California Tribal Fund

California Tribal Fund

The California Tribal Fund was created to support California-based, California-Native-led nonprofits and tribal programs in controlling and protecting their food systems, water, languages, traditional ecological knowledge, and land.  Currently, the fund is operated as a project of First Nations Development Institute.

California’s tribal communities face unique challenges. The history of California colonization is wrought with extractive industry from gold to oil that outpaced any other part of the continental United States. Much of California’s Native history has been kept secret and hidden from national consciousness. This history, along with missions, enslavement, and genocide, resulted in spread of disease and rapid environmental degradation. Further, this trauma imposed on California Native communities has spanned generations and has led to long-term losses in people, health (environmental and human) land, and culture.

Adding to this, research indicates that — in keeping with national data on philanthropic gifts to Native causes — giving in California is disproportionate to Native Peoples’ needs. Only .01% of foundation giving goes to Native communities and causes in California, and yet California represents 12% of the total Native American population in the United States.

And, from 2010 to 2018, grants focused on Native Americans averaged around only $8,000, with 58% of grant dollars and 75% of total number of grants going to non-Native controlled organizations.

As part of First Nations’ overall mission to invest in and create innovative institutions and models that strengthen asset control and support economic development for American Indian people and communities, the California Tribal Fund addresses these two issues – both the unique circumstances of California Native communities and the lack of philanthropic support for California Native causes.

The California Tribal Fund is made possible with funding from The California Endowment, Swift Foundation, Highland Associates, Ceres Trust, and 11th Hour Project. The fund began as a collaboration between First Nations and board members and staff of the California Indian Basketweavers’ Association. The Fund is steered by an Advisory Board, consisting of:

  • Fred Briones (Pomo), Native American Fiber Program
  • EJ Crandell (Pomo), Chairman, Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians
  • Robert Geary, Elem Southeastern Pomo Cultural Leader
  • Quirina Geary (Amuh Mutsun Ohlone)
  • Heidi Lucero (Ajachemen/Mutsun Ohlone), Indigenous Anthropologist and American Indian Studies Professor
  • Connor Magee (Payomkawichum/Cahuilla), Project Lead, Climate Science Alliance – Natural and Working Lands Initiative
  • Deborah Morillo, kʔitʸutʸutitʸutitʸu kʔiistʸonoistʸo ritoksi watsɨtkawayu elewexe, tsɨtwala tsɨtqawɨ yaktitʸutitʸu yaktiłhini
  • Hilary Renick (Pomo), Sherwood Valley of Pomo Indian
  • Bridget Sandate (Chemehuevi), Cultural Director, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe
  • Pamela Villasenor (Fernandeño Tataviam), Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians

This board meets regularly to assess ways to support, serve, and strengthen federally recognized Tribes and non-recognized Tribes in California.

Check back to learn about future grant opportunities.

If you have questions about the California Tribal Fund or would like more information, please contact Rebecca Tortes, Lead Program Officer, at