$2 Million in Grants a First Nations Record


2015 was a record year for First Nations Development Institute (First Nations). During those 12 months, First Nations granted its largest annual dollar amount ever to Native American organizations and tribes. It also awarded the largest number of grants ever in a one-year period. The funding went toward projects aimed at grassroots economic development and Native community betterment, and covered areas ranging from agriculture and food systems, to Native arts-related efforts, to urban Indian centers, to Native youth and culture programs.

During 2015, First Nations awarded a record 103 grants totaling $2,174,494. The grants ranged from $90 up to $120,000, and went to Native organizations or tribes in numerous states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Previously, the annual record for First Nations in its 35-year history was 95 grants totaling $1,867,560 in 2012.

The 2015 amount brings the cumulative total of First Nations’ grantmaking over its history to $24,316,573 and over 1,067 individual grants.

Although First Nations has been able to increase capital for Native community-developed and led projects aimed at building strong and healthy Native economies, First Nations is still only able to meet about 17 percent of the grant requests it receives, leaving a significant unmet need.

Mike 300 px

Michael Roberts

“We are very fortunate to be able to support exciting and innovative work taking place in Indian Country aimed at strengthening economies and communities,” said First Nations President & CEO Michael E. Roberts. “But the sheer amount of underinvestment in Indian Country by the philanthropic community continues. We’ll continue to work to increase investment in the dynamic work taking place in Native communities.”

Much of the funding that First Nations receives so it, in turn, can provide grants and other services to Native projects comes from foundations and individual donors. Overall, studies have shown that even though Native Americans make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, only three-tenths of one percent of private foundation funding goes toward Native American causes, even in light of the fact that Native communities generally face significantly higher economic, health and housing disparities than the general population.

By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer

Grants Get Our 35th Year Off to Good Start

During 2015 First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is observing the 35th anniversary of its founding in 1980. Several foundation grants have been received recently that will help us celebrate the year in a good way — by allowing us to continue or expand our work in several areas across Indian Country.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

In the continuing effort to improve the health of Native American children and families and boost the economic health of Native communities, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has awarded First Nations a grant of $2.95 million to extend First Nations’ work in the area of Native agriculture and food systems for three years, 2015 through 2017.

First Nations will use the continuing funding to support additional projects that advance the building and strengthening of local food-system infrastructure in Native American communities. A request-for-proposals process was recently announced for the first year of projects under the new grant. All NAFSI projects aim to enhance Native control of their local food systems – especially in addressing issues such as food insecurity, food deserts, and health and nutrition – while simultaneously bolstering much-needed economic development in those communities.

WKKF has been a significant and longtime supporter of First Nations’ work under its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI), including supporting the creation of NAFSI in 2002 and ever since. In 2012, WKKF provided $2.89 million to First Nations for a two-year period to support NAFSI efforts.

Comcast NBCUniversal

Comcast NBCUniversal has provided airtime valued at $2 million to promote First Nations’ public service announcements on cable channels during March and December 2015.

This is the third year in a row that Comcast NBCUniversal has made a significant contribution of broadcast time for First Nations’ 30-second television spots. During 2014, Comcast NBCUniversal also donated $2 million in airtime, and in 2013 it donated more than $1.5 million in airtime, along with $20,000 in cash for production of the two TV spots. As in 2014, the 2015 spots will run in 30 different Comcast markets nationwide.

The Comcast Foundation also has supported other projects of First Nations, most notably providing $150,000 over three years toward First Nations’ Urban Native Project.

Walmart Foundation

The Walmart Foundation has awarded First Nations a grant of $500,000 to support a project aimed at building the organizational and programmatic capacity of Native American tribes and organizations focused on cattle and/or bison ranching. The one-year project will also focus on improving their management of natural resources, engaging younger community members in ranching businesses, and/or expanding access to new markets.

This is the second time the Walmart Foundation has provided a significant grant for First Nations’ work in the area of Native agriculture and food systems. In 2012 the Walmart Foundation granted $500,000 to First Nations to develop or expand locally controlled and locally based food systems in numerous Native American communities while addressing the critical issues of food security, family economic security, and health and nutrition, along with promoting American Indian business entrepreneurship.

Under the new project, First Nations will work with three selected Native ranching groups or tribal organizations as primary project partners. They will receive financial grants that can be used for infrastructure improvements, equipment, training or consulting services to advance their operations. They will also receive instruction on improving herd health, improving land-management practices, and accessing new markets.

