First Nations Supports Sequoyah’s Cherokee Entrepreneur Video

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) follows its mission to strengthen American Indian economies in order to support healthy Native communities. First Nations invests in and creates innovative institutions and models that strengthen asset control and support economic development for American Indian people and their communities. First Nations recognizes that within this mission, it is critical to support and encourage up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Last year, First Nations gave a grant to the Sequoyah Fund to support its Cherokee Entrepreneur Video Project. This project linked Cherokee youth with local Cherokee entrepreneurs in order to spark the youth to consider entrepreneurship as a career. The project was also designed to help youth learn from their elders and learn more about historical business leadership in their region. Funded in part by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, this project provided a group of Cherokee high school students an education in historical research and video production. Students learned to search historical records, identify and recruit interview subjects, and conduct interviews. They also learned the basics of video shooting and editing, and the development and implementation of social media strategies to share their video.

A scene from the Cherokee video

The students researched the local history of cultural entrepreneurship and economic development and created a list of Cherokee businesses. They also requested information from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to identify business licenses. This information was used to assess how the economy has grown and changed throughout the years. The process made the students more aware of their local economy. In addition, they saw how difficult leasing land for business use can be on tribal lands and how difficult obtaining information about those leases can be.

The Cherokee youth learned a lot from interviewing tribal elders about their careers in entrepreneurship. This learned about the types of businesses each elder owns, the advantages and disadvantages of entrepreneurship, and advice each tribal elder had for future Cherokee entrepreneurs.

All of their work resulted in a video that can be found here: First Nations is proud to have supported this project that contributes to the development of future Native entrepreneurs.

The video description on Vimeo is as follows:

Entrepreneurship in Cherokee

Cherokee, North Carolina, is also known as the Qualla Boundary, the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. For years it has been a bustling tourist destination offering history and culture along with the natural beauty of the land preserved as the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One hour from the nearest airport, mall and most nationally known businesses, the Cherokee economy has long subsisted on small businesses to provide community services and to offer retail and restaurant offerings to the millions of people who visit annually.

In 1997, the Eastern Band (EBCI) began offering gaming services and the economy of Cherokee shifted. Positive and negative impacts resulted, but the small business community has been resilient.

Students at Cherokee High School filmed and edited this video to showcase how the Cherokee economy once looked, to highlight he pros and cons of owning a business in Cheorkee, and to preserve the stories of some of our oldest entrepreneurs. They interviewed tribal elders, artists and entrepreneurs and discovered a lot about their community, their opportunities, and how to successfully blend culture and business.

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, First Nations Program Officer

First Nations Hosts Training for Maine’s Wabanaki Women’s Coalition

Left to right are Montoya Whiteman, Julia Walton (WWC board member), Susie Fink (WWC board member), Nancy Soctomah (WWC board member), Tonia Dana (WWC board member), Jane Root (WWC executive director), Whitney Kizer (First Nations consultant) and Lisa Yellow Eagle of First Nations

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is a technical assistance provider for tribal domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions nationwide. First Nations provides nonprofit capacity-building support for the tribal coalitions by strengthening the organizational capacity and program-management capabilities of the coalitions. We are proud to have hosted a recent financial management training for the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition at our office in Longmont, Colorado.

The Wabanaki Women’s Coalition, a Maine tribal coalition, became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in October 2013, and they were notified they were a grantee of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) in October 2014. Their mission is to increase the capacity of tribal communities to respond to domestic and sexual violence and influence tribal, national and regional systems to increase awareness, safety, justice and healing for all our relations.

Four board members and the executive director traveled to Colorado for a Financial Management Training to assist them in learning the basics of QuickBooks financial management software. They also received training on the roles of a nonprofit board of directors regarding fiscal operations; budgeting; and they reviewed their draft policies and procedures with First Nations Senior Program Officer Montoya Whiteman and First Nations consultant Whitney Kizer to gain insight and advice on those draft policies.

First Nations enjoyed hosting the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition to illuminate the nonprofit’s current success while looking ahead to their budding future.

