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 mission of the California Tribal Fund is to invest in the viability and visibility of California Tribal Nations, communities, and families. We are committed to eternalizing our cultures and traditions while honoring the historical fortitude of our ancestors. Read more about our mission, vision, and Guiding Principles here.

The California Tribal Fund is made possible with funding from The California Endowment, Swift Foundation, Highlands 3:23 Fund, 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 of California tribal leaders and cultural practitioners. This board meets regularly to assess ways to support, serve, and strengthen federally recognized Tribes and non-recognized Tribes in California.

Through the California Tribal Fund, in June 2021, First Nations awarded $550,000 in grants to 30 Native-led California organizations to help them continue vital programs and services that have been compromised due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This round of awards was provided by Together Toward Health, a program of the Public Health Institute, through funding from a group of philanthropic organizations.  Read the press release here.

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

Access to Ancestral Lands Grant Opportunity

California-based tribes: Get funding to strengthen land stewardship and protect ancestral lands.

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