Further, the project partners along with an additional 10 Native ranchers will be sent to the Third Annual Native Food Sovereignty Summit that First Nations and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin are co-hosting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in October 2015. This will generate significant networking and learning opportunities for the individuals as well as strengthen the capacity of the entire rancher group.

Margaret A. Cargill Foundation

First Nations was awarded a significant grant for a project to explore and inform tribal ecological stewardship practices in the Great Plains of South Dakota and Montana.

The grant will allow First Nations to provide a forum to consider the relationship between responsible ecological stewardship practices and economic development strategies for tribally controlled areas of the northern Great Plains region. Longer-term goals include visioning and actively moving toward implementation of economic-ecological models developed for and by the tribes in the region.

Further, First Nations will provide capacity-building and networking activities that will build the tribal capacity and ecological sustainability in the region, as well as addressing dynamic situations and issues for long-term planning and stewardship of tribally controlled natural resources.

This project is supported in part with a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Agua Fund

First Nations was awarded a $50,000 grant from Agua Fund, Inc. of Washington, D.C., for a project under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI).

The grant will allow First Nations to provide financial assistance and capacity-building training to two Native tribes or organization focused on ending hunger and improving nutrition and access to healthy foods in Native communities. Participants will be located in the Sioux communities of North Dakota and/or South Dakota. Priority will be given to projects aimed at increasing the availability of healthy, locally-produced foods in Native American communities; reducing food insecurity; entrepreneurship; and/or programs that create systemic change by increasing community control of local food systems. Priority also will be given to organizations that can assist in the development of emerging and promising practices in strengthening Native food systems.

Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment

The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, based in Oakland, California, has awarded First Nations a grant of $40,000 to fund a project aimed at improving the financial capability of Native American families.

With the grant, First Nations will work in partnership with its subsidiary, First Nations Oweesta Corporation (Oweesta), to update and revise its well-known and widely used “Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families” (BNC) curriculum, including the instructor guide and participant workbook. An advisory group of experts in Native American financial education will guide the process as well as the culturally appropriate content, which was last updated in 2010. The BNC training is easy to use in tribal programs, schools and Native nonprofit organizations. Since its creation, nearly 20,000 people have been reached, and it is used as a curriculum at several tribal colleges.

As First Nations and Oweesta roll out the improved curriculum, it is expected that Native American training participants will improve their financial capability and savings/budgeting habits to better accumulate and manage financial assets. Their circumstances will be improved by learning principles of and ideas for best financial management practices that are relevant to Native Americans’ situations and how these may be introduced or incorporated into budgeting, use of credit, use of financial institutions’ services, long-term asset-building, and increased saving for the future.

Compiled by Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer

Donor Perspective: Thanksgiving Idea Evolves Into a Gift

Jessica's Thanksgiving meal

It’s just one of those strange-but-wonderful things that happen unexpectedly.

Poet and essayist Jessica Greenbaum, who was teaching at the time in the English Department of Barnard College (one of the “Seven Sisters”) in New York City as an adjunct assistant professor, was planning her Thanksgiving 2014 dinner with friends and family for her house in Brooklyn. She had an idea to make the event a bit different: While enjoying a good meal, she would also educate her guests about the American “First Thanksgiving” story.

Jessica Greenbaum - Photo by Leslie Jean-Bart

Being smart, however, Jessica was suspicious of the basic textbook version of that historic event, where the kindly-but-“savage” Indians and peaceful-but-starving colonists gather for a big feast and become best friends forever.

So by way of emails and phone calls, she asked Mike Roberts, president of First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), about the Native American perspective on that First Thanksgiving. Needless to say, the story her guests ended up hearing was considerably different from the myths espoused by old textbooks, which are the ones many Americans take as truth because they learned it that way in elementary school.

Jessica learned from Mike that the colonist view as presented in the textbooks is quite unlike that of the original Indian inhabitants, and that what followed historically for Native nations was nothing for them to be thankful about. (Mike is like that. As a member of the Tlingit tribe and well-connected across Indian Country, he sees lots of “teachable moments” about American Indians and Alaska Natives, even if that teaching is directed at a respected professor and award-winning author like Jessica, who has just been granted a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship to finish her third book.)

Through this process of discovery, Jessica became a first-time donor to First Nations, making a very generous online gift to the organization. For that, First Nations is very thankful. She also encouraged her Thanksgiving guests to support First Nations and other Native American charitable causes.