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, First Nations Program Officer

First Nations Helps Two Nonprofits Form and Gain Tax-Exempt Status

Utah organizers with First Nations' Montoya Whiteman (far left) and Lisa Yellow Eagle (second from right in back row)

First Nations Development Institute received funding from the Office on Violence Against Women, which is part of the U.S. Justice Department, to help two new tribal coalitions form in states that previously did not have tribal coalitions to build education and awareness about violence against American Indian women.

The project was a big success! First Nations assisted two fledgling nonprofit organizations – Restoring Ancestral Winds (RAW) and the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition (WWC) – with the formation process.  This included assistance with drafting their articles of incorporation, mission and vision statements, and bylaws.  First Nations also helped them establish their boards of directors, and provided training on the roles and responsibilities of nonprofit board members. We also helped them finalize and submit their IRS applications for tax-exempt status.

Each organization has now received its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS!

Restoring Ancestral Winds is located in Utah.  Its mission is to support healing in Indigenous communities as a tribal coalition that will advocate for healthy relationships and educate Utah communities on issues surrounding stalking and domestic, sexual, dating and family violence.  RAW also will provide training to service providers engaged in similar work and collaborate with Great Basin community members and stakeholders on these issues.  RAW will provide a much-needed service for the Indigenous populations in Utah.  If you support RAW’s mission, you can contact or donate to it at this address: Restoring Ancestral Winds, P.O. Box 104, Tremonton, UT, 84337.

Organizers of the new Maine coalition

Wabanaki Women’s Coalition (WWC) is located in Maine.  Its mission is to increase the capacity of tribal communities to respond to domestic and sexual violence and influence tribal, national and regional systems to increase awareness, safety, justice and healing.  WWC has already provided an “advocacy training” for tribal advocates and Indian child welfare staff in Maine’s tribal communities.  WWC has been actively meeting with various state officials and attending meetings to inform them of the new tribal coalition’s presence and to represent the Maine tribal communities.  If you support WWC’s Mission, you can contact or donate to it at this address: Wabanaki Women’s Coalition, P.O. Box 365, Lincolnville, ME 04849-0365.  You can learn more about WWC at

Also, if you want to learn more about incorporating a nonprofit organization, please visit the First Nations Knowledge Center to download a free copy of our new “How-To Guide for Incorporating a Nonprofit Organization” at this link:

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, First Nations Program Officer

Final Meeting Held for 4 Tribes in Asset-Building Project

Representatives from all project partners at the final meeting, plus First Nations President Michael Roberts (far left) and First Nations Program Officer Lisa Yellow Eagle (fourth from right, back row)

On May 2, 2014, First Nations brought representatives from the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, the Hopi Education Endowment Fund (Arizona), the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (Minnesota) and the Spokane Tribe of Indians (Washington) together in Denver, Colorado, for a final meeting of the Native Asset-Building Partnership Project.

The project was meant to strengthen tribal and Native institutions through peer learning and model development that will help improve control and management of assets for the Oneida Tribe and the Mille Lacs Band.  First Nations found tribal mentors to help the Oneida and Mille Lacs design programs that will support, educate and strengthen the capacity of the youth of each tribe.

The Hopi Education Endowment Fund (HEEF) is an Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 7871 program that raises funds for Hopi students’ education.  This means HEEF is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as being a division of a tribal government that can receive tax-deductible donations.  HEEF has mentored the Oneida on designing and implementing an IRC Section 7871 program.  Oneida has chosen to put together a framework for an Oneida Youth Leadership Institute to encourage, empower and provide leadership training to tribal youth.  Oneida has chosen to use the IRC Section 7871 designation rather than the 501(c)(3) designation because it supports tribal sovereignty while still allowing donations to be tax-deductible.

The Spokane Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources has conducted a summer youth and mentorship program for more than a decade.  The department incorporates traditions and culture into its summer programs and learning camps to teach youth how their ancestors used science to fish, hunt, build housing, etc.  The department mentored the Mille Lacs on designing and implementing a summer youth program in Minnesota.  The Mille Lacs designed a curriculum for high school students as extra-curricular science classes that will incorporate traditions and culture.  The Mille Lacs also will implement a summer internship program at its Department of Natural Resources during June 2014.  This will allow a tribal youth to work with the staff and learn about the different programs within the department as well as learning about career opportunities.

