Native American Grants to Support Access to Health


Community-led process distributes nearly $750,000 across Colorado

(May 23, 2023) – Native Americans statewide will have greater access to services and places that promote health and well-being after nearly $750,000 in funds were recently granted to tribes and community organizations.

The Native American Fund for Health Equity is an unprecedented collaboration in the Mountain West between two foundations and 16 Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribes to bolster the physical, mental, social and cultural health of Native American people statewide. The two-year effort was initiated with a $1.5 million grant from The Colorado Health Foundation to First Nations Development Institute, a Longmont-based foundation that strengthens Native economies to support healthy Native communities nationwide.

First Nations convened an advisory committee of Native community and organizational leaders to determine how the funds should be distributed to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribes across the state. Organizations and tribes were invited to propose investments in the programs, services, infrastructure and capacity needed to advance health equity for Native Americans.

Michael Roberts, president and CEO of First Nations Development Institute, explained that, in Colorado, more is spent on healthcare for prisoners than the federal government spends overall on Native American healthcare through the Indian Health Service.

“The projects funded by these grants address this health inequity, and attest to the innovation, compassion and resilience of Native communities and Native nations,” he said. “Native communities know best how to heal, grow and thrive. We hope grant-makers across Colorado will see the impact of this culturally responsive effort and emulate it in their own portfolios of giving.”

The funded projects ranged across all aspects of health equity, including housing, behavioral and physical healthcare, wellness, youth and elder services, emergency assistance, family support, community organizing, infrastructure, cultural programming, and more. A few highlights:

  • In Ignacio, The Southern Ute Indian Tribe will construct basketball and pickle ball courts to support physical and mental well-being.
  • In Denver, Four Winds American Indian Council will strengthen its holistic and dynamic approach to community organizing and direct aid to create powerful, meaningful change through collective action.
  • In Colorado Springs, the Haseya Advocate Program will bring Indigenous community members together in a healthy way to address intergenerational trauma through facilitated curricula and classes.
  • In Cortez, the Indigenous Wellbriety Program of Southwestern Colorado Area Health Education Center will support Indigenous residents of the Four Corners region with substance abuse recovery.

“Clearing a path to health equity for all Coloradans must include removing the unique barriers to health that Native Americans face daily,” said Sean Dollard, Program Officer at The Colorado Health Foundation. “One of the biggest barriers has been the invisibility of Native-led organizations among philanthropic institutions in Colorado. That has led to chronic underfunding that has deeply limited the capacity of so many incredible programs, services and supports. We are committed to addressing this issue head-on and building up the capacity and resources of our nonprofit and tribal partners.”

This year, Colorado Health Foundation combed through its grantmaking to identify the total amount invested in Native American-controlled organizations. The result was $11 million since 2020, which is 10 times more than the Colorado philanthropic giving from 2016-18 that First Nations found in recent research. Colorado Health Foundation hopes that demonstrating this commitment to transparency and equity will galvanize other grantmakers to deepen investment in Native-led initiatives.

A study commissioned by First Nations shows that Native American community-based organizations in Colorado are underrepresented within the giving portfolios of foundations in the state. Researchers found that only one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of Colorado philanthropy is awarded to Native American community-based organizations and tribes in Colorado. For comparison, just under 2 percent of Coloradans identified as American Indian/Alaska Native alone in the 2020 Census and many thousands more are Indigenous and another race or ethnicity.

Denver Indian Health and Family Services provides primary health care, dental care, behavioral health services and supports overall wellness for Native Americans across Colorado. The grant will support mobile health and outreach activities to bring services to communities and connect more people to care.

One of the most significant things about this grant is its flexibility,” said Adrianne Maddux, Executive Director of Denver Indian Health and Family Services. “Much of our core health services are supported by federal funding through contracts, grants, and reimbursements. Although those dollars support our patients’ cultural and spiritual needs, which we know are central to healing and good health, they come with a level of administrative burden that takes away from work essential in getting our families healthier.”

Colorado Native American-led organizations and programs that were invited to receive grants from the Colorado Native American Health Equity Fund include:

  • American Indian Academy of Denver
  • Four Winds American Indian Council
  • Denver Indian Center
  • Denver Indian Family Resource Center
  • Denver Indian Health and Family Services
  • Denver March Powwow
  • Haseya Advocate Program
  • Herbal Gardens Wellness
  • Native American Housing Circle
  • Northern Colorado Intertribal Powwow Association
  • People of the Sacred Land
  • Southern Ute Indian Tribe
  • Southwestern Colorado Area Health Education Center – Indigenous Wellbriety Program
  • Spirit of the Sun
  • Tall Bull Memorial Council
  • Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

First Nations Development Institute and The Colorado Health Foundation also recognize that community-driven policy advocacy addresses the root causes of health inequities. With the consultation of the advisory group, the foundations have reserved a portion of the $1.5 million for Native American-led efforts to advance policy change at the local and state level. Applications for grants of up to $25,000 are now being accepted by invitation and may be used in 2023 to support Native American well-being and health equity.

More information about First Nations’ work to strengthen tribal and community institutions, including initiatives to advance racial and economic equity, can be found here.


About First Nations Development Institute: 

For 42 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 Colorado Health Foundation:

The Colorado Health Foundation is bringing health in reach for all Coloradans by engaging closely with communities across the state through investing, policy advocacy, learning and capacity building. For more information, please visit


Amy Jakober, Senior Communications Officer
First Nations Development Institute

Jaclyn Lensen, Senior Communications Officer
303-953-3693 or
The Colorado Health Foundation