December 2023 Newsletter

Highlights from First Nations, Gratitude for You

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the December 2023 issue of Indian Giver. We look back on this year with gratitude for all of you and the stories you’ve helped make possible.

In this issue, we’re sharing recaps of our just-completed Climate Change and Environmental Justice project and First Nations’ Conservation Training Sessions. We’re also sharing news from a community partner through our California Tribal Fund, Sherwood Valley Tribal Youth Program, and their first-ever Acorn Conference held last month.

This issue, we also spotlight First Nations’ supporter Andrew Williams, vice president of Soapbox Films, who hosted a “GATHER” film screening and panel discussion this month in California. Also featured is 2023 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow Sara Merrick and her steady commitment to preserving the Hupa language.

Thank you, again, for your interest throughout the year. We’re looking forward to sharing more stories in 2024.

Happy New Year!

A Year of Advancement for Environmental Justice

Climate change impacts for Native communities across the nation are already severe, and preserving lifeways, ceremonial practices, and subsistence will become more challenging with the changing climate. Many tribes have demonstrated diverse strategies for climate adaptation rooted in Native knowledge. To support these strategies and other efforts to address ongoing and anticipated impacts of climate change ― and preserve lands and cultural lifeways ― First Nations worked to share Native adaptation strategies with potential for global application. We also supported culturally relevant, community-led climate programming; brought attention to policy and funding barriers Native communities face; and highlighted successful workforce development in Indian Country. In all, we awarded 56 grants totaling over $3.8 million to community partners. Listen to these firsthand accounts.

Conservation Planning Builds Skills and Opportunities for Native Land Stewardship 

Since 2021 First Nations’ Advancing Agribusiness and Ecological Stewardship in the Southwest project has served over 167 Native American land stewards in the southwest, on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, and in surrounding tribes in New Mexico. In this story, First Nations’ Senior Program Officer Leiloni Begaye (Diné) describes the comprehensive five-day, hands-on sessions held in 2023 to guide land stewards in developing conservation plans and improve participation in USDA programs, as well as how place-based learning is helping land stewards nurture the ecosystems of the Southwest and foster relationships with their sacred homelands. Read the story.

Acorn Conference Sows Seeds of Pride and Love for Traditional Acorn Practices

The tribal youth program director for the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians heard that elders wanted to teach the community traditional practices on how to harvest acorns and prepare them in dishes. And so, the first-ever Acorn Conference was born. According to conference organizers, it was a huge success, with the help of First Nations’ California Tribal Fund. Participants learned all about acorns through demonstrations, educational videos, and presentations by guest speakers. One speaker, Corine Pearce, a 2020 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow, shared her wisdom with other Native peoples: “If you are feeling disconnected, the most important thing that you can do is eat the food from where you’re from.” Read more about the Acorn Conference.



Meet Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow Sara Merrick

This fall, Sara Merrick (Hoopa Valley Tribe), a 2023 First Nations’ Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow, opened the doors to the first cohort of learners in her new language immersion school, or “nest,“ as she calls it. She says that growing a language should start with young learners, and the first six families to participate have young children, ages 18 to 35 months. “We hope to follow this first cohort to 8th grade, and continue to add new cohorts as we go.” According to Merrick, there are fewer than 10 first-language speakers of Hupa left in the tribe, so creating new speakers of the “dormant” language is a priority. Read more about her efforts to preserve the Hupa language.


Pictured from left to right: Cast members Sammy Gensaw, Elsie Dubray, and Clayton Harvey, and Andrew Williams.

Bringing People to GATHER in Support of Native Food Sovereignty

Longtime supporters of First Nations Andrew Williams and his wife, Sarita, were so moved by our award-winning collaborative documentary on food sovereignty, “GATHER,” that they wanted to share it with others. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the couple organized an exclusive screening of the film at the NoHo Theatre 68 Arts Complex in North Hollywood, inviting friends, family, and members of the film community to learn about the amazing work being done around food sovereignty in Native communities. “It was so powerful, we were excited for more people to experience it,” said Andrew, vice president of Originals for Soapbox Films. Learn more.



INDIAN GIVER is published quarterly by First Nations to share the impact of the Native-led projects and initiatives we invest in and to celebrate the strength and future of Native communities. The phrase INDIAN GIVER entered the English language under historical circumstances that distorted its meaning within Native American culture, where it never carried the negative cargo we know it by today. The true meaning signifies a willingness to care, an expectation of sharing; and a cultural commitment to reciprocity that was not to be questioned. Indian giving was and is the future wealth of society.

Latest News

Building a Movement for Native Justice

This fall brought a focus on Native Justice and providing an understanding of how Native perspectives and priorities map to public opinion, policy development, and the infrastructure needed to advance Native demands. Included in the project so far is an essay series, along with a virtual gallery of "Justice Through the Eyes of Native Artists." More components will be released in 2024 as part of on ongoing Building a Movement for Native Justice project. Learn more about the movement.

'Invisible No More' Now Available

This collection of essays highlights the resilience of Native people and their fight to maintain their distinct identities, protect land and the environment, and advance their sovereign rights. Get the book here.

Investing in the Next Generation of Native Food and Ag Leaders

This month, First Nations announced the awarding of 40 Native Agriculture & Food Systems Scholarships. The scholarships, which range from $1,000 to $1,500 each, are designed to encourage more Native American college students to enter agriculture fields. Recipients of the 2023-2024 scholarships were chosen for their commitment to excellence in their academic studies, and represent a bright future for communities working to advance Native food sovereignty. Read more.

Tell Your Friends and Family!

Every week in "This Week at First Nations," we share news about First Nations' programs and outreach, as well as highlights from happenings throughout Indian Country. Invite friends and family to our mailing list, and stay tuned every week for ongoing news and information. Send this link!