monica Nuvamsa & Susan White on Board

Monica Nuvamsa (left) and Susan White

Monica Nuvamsa (left) and Susan White

Two influential Native American leaders recently joined the Board of Directors of First Nations Development Institute (First Nations). They are Monica Nuvamsa (Hopi), Executive Director of the Hopi Foundation, and Susan White (Oneida Nation), Director of the Oneida Trust Enrollment Department at the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

With the additions, First Nations now has a nine-member board, all of whom are Native American and who provide a diverse representation of Indian Country.

“We warmly welcome Monica and Susan to the Board, and we look forward to tapping into their tremendous knowledge, skills and experience as First Nations continues to move forward,” noted Board Chairman Benny Shendo, Jr.

Monica Nuvamsa

Monica Nuvamsa

Ms. Nuvamsa received her B.A. in Psychology and American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation. Her early career experiences included developing and managing the Hopi Tribe’s Domestic Violence Program. She served both as an Advocate and Project Coordinator until she received a political appointment to serve in the role of the Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison for the Hopi Tribe. She has served on several nonprofit boards, including Native Americans in Philanthropy, Native Public Media and the Arizona Grantmakers Forum.

Susan White

Susan White

Ms. White directs a multi-operational department in capital strategies for protection and growth of trust assets and for management of the Oneida Nation’s census records. She maintains the Trust’s sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) philosophy by coordinating shareholder activism for Indigenous peoples rights and well-being when affected by corporations. She is also responsible for the maintenance and protection of tribal citizen records for the elected Oneida Trust Enrollment Committee. She is also active serving as co-chair for the Investors and Indigenous Peoples Working Group, the Women’s Fund of Greater Green Bay Emeritus, the Oneida Auxiliary VFW Post 7784, a Trustee for the Episcopal Diocese of Fond Du Lac, and the American Foundation for Counseling Services Ethics in Business Selection Committee.

To see the full First Nations Board of Directors, click here.

Dr. Per Cap: Seven Years Strong & Counting

Dr Per Cap new PNG

Pithy, poignant and … practical. That was the goal when First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) dreamed up the idea of Ask Dr. Per Cap. We wanted to start a financial advice column geared specifically to Native American readers. There were already countless online articles and blogs about generic personal finance topics like reading credit reports, creating budgets, and saving for retirement, but we wanted something more for Indian Country – articles to address financial issues unique to Native communities. That includes stuff like managing minor’s trust payments, paying the Kiddie Tax on gaming profits held in trust for minors, managing federal land-acquisition proceeds, and how collection practices relate to sovereign immunity. Boring you say? Not with Dr. Per Cap clacking the keyboard. It’s amazing how a good dose of Indian humor can turn a dull conversation into a party!

1moneySince 2011, I’ve written enough Ask Dr. Per Cap columns to give Dear Abby a run for her eternally-syndicated money. Partly autobiographical and partly based on lessons learned from over 10 years working as a financial education consultant in Indian Country, the columns always have a no-nonsense yet lighthearted approach. But the prescription for money woes is always the same: tough love tempered with common sense, designed to combat everyday money challenges facing folks on the rez. A column titled Gold Diggers on the Prowl is a cautionary tale of community outsiders who set their romantic sights on people with per capita cash. Shady Dealings addresses fraud and scams targeted to Native consumers – we highlight tricks we have seen, like the promise of large treasury grants, but there’s a catch! They require large upfront fees paid with iTunes cards … hmmm, sounds fishy.

1BudgetThe articles are available for free to tribal newspapers, websites and community newsletters, which can publish them in weekly or monthly installments. Jonelle Yearout of Nimiipuu Community Development Fund, a CDFI serving the Nez Perce Tribe, runs Ask Dr. Per Cap on her organization’s website and in the tribal paper, Ta’c Tito’oqan. “Our community members really enjoy reading Dr. Per Cap,” explained the Lapwai, Idaho-based executive director. “The content is relatable to Indian Country and up to date. A piece on land buy back preparedness resonated especially well when individuals and families were gearing up for land sales. Other articles stress the link between money and math, avoiding payday loans, and the business of marriage – all from a cultural context.”

1handsPinnacle Bank is one of a handful of tribally-owned banks in the country. With two locations in central Iowa, the Meskwaki Nation enterprise offers financial education for tribal members as a service. “We publish Dr. Per Cap articles in the tribal paper,” explained Jody Fank, Pinnacle’s vice president of business development. “Topics are timely and readers appreciate how they are geared to Native people and finance. They are also really fun to read.” Other communities such as Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have used the free advice column in their local newspapers.

In addition to ongoing financial advice, each April during Financial Literacy Month Dr. Per Cap recognizes a team of Financial Literacy All Stars – outstanding individuals who are working hard to expand financial education efforts throughout Indian Country. Moreover, Dr. Per Cap is lending insight to an upcoming rewrite of First Nations’ Building Native Communities: Investing for the Future workbook. It contains more fun strategies to complement our ever-expanding stock of financial education resources and tools!

Interested in bringing Dr. Per Cap to your community? Contact Sarah Dewees at to get copies of the free newspaper columns.

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Creative inspiration is led by Shawn Spruce Consulting. For more information, see this link.

By Shawn Spruce, First Nations Financial Education Consultant

Pueblo of San Felipe Focuses on Food Sovereignty

Used with permission of Pueblo of San Felipe and Tim Valencia

Used with permission of Pueblo of San Felipe and Tim Valencia

The Pueblo of San Felipe is roughly 25 miles north of Albuquerque and 38 miles to the south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. While sandwiched between two of the top four largest cities in the state, the Pueblo spans 68,000 rural acres. It has 3,400 enrolled tribal members, and the majority of them speak Keres, the traditional language. The Keres language is what intertwines the people with their cultural and agricultural traditions.

The Pueblo of San Felipe was one of the recipients of the grants awarded to 21 Native American tribes and organizations to help them conduct food sovereignty or community food assessments in their various locales from 2016 to 2017. First Nations Development Institute (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.

Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool

Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool

The Pueblo of San Felipe’s Department of Resources (DNR) includes the Agriculture Program, Environmental Office, Water and Land Management Offices, Mapping and Historic and Cultural Preservation Office. Pinu’u Stout is the Department of Natural Resources Director for San Felipe. She says the food sovereignty assessment is an important part of DNR’s work and that community engagement is a critical part of the process. A survey was created as a way to get community feedback on what issues they felt were important and needed to be examined in the food assessment. DNR utilized the First Nations Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool as a resource in creating the survey.

The survey asked the San Felipe community to consider their food sources – where they get their food and what food is available to them. Even though the Pueblo is located between two major cities in the state, tribal members must drive roughly 45 minutes each way to reach the nearest big box store or grocery store.

The Pueblo announced its food sovereignty assessment grant via a press release that was sent to area media outlets, but it is the person-to-person connection that made the most impact when conducting outreach to fellow tribal members, which crossed generations.

The DNR involved the youth in the village by having high school and college interns in the department take the survey from door to door within the Pueblo to encourage participation, and to connect with their fellow tribal members directly. A community luncheon and outreach event was held where tribal members ate traditionally-prepared foods, and talked about the food assessment in further detail.

“The community strongly encouraged us to get more feedback from them, and to make sure they were involved in the process. A strong interest was shown in creating a community garden, with the main interest being in farming,” said Stout.

According to the USDA Census of Agriculture for 2012, the number of farmers in the United States fell by 4.3 percent from the previous census held in 2007. Stout is ever-conscious that while nationally the number of farmers has been declining, the number of farmers in the community is high.

“In the United States as a whole, about two percent of the population are farmers, and about 70 percent are farmers here in San Felipe, and many of our farmers also work jobs in addition to farming. We strive to support existing farmers, and to bring in new farmers. Farming is a big part of the community and life here in the Pueblo,” said Stout.

One of the survey questions asked if they were not currently farming, would they want to learn how to farm? The response was high, with 75 percent saying yes, they would like to farm or help with the farming in their community in come capacity. Stout says they see it as part of who they are as a people.

“They – the community – see farming tied to the culture, language, health and to the future and past. It’s a different experience in this tribal community versus the rest of the United States,” said Stout.

The food assessment project provided the framework and a launching point for the DNR and other program collaborators in the community to take the community’s interests and what they want to happen further. The funding provided by First Nations and the NoVo Foundation Fund at the Tides Foundation was appreciated as it supported the food assessment into becoming a reality.

As tribal respondents to the food sovereignty survey stated: “We have the right to preserve our traditional values” and a “right to traditional foods that have been a part of our history for generations.”

The funding from First Nations give San Felipe the opportunity to take the time to focus on food, food sovereignty and what it means for the Pueblo. The assessment is the beginning of a conversation on how to move forward in the San Felipe way – honoring tradition and moving forward in a positive way.

By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer