Five New Staff Members Join First Nations

Left to right are Elton, Tawny, Kendall and Anita

Over the past few months, First Nations has welcomed five new staff members. They are Anita Conner, Eileen Egan, Elton Naswood, Kendall Tallmadge and Tawny Wilson.

Anita is our new Finance Assistant.  She has worked in accounting and systems-support functions at various companies in Boulder County, Colorado, with many of those years at StorageTek.

Eileen Egan

Eileen is our new Associate Director of Development and Senior Program Officer. Eileen, who is a member of the Hopi Tribe, worked for many years in fundraising for the American Indian College Fund and most recently was providing fundraising counsel and organizational development services for nonprofits.

Elton joined us as a Program Officer.  Elton, who is Navajo, previously was a capacity-building assistance specialist at the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center and, before that, was founder and program coordinator for the Red Circle Project, AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Kendall also joined us as a Program Officer. She is an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. She previously worked in the museum field and focused on improving relationships between museums and Native communities.

Tawny is also a new Program Officer. She is Rosebud Sioux. Before joining First Nations, Tawny spent more than a decade in various roles in the finance industry as a licensed mortgage broker, banker and sales manager.

You can learn more about our entire staff at this link:

Recent Grants Give Big Boost to First Nations’ Mission

Over the past couple of months, First Nations has received several grants that will go a long way toward fulfilling our mission of strengthening American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities.

In March, we received a $1.2 million grant for a project that aims to build the sustainability and vibrancy of Native American organizations that are specifically targeting Native artists and Native cultural institutions. Under the project, we expect to award between 18 and 55 grants ranging from $500 to $30,000 each over the next three years.  The grants will help develop the effectiveness and capacity of reservation-based and select non-reservation-based Native museums, cultural centers, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), nonprofit organizations, tribal programs and Native chambers of commerce that have program initiatives in place to support Native art and Native artists. There also will be additional grants, scholarships and travel stipends awarded for professional development opportunities, conferences and related convenings.

The grant was awarded by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

In February, we announced that AARP Foundation granted us $250,000 to expand a project that addresses hunger, nutrition and food security of Native American tribal elders. The new grant expands work that began in 2012 when AARP Foundation provided First Nations with a $187,660 grant to begin the Native American Food Security project.

Under the first grant, First Nations awarded funding to four projects that have been successfully completed and evaluated.  They were to the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, the Pueblo of Nambe and Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico, and Sipaulovi Development Corporation (Hopi) in Arizona. Under the new grant, First Nations will award funding to additional Native American projects.

Earlier in February, we announced that the Comcast Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to supplement a 2013 grant of $1.1 million from The Kresge Foundation. Together, they are being used to enhance the capacity and effectiveness of American Indian nonprofit organizations located in urban settings, as well as providing training and technical assistance services.

This is just the latest from the Comcast Foundation.  Last year the foundation gave First Nations funds to produce television announcements along with more than $1.5 million in donated airtime on the Comcast Xfinity cable TV system.  This allowed First Nations to run its public service advertising spots more than 113,000 times on various channels.  In turn, these announcements helped build awareness of First Nations and the work we do to address pressing issues in Indian Country.

Project Reconnects Hopi Youth, Elders, Language & Traditions

Kaya and Hospomana making piki

In northeastern Arizona, Mesa Media, Inc. works hard to revitalize the Hopi language by distributing Hopi language learning materials – created by Hopi people, for Hopi people, in Hopi communities.

With a $20,000 grant from First Nations Development Institute’s 2012-2013 Native Youth and Culture Fund application cycle, as well as with funds leveraged from other sources, Mesa Media held several youth-based trainings and workshops and worked to create a set of conversational Hopi audio CDs and workbooks based on first-hand agricultural knowledge from Hopi elders.

From July 2012 through March 2013, Mesa Media held three language classes for more than 100 community members (mostly youth) from all 13 Hopi communities and three surrounding towns. During the classes, instructors used hands-on activities to introduce the youth to a variety of subjects, from improving vocabulary to aspects of Hopi foods and agriculture.  In addition, each participant received a complete set of Mesa Media’s Hopi language CDs, DVDs and books to use at home and to share with their families.

Traditional foods workshop

During the course of the grant, Mesa Media also offered a series of five hands-on workshops for Hopi girls to learn about traditional food preparation. The workshops were primarily held in the Hopi language and taught many traditional skills, including how to make piki (a thin bread made of corn). With the aid of instructors, the girls made the piki batter, built the fire and prepared piki using the ancient technology of spreading batter to just the right thickness on hot piki stones.

As a result of the workshops, Mesa Media has recorded a Hopi language CD that teaches about piki making. On the CD, one of the youth participants uses her new Hopi language and food-preparation skills to escort the audience through many of the steps in the process to make piki.

“In order for our youth to establish a sense of place in the world, they must first know who they are and where they come from. They must have a sense of their history and why their ancestors chose to live the way they did. Sometimes these things take a lifetime to explore and the elders are instrumental for passing on this knowledge,” Mesa Media noted in a report to First Nations. “With the introduction of modern schools and wage labor, Hopi youth no longer spend extended periods with their elders. Projects like this one help to re-establish the connection between youth and elders by engaging them in cultural activities and encouraging them to speak their language. From here, Hopi youth will gain the confidence to build their skills, seek an education and share with the world the teachings of their ancestors.”

Caden shows his effort at a workshop

At First Nations Development Institute, we know that our Native youth represent the future success and well-being of our people and our communities. The Native Youth and Culture Fund makes grants annually to support Native youth and culture programs throughout Native American communities in the U.S. The fund is supported by the Kalliopeia Foundation, along with contributions from other foundation, tribal, corporate and individual supporters.

Tribes Partner Long Distance to Share Key Knowledge

The two tribes are situated far from each other – more than 1,600 miles apart – with one in northeastern Wisconsin and the other in northeastern Arizona.  They experience totally different climates and landscapes, and enjoy distinctly different cultural underpinnings and practices.

Nonetheless, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and the Hopi  Education Endowment Fund, a Section 7871 program of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, are partnering in an effort to improve both of their communities, thanks to First Nations Development Institute’s Native Asset-Building Partnership Project.  It’s a long-distance relationship that holds much promise.

Many Native American communities have lost control of many assets over time.  Without control, the benefits of the assets flow away from tribal communities.  First Nations launched the Native Asset-Building Partnership Project between 2008 and 2010 with funding from various organizations.  It was intended to explore the use of tribe-to-tribe peer learning as an effective asset-building strategy and as a vehicle for tribes to share, explore and expand other strategies for sustainable economic development in Native communities.  The project was a success and paved the way for further partnerships.

This year, in 2013, the Hopi Education Endowment Fund and the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin are partnering under the Native Asset-Building Partnership Project to strengthen their ability to implement and sustain asset-building projects.  They also will engage in an evaluation to document the learning process and outcomes in order to create an even better model for future use.

This year’s effort is supported by the Otto Bremer Foundation and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

The Hopi Education Endowment Fund (HEEF) will share its knowledge of philanthropy and IRS Section 7871 organizations with the Oneida Tribe in order to help them establish their own successful Section 7871 organization.   The Oneida Tribe will receive a grant to start its own IRS Section 7871 organization.  HEEF will also receive a grant to cover staff time spent on mentoring the Oneida Tribe.  HEEF will also be able to use the grant to increase its organizational capacity and become a stronger organization.  By doing this, HEEF will continue to have the ability to serve its community.

Just this month (March 2013), both partners finalized a Memorandum of Understanding that lists their individual responsibilities, a timeline, project benchmarks and expected outcomes. A site visit to the Oneida Nation is planned for early April by representatives of HEEF, a consultant and a First Nations staff member.  This site visit will allow for an in-person meeting, relationship building, a tour of Oneida’s community for HEEF representatives, and to get the ball rolling on the project.

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, Program Officer