Spoiler Alert: Narrative Change Needed to Support Indigenous-led Work

Spoiler Alert: Narrative Change Needed to Support Indigenous-led Work

By Hester Dillon

NPQ, in partnership with the First Nations Development Institute (FNDI), has published a series of Native American leaders who highlight the practices of community building in Indian Country this fall. This essay, also produced in partnership with the First Nations Development Institute, is the first of three articles that we are publishing from the perspective of philanthropy. (Additional related articles can be found at this FNDI webpage.) The second and third articles, which will be published next Monday, December 16, 2019, will conclude the series, but expect more from NPQ and FNDI in 2020.

For philanthropy to support initiatives in Indian Country, it is not necessary to build a comprehensive knowledge of Indigenous cultures. It does require a willingness to unlearn myths, operate from a standpoint of respect and reciprocity, and be willing to support relationships that foster growth, creativity, and the natural progression of learning.

I am the product of my ancestors’ dreams and my relatives who came before me. Without their dreams and love, I would not be writing this today. I am a Cherokee woman who has worked at NoVo Foundation as Program Officer for Indigenous Communities for over four years. I’d like to offer my experience and observations as to why more Indigenous-led work should be supported and how you can be a part of it.

To begin, think about where you’re sitting as you read this and take a moment to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Indigenous peoples whose land you are on. If you don’t know the name of the people(s), it’s okay. Remember, we’re planting seeds. (For the overachievers, you can go to Native Land and search the territory you’re curious about. You may see overlaps; people moved around, some were unwelcome visitors, and boundaries weren’t static. The Indigenous world was complex and cosmopolitan.)