First Nations Receives Grant to Invest in Native Community Programs to Strengthen Well-being of Native Youth

Funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will go to supporting Native Youth education, mental health, and identity strengthening

LONGMONT, Colorado (December 16, 2020) – The board and staff of First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) are honored to announce the receipt of a $1.6 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). The funding will make it possible for First Nations to provide financial support, technical assistance, and training to multiple Native youth-serving organizations for programs and services that strengthen education, mental health, and Native identity through culture, connectedness, and language.

The grant award is part of CZI’s $7 million commitment to help advance racial equity as well as Tribal identity and support student mental wellness in communities most impacted by COVID-19. First Nations is one of five organizations to receive the CZI funding.

“We are proud to support these organizations and their work with local communities to protect youth well-being through programs that advance racial equity and strengthen Tribal identity,” said Sandra Liu Huang, head of education at CZI. “These communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and long-standing inequities. And as they rebuild, it is especially critical that communities continue to prioritize mental wellness for students to ensure they reach their full potential.”

Michael Roberts, President and CEO of First Nations, expressed gratitude for the grant, which he said will directly support efforts to cultivate Native language, strengthen Native cultures and values, bring together Native youth and elders, and increase youth leadership. “All these elements are the heart and soul of Native communities,” he said. “Preservation of these important Indigenous lifeways means that a new generation of Tribal members will build a positive cultural identity, fortifying them with resiliency in the face of life’s struggles.”

With the funding, First Nations will provide general support grants, capacity-building technical assistance, and training to community partners working at the intersection of Native language perpetuation and cultural knowledge development and target programs that are positively developing the identity and esteem of Native youth. The funding will help create opportunities for cultural connectedness to counter isolation and mental health issues, which have become more prevalent in light of COVID-19.

Roberts explained that the CZI grant is further important in light of the significant underinvestment in Native communities by philanthropy, citing that only .04% of total foundation resources is directed to Native communities and causes. “The majority of Native youth programs struggle to access funds and are under the radar of mainstream donors. However, they are the unsung heroes that are doing the critically important work,” said Roberts.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Provide $7 Million in Grants to Local Leaders
First Nations is proud to be among the organizations receiving funding through CZI for their important work. Learn more here about:

  • Forward Promise
  • Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin
  • The Center at Sierra Health Foundation
  • The Skillman Foundation

About First Nations Development Institute
For 40 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit

About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit

Media Contact:
Amy Jakober, Senior Communications Officer or (303) 774-7836