“I wanted to have an authentic response to the Thanksgiving holiday – I guess that comes from what I know through Judaism and our own traditions – so that’s why I contacted First Nations after finding you on Charity Navigator,” Jessica noted in a December phone interview. “I wanted something that felt like a true connection to the characters of the Thanksgiving story, and which would also benefit Native Americans.”

Jessica’s parents are first generation Americans, born to turn-of-the-century East European Jewish immigrants. They grew up very poor in New York City during the Depression, and met while going to a free city college. Both eventually would get graduate degrees and become professionals. Jessica grew up on Long Island, taking buses to Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War and, later, in the second wave of feminism, for equal rights. She earned her B.A. in English at Barnard, collected an M.A. in English at the University of Houston, and recently added an L.M.S.W. in Social Work from New York University. She is married to attorney Jed Marcus, and they have two girls, ages 21 and 17.

“Until talking with Mike, I had a fairly low-level consciousness about Native culture in the U.S., and some of it may have been stereotypical in that I strongly or exclusively connected the idea of nature, land and natural co-existence to Native cultures, which I think many people do, without going much deeper than that,” Jessica said. “But I had a yearning to not be as distant from that culture as I had been, and that’s what drove me during this time. I’m delighted it led me to make a connection with First Nations.”

Jessica noted that she recognizes the chronic poverty and health issues that many Native communities face, and it’s another reason she chose to explore the American Indian perspective. “I felt there has been co-opting of the holiday – the ‘bounty’ and everything – and there was something about it that just wasn’t working for me, hasn’t ever really worked for me. Yet I’m surrounded by people for whom, because it’s not religious and because it’s a holiday of basic goodwill, it’s really their favorite of the year.

“When I found First Nations on Charity Navigator, I saw that it was highly respected and a top, four-star-rated charity,” she added. “After reading your website, I knew this was work I wanted to support and spread the word about.”

Jessica's second book, "The Two Yvonnes"

Jessica has been a writer since her childhood, concentrating on her poetry but also authoring essays and criticism. (Her third book is underway, and her previous two books are of poems, with the most recent published by the Princeton University Press). In an attempt to make a contribution beyond her art, she began raising money for women and girls in the developing world by selling homemade muffins outside her house to pedestrians headed to and from an upscale flea market nearby. She especially works toward ending female genital mutilation, forced marriage and human trafficking. On her radar currently is facilitating the pilot program for a poetry reading and writing group with participants in the Center for Disease Control’s health program for 9/11 first responders.

“My hope for this story is that Indian communities will know that many non-Indian Americans DO have a sense of the bones and the ghosts and the injustices that have led us to the present day,” Jessica concluded. “By me learning more, spreading the word, sending a contribution and urging others to do likewise, we can help develop the community of people working toward First Nations’ goals.”

First Nations’ supporters come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, and all corners of the U.S. and beyond. We warmly welcome Jessica to our family and into our Native circle.

(As a further note to the story, Jessica has contributed her considerable writing expertise to helping First Nations craft a story that will likely be used later this year in First Nations’ Thanksgiving-related mailings and communications.)

By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer, with Jessica Greenbaum

Blackboard in Jessica's class at Barnard, where on the last day students wrote what they most wanted to remember

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

“Cheese Grater Championship” Highlights Food Issues


The winning team shows off its creation. Janie Simms Hipp is second from left, and Kathleen Fluegel is near center in red-rimmed glasses.

It was an event like no other – the first-ever “Cheese Grater Championship” – intended to illustrate the challenges that many low-income Native American families face when preparing healthy meals using “commodity food” packages.

“The event was eye-opening for some, sobering for all,” according to Virginia Clarke, executive director of the sponsoring organization, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF).

Event judges show off the "Cheese Grater Championship" aprons

SAFSF held its annual forum in Denver in June 2014. The group is an international network of grantmakers (foundations and others) who are active in supporting economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible systems of food production, processing, distribution and consumption.  SAFSF hosts its forum in a different state each year and is well-known for site visits that are designed to make tangible, visible and real some of the most critical issues affecting agricultural and food systems.

SAFSF's Virginia Clarke with First Nations President Michael Roberts

As part of the forum, the planning committee wanted to highlight Native American food projects and issues. As an SAFSF member, First Nations Development Institute President Michael Roberts suggested and coordinated the Cheese Grater Championship, a Food Network Chopped-style cookoff like no other, where teams of forum attendees were given a selection of foods found in food-assistance commodity packages that are distributed on Indian reservations (under the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations). The teams then had to prepare a meal that not only would be judged for the contest, but which was lunch for the day.