At the final meeting, all partners presented on their projects to First Nations and to the other partners involved in the project.  First Nations also helped the two partnerships come up with action plans for the next year (after the grant is complete).  The meeting was a success and the two projects developed more definite plans that will help them implement their projects in the upcoming months.

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, First Nations Program Officer

Supporting Tribe’s Quest for Youth Degrees & Jobs

At the Spokane reservation in November are, L to R, Scott Hansen (Mille Lacs), Katie Eaton (Spokane), Andrew Boyd (Mille Lacs), Brian Crossley (Spokane), Warren Seyler (Spokane) and Brent Nichols (Spokane).

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has given a grant to support the strengthening of tribal and Native institutions through peer learning and model development, which will, in turn, improve control and management of assets for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The Native Asset-Building Partnership Project has paired up the natural resources departments of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The Mille Lacs Band’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been partnered with a mentor, the Spokane Indian Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The Mille Lacs DNR wants to implement a summer internship and mentorship program for tribal youth.  There is a low graduation rate from college and little knowledge of the many tribal departments that offer employment.  The ultimate goal is for tribal youth to gain interest in the environmental, scientific and natural resources fields, to attend college and to study those fields.  The final and ultimate goal is for the tribal youth to return to the Mille Lacs DNR for employment.

The Spokane Tribe’s DNR has a summer youth mentorship and internship program in place.  The program has been in operation for more than a decade.  The Spokane Tribe’s DNR incorporates culture and traditions into their summer internship and summer learning camps in order to teach their youth how their ancestors used science to fish, hunt, build housing and achieve other goals.  They have been developing their program through the years and are very willing to share that knowledge with the Mille Lacs Band.

The first in-person meeting was hosted by the Mille Lacs Band at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia, Minnesota, in August 2013.  The Spokane Tribe presented on their summer internship and mentorship program.  Specifically, they brought a summer intern with them to present.  She described how the summer internship program is run, how many weeks each student dedicates to each program, and the outreach the tribes conducts to recruit interns.  She also presented on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) summer programs for the younger kids, 4th to 6th grade.  This presentation was part of her internship requirement of learning to speak in public.  The Spokane Tribe’s DNR also shared information on the history of the tribe to familiarize the Mille Lacs Band with the culture and tradition of the Spokane Tribe.  The Mille Lacs Band’s DNR staff was able to ask in-depth questions about the internship program as well as learn about their mentor’s cultures, traditions and history.

At the beginning of November 2013, the second in-person meeting was hosted by the Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington.  The Spokane Tribe’s DNR brought in their partner, the University of Idaho, to present on the Summer Learning Camp and the STEM Curriculum Development.  The university has partnered with the tribe to help develop the curriculum. The tribe provides the culture, tradition and historical knowledge that they want incorporated into the curriculum.  Further presentations included staff members from each DNR program discussing the impacts of the internship program and sharing best practices from their unique and individual points of view.   During this meeting, the Mille Lacs Band shared information on their history, culture and traditions.

The face-to-face meetings are a critical way to build trust between the two tribes, to share tribal culture and tradition, and a way to learn the critical knowledge that is needed to help the mentee tribe reach their goal.  Helping tribal youth see the value of college and learn about employment opportunities with their own tribe is a great way to lower the tribal unemployment rate, to build the knowledge base of tribal youth, provide opportunities for the youth, and to build up tribal sovereignty and independence.

The First Nations Native Asset-Building Partnership Project is supported by the Otto Bremer Foundation and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, First Nations Program Officer

Open House Celebrates Permanent Home of First Nations

Some of First Nations' staff members at the Open House. L to R are Montoya Whiteman, Marsha Whiting and Lisa Yellow Eagle

On Sept. 6, nearly 100 people came together to celebrate First Nations Development Institute’s new permanent home and office building in Longmont, Colorado.  The occasion was an open house featuring good food, friends, supporters and, of course, lots of fun.

