Donor Perspective: First Nations Inspires Communities & Innovation

 

First Nations donor Tiana Melquist attended this year's L.E.A.D. Conference

I come from a long line of Eastern Band Cherokees that my great uncle George Owl once described as “mixers.” He was referring to a family who resisted removal from their homeland and the damaging effects of assimilation, but who also explored the world beyond the reservation. They mixed with people of many races, worked side by side with Indians and non-Indians, and actively pursued their own education so they could be of service to Native Americans. As a person who lives and works off the reservation, it has been important for me to find ways to stay connected to this tribal and family legacy and to support work that benefits Indian communities throughout the U.S. This is one of the reasons I support First Nations Development Institute (First Nations).

In September, I was fortunate to attend the 2014 First Nations L.E.A.D. Institute Conference, which stands for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Development. Over my two days at the event, I connected with the people who are making a difference in Indian Country through the support of First Nations’ grants and initiatives.

“First Nations is helping to build a sustainable future for Native America by supporting the people who live in and are deeply invested in Native communities. Having seen and experienced this organization firsthand, I urge you also to support the work of First Nations; there is so much more that we can all accomplish.”

At meetings and meals, I witnessed former colleagues and college friends reuniting and encouraging one another in their lives and work. I saw young professionals using their education, ambition and ingenuity to tackle the urgent problems in Indian Country.

First Nations President Michael Roberts addresses L.E.A.D. attendees

I spoke with established leaders in education, law and politics who are taking stock of the needs and assets of their tribes and making action plans for both the short and long term. It made me wish I could tell my grandfather, Frell Owl, about the good work these dedicated individuals are carrying out. He was an early pioneer in the movement of Indian people taking leadership in their own community development.

I sat transfixed as First Nations’ grantees described the process of turning an idea into a successful program with the support of First Nations. These presentations inspired me to get to work, especially on a problem that is near to my heart: the widespread problem of Indian food deserts (the lack of access to healthy and affordable food for Native people). First Nations programs are tackling this issue in creative ways through community food assessments, farms and gardens, farmers’ markets, food trucks, school lunches and community meals. In fact, the need is so great for programs such as this, that First Nations is only able to support 7% of the projects requesting their funding for Native agriculture and food systems initiatives.

Panelists from funding organizations provide insights into grantmaking

As a supporter of First Nations, being at the conference validated the reasons I was originally attracted to this organization – their programs are local, progressive, ambitious and relevant. First Nations is helping to build a sustainable future for Native America by supporting the people who live in and are deeply invested in Native communities. Having seen and experienced this organization firsthand, I urge you also to support the work of First Nations; there is so much more that we can all accomplish.

By Tiana Melquist, First Nations Donor (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians)

 

Supporters Across U.S. Can Make a Difference on “Colorado Gives Day”

First Nations is again participating in Colorado Gives Day, which is December 9 this year. While we are headquartered in Colorado, you don’t have to live in Colorado or even be from here to support our work, which stretches across the U.S. to Native American communities from coast to coast and border to border!

Regardless of where you are, please support First Nations through Colorado Gives Day. And you don’t even have to wait until Dec. 9. You can schedule your donation now for delivery on Dec. 9. Our profile on the Colorado Gives Day page is at this link: https://www.coloradogives.org/FirstNations.

Some of our staff members have created personal fundraising pages for First Nations to enlist their family, friends, relatives and neighbors to give. Our President Michael Roberts has his own page and we invite you to join us and create your own page, too! It can contain a personal appeal from you as well as your own photos and videos. Go here to learn more about personal fundraising pages.

Your support by way of Colorado Gives Day gives us additional chances at other cash prizes, too, which can help extend our work with Native American communities.

Thank you!

Tradition & Technology: San Carlos Apache Tribe’s Food Database

Fluent Apache speaker Twila Cassadore helped conduct, record and analyze well over 100 interviews with Apache elders.

Can tradition and technology co-exist? The San Carlos Apache Tribe, located in southeastern Arizona, has developed a first-of-its-kind traditional food database system that seems to suggest the answer is yes.

The database allows tribal healthcare leaders to preserve traditional Apache recipes so that nutritionists can analyze the nutritional content of these foods to replicate the traditional Western Apache diet. This project will allow the tribe to design a healthy, pre-reservation menu that will help reverse the growing trend of diet-related illnesses on the reservation.

In 2013, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) awarded the San Carlos Apache Tribe $37,500 through First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) to launch the database. With this grant, the tribe hired a fluent Apache speaker, Twila Cassadore, to conduct 100 interviews with tribal elders. Those elders helped identify more than 200 traditional Apache edible plants and nearly as many traditional Apache recipes.