Livia Marqués of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation dishes it up

The event took place at the Denver Indian Center, where the SAFSF group also heard about the center’s many programs, including its Indigenous permaculture garden project, the work of the Denver Indian Family Resource Center, an update from regional USDA officials, and insights from Janie Simms Hipp, J.D., LL.M., founding director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville and who previously was senior advisor for tribal relations to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

One team closely studies ingredients and preparation instructions

The cookoff took place in the center’s gymnasium – competing with summer youth campers for space. Teams assessed the basic food staples they were given – blocks of “government cheese,” vegetable oil, canned beef (“with juices”), instant potato flakes, powdered eggs, dry nonfat milk – debated possible recipes, assigned responsibilities and got to work!  Teams were also able to select additional items from a general “pantry” that included canned vegetables, beans or fruit, canned sauces or soups, Hamburger Helper, enriched flour, noodles or rice, peanut butter, mac and cheese mix and a few other choices. Basic cooking stations were equipped with limited kitchen utensils, pots and pans, a cheese grater (of course!), a hotplate and microwave oven.

Ever heard the expression “too many cooks in the kitchen”?  This event was that – and much more. But every team did its best to work together to create a meal worth judging – and eating – under the 30-minute time limit and limited circumstances.

The completed meals were, well, edible even if not so tasty, nutritious or well-balanced.  No people were harmed in the making of these commodity meals, but who would have thought that a package of taco seasoning could be so valuable?

While designed to be fun and engaging, the not-so-hidden intention of the event was to bring awareness to what having limited or no access to fresh, healthy food means – literally – on one’s plate.  USDA food packages have improved over the years, but still have a ways to go.  Issues like obesity, diabetes  and heart disease – all of which are evident in too-high numbers in many Native communities – and all of which are greatly affected by nutrition and diet, were forefront in participants’ minds as they cooked, chopped, stirred and ate their meals.

“Diabetes and obesity in Indian Country will be eradicated only with more attention paid to accessing healthy foods and to the more complex need to use our lands and resources to produce those healthy, culturally appropriate foods,” Janie Simms Hipp noted.  “Until then, we‘ll work with USDA and others to make sure the food-assistance programs are continually improved and culturally relevant, especially since many of our poorest and most remote citizens absolutely rely on them.”

A team works diligently on its meal

One of the funders at the event, Kathleen Fluegel, executive director of the HRK Foundation in St. Paul, Minn., had this to say in an email to Michael Roberts a few days after the cook-off: “I want to thank you for having the vision to do the exercise we did … and participate and learn for ourselves what it means to cook with limited and inadequate ingredients and, beyond that, to eat that meal and understand in a visceral and very different way what that feels like. I feel as though the layers of that experience are still revealing themselves, and I have had a hard time not sharing the experience with everyone I know… Can’t thank you enough for making the first annual cheese grater cooking competition a reality.”

First Nations’ Roberts summarized his thoughts on the event: “There is an obesity and diabetes epidemic going on in Indian Country, and our intent by putting on this event was to show that this is happening because of the situation Indian folks have been placed in for the past couple of hundred years – isolated in poverty and being fed poor-quality food by a government that would just as soon see them go away. And through the commodity food-distribution program, they just might be effecting that very outcome.”

Participants sample the completed meals

First Nations Again Awarded Top 4-Star Rating

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has been awarded Charity Navigator’s coveted four-star rating for a third year in a row, in recognition of First Nations’ sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.

In a July 1, 2014, letter to First Nations, Charity Navigator President & CEO Ken Berger noted: “Only 12% of the charities we rate have received at least three consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that First Nations Development Institute outperforms most other charities in America. This ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator differentiates First Nations Development Institute from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”

“Receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that your organization adheres to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way,” Berger further indicated.

“We are honored to receive this top rating again this year, especially since so few nonprofit organizations achieve it over three consecutive years,” said Michael E. Roberts, First Nations president. “We believe it reflects our dedicated accountability to all of our constituencies – our generous donors and the Native American communities that we serve – and it demonstrates our commitment to pursuing our important work in a clear, honest and fiscally responsible manner, using good stewardship of charitable contributions while maintaining the public trust.”

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: http://firstnations.org/about/staff

Denver-Area Indian Groups Learn to “Adapt”

A group shot of the seminar participants

In its mission to strengthen Native American nonprofit organizations, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) hosted a two-day Adaptive Leadership seminar in the Denver area in late June 2014.  About 25 participants from nearby American Indian organizations were invited to attend for free.