First Nations actually moved into the existing building in the north part of Longmont back on April 26, but it wasn’t until early September that we were ready and able to pause and celebrate.  We had to get everything situated and make a few updates and repairs (and we’ll continue to make improvements in the future), plus we had to do our regular work in the meantime.

John Emhoolah Jr. (Kiowa and Arapaho) offers his song

Some of the attendees included Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs and other local elected officials, state officials, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, area business people, the professional and business tenants in our building, some of the funders, foundations and individual donors who help sustain us, and numerous representatives from other American Indian organizations in Colorado and New Mexico such as the Native American Rights Fund, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the American Indian College Fund, the Denver Indian Center, and Native American Bank.  We even had a few of our Facebook friends and Twitter followers drop by for the event.

Besides ample and delicious food and the chance to reconnect with many friends and professional Native connections, the highlights of the observance were remarks and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting by First Nations President Michael Roberts (Tlingit), and a Kiowa song and blessing by noted Colorado Indian leader John Emhoolah Jr. (Kiowa and Arapaho).  Then we celebrated with cake!

John EchoHawk, left, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, chats with First Nations President Mike Roberts

We’re planning to call our building the “First Nations Professional Building.” It’s located at 2432 Main Street in Longmont, Colorado.

As the chairman of our board of directors, B. Thomas Vigil (Jicarilla Apache/Jemez Pueblo), noted in our recent annual report, “First Nations purchased its own headquarters building after years of leasing space and dealing with seemingly endless rent increases. It became obvious that First Nations needed to seize control of its own physical space. The building is now a key asset of the organization, providing operational space as well as rental income from other tenants. I believe it’s a sign of the continuing growth and maturity of the organization, and is testament to its growing presence, impact and credibility in Native communities.”

Strengthening Tribal Coalitions That Deal With Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence

At the Strong Hearted Native Womens’ Coalition on the Rincon Reservation are, L to R, Keely Linton, Co-Director; Germaine Omish-Guachena, Executive Director; and Catherine Revelez, Office Manager

Since 2007, First Nations Development Institute has partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice through its Office on Violence Against Women Tribal Affairs Unit to provide critically-needed training and technical assistance to build the capacity of Native American nonprofit tribal domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions in the United States.

In June 2013, First Nations visited the Rincon Reservation in order to provide one-on-one tailored training and technical assistance to a coalition in Southern California.  This training included presentations on best practices for financial management of a nonprofit organization, roles and responsibilities of a nonprofit board, and a refresher on the importance of bylaws and what information should go into a nonprofit’s bylaws.  All of the information provided will help this tribal coalition become a stronger nonprofit organization.  For the First Nations staff members involved, it was a pleasure to work with the coalition staff and board members and learn some history of the tribes in the area.

A second training was provided, also in June 2013, to an emerging tribal coalition in Maine.  First Nations assisted this emerging coalition through the steps to legally incorporating as a nonprofit corporation.  This training was used to draft articles of incorporation and vision and mission statements, identify key components of the organization’s bylaws, and, last but not least, we helped the group through the IRS Form 1023 in order to demystify the incorporation application process.  This training provided a forum to the group to have their questions answered and to further their goal of becoming a nonprofit organization to fight violence against women. The meeting took place in Bar Harbor, Maine, at the Abbe Museum, which contains exhibits focused on the Maine tribes.  It was the perfect location to learn about the history and the contemporary lives of the Wabanaki people, as well as provide direction and distinct purpose to their activities.

The tribal coalitions increase awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault against Native American and Alaska Native women.  First Nations is honored to support the coalitions’ work through training and technical assistance.  It is always an honor to meet these strong women who are dedicated to making a difference in Indian Country.

By Lisa Yellow Eagle, First Nations Program Officer

The Maine group at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor are, L to R, Tiffany Hammer, Consultant; Lisa Yellow Eagle of First Nations; Jane Root; Tonia Dana; and Nancy Soctomah. Not shown is Julia Walton.

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