The traditional food database led to new partnerships that aimed to involve the youth in Native food systems work.

A nutritionist has analyzed more than half of these recipes and modernized them so that they are more accessible to home cooks. For example, some recipes call for wild plants that are not typically sold in the grocery store or sown in the garden. The nutritionist, by finding a modern equivalent to these traditional ingredients, will help tribal members revive their pre-reservation diet.

“This database allows us to approach traditional cultural knowledge as a science,” says botanist Seth Pilsk. “To respect it in a traditional manner, but not shy away from studying and analyzing it. We are using traditional knowledge as a means to solving contemporary problems.”

Traditionally, the tribe incorporated food and food production into every aspect of their lives, from sacred rituals and ceremonies to their social and political structures. This project seeks to re-establish the tribe’s healthy relationship with food and, in the process, alleviate some of their current social and economic ills, including substance abuse, suicide, domestic violence, diabetes, obesity, poverty and unemployment.

Apache elders firmly believe that a return to a healthy, pre-reservation diet will help reverse these negative trends and enhance the lives of their tribal members – culturally, physically, socially and politically. Indeed, the information gleaned from this database has already started to have a positive impact on the community.

Tribal healthcare leaders have partnered with the Diabetes Prevention Program, the Wellness Program, The Department of Forest Resources, and the Language Preservation Office to develop a model program based on traditional – mostly food-related – activities. Most recently, they have held a series of meetings with the tribe’s Elders Cultural Advisory Council to identify the major principles needed to inform a Tribal Food Policy Committee. This committee will recommend policies for the tribal leadership to support traditionally-based food systems, health and economic development.

This project has allowed the tribe to successfully merge tradition and technology to improve the physical and social health of their people. The success of this traditional food database system reiterates that tribes have the knowledge and power to strengthen their own communities.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Finding That Perfect Gift

 

Give a gift that has the power to changes lives. That’s what you’ll be doing when you make a holiday gift to First Nations in honor of a friend or loved one. You can give a unique gift to a special person in your life who shares your passion for making a difference. What a meaningful gift and wonderful way to empower Native communities who are developing solutions to their own challenges in innovative ways and perpetuating their cultures and traditions.

When you make an honorary donation, we will send a special note informing them of your thoughtful gift along with a Staff-Recommended Reading List so they can learn more about the rich cultures and histories that make up the diverse fabric of Native America.

To make an honorary gift this holiday season, visit: www.firstnations.org/perfectgift or call (303) 774-7836.

“My Green” Campaign Releases Music Video

First Nations Development Institute’s “My Green” campaign, a social marketing campaign focused on financial empowerment for Native American youth, has just released a new music video that addresses “18 Money,” which is the age at which some Native teens receive a significant financial distribution while they often lack the skills to effectively deal with the windfall.

Theodore “Theo” Brown, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin, wrote and recorded a song titled “Turned 18” about the challenges and pitfalls of receiving a minor’s trust payment. Working alongside the Ho-Chunk Players, a Native youth theater troupe directed by Sherman Funmaker, Theo and the group produced a music video to illustrate a day in the life of a Ho-Chunk youth who “turned 18.” The video was shot over several days this past summer in Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsLB8vzk-80.

Ho-Chunk Players on location in Baraboo, Wis. Left to right are Sherman Funmaker, Sylvia Bisonette, Dean Funmaker, Mariah Funmaker and Diana Concha.

It can be called “Minor’s Trust,” “Big Money” or “18 Money,” and for a number of Native American youth, it represents a blessing and a curse. A small number of tribes pay out dividends from tribal businesses, or per-capita payments, to their members. Payments for tribal members who are age 17 or younger are usually held in a financial trust until the youth turns 18. At age 18 (although sometimes later) youth receive a substantial payment and are faced with the responsibility of managing their “Big Money.”

With funding from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, First Nations launched the “My Green” campaign to help Native youth learn to manage their “18 Money.” This includes raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities provided by the minor’s trust payment. The campaign features a website at www.mybigmoney.org that provides a platform for four spokespeople – Native youth ages 17-23 – to present their stories about how they managed their money. They share their lessons learned in several videos, and serve as guides throughout the different components of the website.

Folks in a “Frenzy” at First Nations L.E.A.D. Conference

First Nations Development Institute held its 19th Annual Leadership and Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Development (L.E.A.D.) Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino on Sept. 24-26 this year. Over 175 participants came to learn more about a range of topics related to economic development on Indian reservations. One conference track was dedicated to Youth Development and featured many innovative youth programs that support youth employment, education and financial empowerment.

Shawn Spruce

On Friday, Sept. 26, financial educator Shawn Spruce conducted a “Spending Frenzy” training workshop that was designed to help tribal colleges, CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), internship programs, and Boys and Girls Clubs offer financial education programs.

The Spending Frenzy is designed for youth and provides participants with a pile of play money and lets them go on a spending frenzy where they can make a series of financial decisions related to buying a car, buying a home, and paying for life’s expenses. Participants travel between stations where they are asked to make a payment using the play money and record that payment in a ledger. The goal is to finish the workshop with all the bills paid and some money left over. The first stop is at the Big Money Bank, but people are often disappointed when they learn they also have to visit the IRS and pay taxes on their income.

Shawn plays the "taxman" at the IRS stop

“People have been asking us to offer a training so they can learn how to conduct this workshop in their home community,” said Shawn, who is a financial educator and a First Nations consultnt. “There is a lot of demand for financial education that is interactive, fun and relevant to the lives of Native youth. Kids love to learn in a hands-on setting, and the Spending Frenzy offers that.”

More than 30 practitioners from programs across North America participated in the training. Staff from First Nations and Chief Dull Knife College helped work at the stations and conduct the workshop.

A participant studies her expenses

“We are honored that so many people are interested in this interactive financial education program,” said Sarah Dewees, senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs at First Nations. “We look forward to hearing more about how our partners implement this program in their home communities.”

Gifts of Appreciated Securities

A gift of appreciated stocks or mutual funds may be a tax-advantaged way for you to make a significant impact on First Nations’ immediate goals to preserve Native cultures, build stronger tribal economies, expand financial education, increase access to healthy foods, and so much more.

Donating appreciated stocks or mutual funds to First Nations is simple and can be made by taking a few quick steps:

  • CALL your broker or account administrator.
  • DIRECT them to our website for transfer instructions at www.firstnations.org/give
  • SPECIFY which stocks you want to give.
  • CONTACT First Nations to let us know of your gift, so we can track it, send you a receipt for tax purposes, and thank you for your thoughtful gift.

Eileen Egan

For more information about making a gift of stocks or mutual funds to further our mission, please contact Eileen Egan in our Development Office today at (303) 774-7836 or by email to eegan@firstnations.org. You can also visit www.firstnations.org/give.

(This information is not intended as tax, legal or financial advice. Please consult your personal financial advisor for information specific to your situation.)

Financial Ed Workshop Held at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

Some of the attendees at SIPI go over their materials

The Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum is a culturally appropriate financial education curriculum designed for use in Native communities. It is used by tribal colleges, tribal housing authorities and other programs to educate approximately 2,300 students a year – and the numbers are growing.

On October 1-3, 2014, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) partnered with First Nations Oweesta Corporation to provide a “train-the-trainer” workshop to help practitioners learn to use the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum in their home community.

In coordination with the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute’s (SIPI’s) Board of Regents Office, First Nations helped conduct a three-day workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that provided an orientation to the curriculum, an overview of teaching tools, and training on a range of teaching techniques. More than 15 participants in the workshop learned how to use the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum in a variety of settings to promote financial empowerment.

“We were happy to be able to partner with First Nations Development Institute to offer this workshop,” said Vonne Strobe, a project coordinator for SIPI’s Board of Regents Office. “We definitely learned a lot that will be useful in serving the clients in our financial education program.” Other participants in the workshop included staff from tribal housing authorities, education departments, and staff from New Mexico’s tribal libraries program.

“It is an honor to work with such a great group of passionate and dedicated financial educators,” noted Shawn Spruce, a workshop facilitator and a First Nations financial education consultant. “We look forward to hearing how people are able to use these tools to serve their community members.”

To learn more about the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum, visit the First Nations website at http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/financial-education/bnc.

By Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs

A-dae Romero: A Happy Success Story for Native Agriculture

A-dae at home in Lanai, Hawaii

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is always happy and proud when our grantees and the various projects we have supported achieve good success and begin to make positive ripples in Indian Country. We’re happy and proud a lot because we have many of these stories, but one of the recent ones is about our good friend A-dae Romero.

A-dae first flew onto First Nations’ radar in 2011 when we provided her with a USDA Community Food Projects travel scholarship to attend our L.E.A.D. Conference. At the time, A-dae was thinking of starting a nonprofit organization related to food.

That thought soon became reality with a new organization called Cochiti Youth Experience, Inc. at Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. (A-dae was born and raised in Cochiti Pueblo. She is Cochiti and Kiowa.) She co-founded this nonprofit so it could create positive opportunities for Cochiti’s young people, and it has a special focus on strengthening Pueblo agriculture as an economic, political and social anchor for the community. First Nations provided a grant to assist Cochiti Youth Experience in 2012 under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, then another grant in 2013 under our Native Youth and Culture Fund.

Since then, A-dae has continued to accomplish good things, both personally and professionally. She recently received important honors and achieved major milestones that recognize her growing impact, especially in Native American agriculture.

A-Dae (front and center in gray suit) at The White House for the "Champions of Change" honors.

In July 2014, The White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture honored A-dae as one of 15 local “Champions of Change” leaders from across the country “who are doing extraordinary things to build the bench for the next generation of farming and ranching. These champions are leading in their industries and communities, inspiring others who want to find careers and a life on the land, and providing food, fiber, fuel, and flora around the world.”

Then, she was recently named a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, a very prestigious academic accomplishment. She will use it to study the Maori people of New Zealand. Then Agri-Pulse, a national agricultural news source, included her as one of the most influential rural agricultural advocates in its “50 Under 50” report.

Further, A-dae recently completed her LL.M. (master of law) degree in agricultural and food law through the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law. A-dae was the initiative’s first student to complete this multi-disciplinary research, service and educational opportunity, and the initiative itself is the first of its kind nationally. This advanced law degree comes on top of her J.D. (juris doctorate) degree from Arizona State University’s College of Law, and her degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (her focus was on public policy and economic policy).

A-dae now acts as a consultant with First Nations Development Institute on several of our Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative efforts, plus she walks in two worlds by farming with her family in New Mexico – raising blue corn and varieties of Pueblo corn – and farming with her husband’s family in Hawaii, growing taro. She also serves on the board of Native American Farmers and Ranchers through New Mexico Community Capital, and on the board of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA). And, she was just named a legal researcher for the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), in partnership with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), for the new Global Network on Legal Preparedness for Achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

After earning her LL.M. degree, First Nations honored A-dae at our offices in Colorado. Left to right are Jackie Francke and Marsha Whiting of First Nations, A-dae, and Sarah Hernandez and Raymond Foxworth of First Nations.

It’s no wonder A-dae is becoming a leader in Native agriculture. According to the Agri-Pulse article, her grandfather was a leader among his people. When construction of the Cochiti Dam flooded agricultural land used by their tribe, A-dae was just a child. Yet she remembers playing nearby as her grandfather and other leaders discussed the loss of the land for farming, which was vital to the pueblo’s livelihood.

A-dae said it was “very intimate and powerful time” in her life, as the community, dependent on agriculture, struggled with the question of who they would be without farming. As she began to develop an interest in a profession that could help her to be a voice of her culture, she found a mentor who encouraged her to pursue her dreams of law school. Since then she has found a fertile and fruitful field of endeavor at the intersection of law and agriculture.

“After all,” she said in the Agri-Pulse interview, “farming is about getting our hands dirty, and there is a simple kind of happiness in that.”

By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer

Good Planning Requires Good Information: We Have It For You, Online!

Please visit www.firstnationsgift.org, our new planned giving website

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is pleased to offer our friends and supporters information on personal and estate planning through our new planned giving website at www.firstnationsgift.org. When you visit our website, you will find helpful gift-planning information and enjoy reading articles offered such as personal planning, savvy living, Washington and financial news.

You may use our secure online Wills Planner, which walks you through the entire process of creating your will. You may also run personal gift calculations to view how your giving can benefit both you and our organization’s good work and be part of First Nations’ Legacy Society – a group of individuals who have included our organization in their estate plans and are committed to making a lasting contribution to our mission to strengthen American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities.

First Nations’ Legacy Society is our way of honoring the visionary contributions of these individuals who are dedicated to advancing First Nation’s mission. “First Nations is truly grateful to those who have made provisions in their estate plans to ensure we continue to invest in and create innovative institutions and models that strengthen asset control and support economic development for American Indian people and their communities,” said First Nations President Michael Roberts. “We were recently honored with an anonymous bequest based on our scope of work, track record in Native communities, and top charity ratings. This gift is so very meaningful to us. We are dedicated to carrying out and honoring the donor’s philanthropic wishes and using this gift wisely.”

Eileen Egan

For more information on First Nation’s Legacy Society, please contact Eileen Egan, Associate Director of Development, at (303) 774-7836 or at eegan@firstnations.org. If you have already chosen to include First Nations in your estate plans, we ask that you complete our Legacy Intention Form or contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to talk with you further about the impact your thoughtful gift will have on the communities we serve and thank you for your generosity.