Adaptive Leadership is a practical leadership framework that helps individuals and organizations adapt and thrive in challenging environments. It is being able, both individually and collectively, to take on the gradual but meaningful process of adaptation. It is about diagnosing the essential from the expendable and bringing about a real challenge to the status quo. (Definition from Cambridge Leadership Associates.)

Dr. Begaye asks "What's the problem?"

Attendees included staff members of First Nations, the American Indian College Fund, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Notah Begay III Foundation, Spirit of the Sun, the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce, and First Nations Oweesta Corporation.

Dr. Timothy Begaye led the seminar.  He is a technical advisor to First Nations and serves as the director of education programs and special assistant to the provost at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico. Prior to his work at Navajo Technical University, Tim was faculty chair at the Center for Diné Teacher Education and an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Arizona State University. He also served as a teaching fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he taught courses on adaptive leadership and Native Nation Building. He holds a doctorate in education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and assists colleges and universities in integrating Indigenous pedagogy both in the U.S. and abroad. His current research focuses on contemporary cultural challenges in Indigenous communities, social and cultural adaptation, and adaptive leadership.

The seminar was informative and thought-provoking. Participants found the training applicable to their own work and relevant to the constituents they serve. Over the course of two days, attendees learned how to use adaptive leadership strategies to diagnose and address problems or issues in their organizations, programs or communities.


Comcast Foundation Donates $2 Million in Airtime


A scene from one of the First Nations PSAs, shot at Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico

The Comcast Foundation has donated $2 million in airtime on Comcast’s Xfinity cable TV system to run First Nations’ public service announcements (PSAs) during June and July 2014.

This is the second year that the Comcast Foundation has made a significant contribution of broadcast time for First Nations’ 30-second television spots. During 2013, the foundation and Comcast Corporation donated more than $1.5 million in airtime, which resulted in the airing of First Nations’ announcements more than 113,000 times in 13 market areas around the United States. The Comcast Foundation also donated $20,000 in cash for production of the two TV spots.  For 2014, the First Nations spots will run in 30 market areas from coast to coast. The spots can be seen online here: http://www.firstnations.org/psa/psa.html.

“This generous gift of airtime will go a very long way toward building awareness of the critical economic development and asset-building needs of struggling Native American communities, and how First Nations plays a key behind-the-scenes role in that,” said First Nations President Michael E. Roberts. “We are deeply grateful to Comcast for continuing its significant support of our efforts.”

Bill Black, vice president and executive director of the Comcast Foundation, said, “We are excited to partner with First Nations on this important initiative for a second year. At Comcast, we are committed to leveling the playing field so that everyone, regardless of income, has an opportunity to improve their life.”

Tribal College Students Get Into Food Sovereignty

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) serves as the core network and national voice of the nation’s 37 tribal colleges and universities. It provides those tribally- and federally-chartered institutions with services in the areas of advocacy, public policy, research and program initiatives.

Now it’s helping First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) spread the word about Native food sovereignty to students and others at those tribal campuses and in the college communities.

At the AIHEC Annual Student Congress in March 2014 in Billings, Montana, the students will hold a food-assessment competition.  Formally assessing a community’s food assets, systems and processes is a key first step in developing a strong food sovereignty outcome in that community.

The building block of the student food-assessment competition is First Nations’ own Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool, or FSAT, which First Nations developed in 2004. The student congress representatives took First Nation’s assessment tool and made some modifications to fit their needs for the competition. The congress is now distributing the document to each tribal college or university so they, in turn, can interest their students in competing in the event.

Students must turn in their completed assessment by February 1. As many as two students can collaborate on each entry. The most thoroughly completed assessment – with the best attempt to inform and make the most difference in their community in regards to food sovereignty – wins the competition. The winner or winners, who will be decided ahead of the conference, will receive a stipend to attend the conference, where they will present the findings of their assessment.

According to AIHEC, the competition is intended to promote food sovereignty awareness and encourage tribal college and university students to begin conversations with their fellow peers and the college administration to become more food sovereign as a tribal college campus, a tribal community, and a tribal nation. Further, the Annual Student Conference says it “hopes to stimulate sustained involvement in sustainability and health and well-being through food sovereignty across Indian Country.”

You can find First Nations’ Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool at this link – http://www.firstnations.org/KnowledgeCenter/NativeAmericanFoodsAndHealth/Resources — along with many other resources dealing with Native food and agriculture.

By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer