Let’s Talk about Fundraising: A Perspective from Cochiti Pueblo
This article is the fifth in a series that Nonprofit Quarterly, in partnership with the First Nations Development Institute, is publishing this fall. It features Native American nonprofit leaders who highlight the practices of community building in Indian Country and identify ways that philanthropy might more effectively support this work.
Philanthropy often declines to fund indigenous initiatives because of a supposed lack of sustainability. Yet Native Americans have lived on this continent for thousands of years. Is that not sustainability? To change its practices, philanthropy must share power. This includes acknowledging historical truths surrounding the sources of foundation wealth, which often has included acquiring financial assets through the theft of Native land and resources.
In March 2006, I began to create an indigenous language immersion school in the Pueblo of Cochiti, New Mexico. As a necessary first step, we (our board of directors and cofounder) asked for the blessing of the Cochiti Tribal Council to create the Keres Children’s Learning Center (KCLC). With their blessing and partnership, we started to fundraise and worked to become a 501c3.
The mission of KCLC is to reclaim our children’s education and honor our heritage by using a comprehensive cultural and academic curriculum to assist families in nurturing Keres-speaking, holistically healthy, community minded, and academically strong students. Early in our development, we decided we would not accept state or federal dollars because that would tie us to English literacy standards. We did not want the teaching and learning at KCLC to be compromised. Our only other real option was to seek funding from foundations.