2018 Under Way with New Grants & Initiatives

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First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) kicked off the new year in a big way by announcing several new grants and initiatives. They included:


A two-year, $100,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation to support our ongoing Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) that bolsters Native American communities and organizations as they seek to reclaim control of their local food systems for improved health and well-being, as well as for asset-building and economic development purposes.

Under the Newman’s Own Foundation grant and funds from other sources, First Nations, through NAFSI, provides direct grants, technical assistance and extensive capacity-building training to Native organizations and tribes that are conducting projects aimed at alleviating tribal hunger, improving community nutrition, improving access to healthy foods, and/or encouraging the development of tribal food-related businesses. In particular, the Newman’s Own Foundation support will be used to provide various forms of training and one-on-one technical assistance through onsite visits, webinars and special meetings or calls, and for participants to attend major First Nations convenings related to the work they do. First Nations also plans to publish a national report on NAFSI’s activities featuring lessons learned, best practices, policy implications, case studies and community-based effects. First Nations will also participate in the Newman’s Own Foundation Native American Nutrition Cohort, where it will share its experiences and that of its grantees while learning from other participants.


A one-year, $100,000 grant from the Agua Fund as renewed funding to assist Native American communities in South Dakota and on the Navajo Nation (Arizona, New Mexico and Utah). The funding allows First Nations to work with selected communities toward increasing control of their local food systems for improved health and well-being, as well as for asset-building and economic development purposes.

First Nations expects to issue a request for proposals for this grant program in the near future. Eligible entities will be Sioux or Navajo tribes, Sioux or Navajo-controlled nonprofit organizations, or Native community-based groups committed to increasing healthy food access in Sioux or Navajo communities. First Nations will offer capacity-building training to the four selected participants, while two of these groups will receive direct grants of $30,000 each. The project will focus on tribal hunger, nutrition and healthy foods access, and will engage in activities such as conducting community food assessments and expanding initiatives for food-related business development. Participants will be selected based on their potential to serve as a positive model with replicable or adaptable components for other Native communities, as well as on their communities’ needs related to tribal hunger, food insecurity and healthy foods access.

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A $240,000, two-year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to conduct a project known as “Supporting Community Intellectuals in Native Communities.” The goal is to support Native American community intellectuals and widely share learnings from the initiative, while hopefully illustrating how to put their knowledge to best advantage for the good of Native communities.

First Nations will work with four Native-run nonprofit organizations: Salish Kootenai College (Pablo, Montana), Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School (Santa Fe, New Mexico),The Hopi Foundation (Kykotsmovi Village, Arizona), and The Piegan Institute (Browning, Montana). Each of these organizations is an anchor in its community and serves as a convener and a center of excellence in supporting local community intellectuals. These organizations are elevating the Native voice in influential circles. The effort will combine projects conducted by the four partner groups to engage their communities on the state of and support for Native community intellectuals and to document the discussions. It will bring the four groups together to form a community of practice and to pool their collective knowledge, and it will also disseminate a final report summarizing the learnings and examination of support for community intellectuals.


A $250,000, two-year grant from Northwest Area Foundation to conduct a project called “Changing Native Food Economies” that aims to help develop strong, diverse and resilient tribal economies.

Under the effort, First Nations is creating a learning cohort of four tribes and/or Native-led nonprofits (three in Montana and one in Washington, which are within Northwest Area Foundation’s eight-state service area) that are actively engaged in food sovereignty and food systems activities or other asset-building initiatives. The cohort members, who will receive grants of $30,000 each, will share experiences and lessons learned from the community food self-assessments that each has conducted. They also will attend First Nations-hosted convenings to learn about best practices for research and methods to lay the groundwork for further project planning and implementation, and they will receive visits by First Nations personnel to provide onsite technical assistance to develop comprehensive plans that address each community’s unique population, entities and tribal policies.

The selected partners are The Center Pole (Garryowen, Montana); FAST Blackfeet (Food Access and Sustainability Team) (Browning, Montana); Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (La Conner, Washington); and Fort Belknap Community Economic Development Corporation (Harlem, Montana). They will identify economic opportunities within their community food systems that, if given adequate resources, would support the creation and/or expansion of businesses and jobs. In this case, adequate resources might include sustainable community connections and partnerships, as well as supportive tribal policies and processes.

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