Hello from First Nations
It has been a challenging time throughout Indian Country and the nation as we continue to respond to and recover from the effects of COVID-19. But through it all we have seen again and again the strength and perseverance of Native Peoples and our fortitude to sustain, survive and thrive through this unprecedented situation.
The pandemic has underscored the importance of not only the work of First Nations, but the work of all our community partners, colleagues, and collaborators, as well as the thousands of people and funders nationwide who support our collective efforts. We’re happy to share highlights of some of our latest projects and news here.
Teens Donate Funds Where They See the Most Need
When coronavirus hit the nation, future high school sophomores Eesha Neunaha and Liya Chen knew they wanted to do something to help. Calling on connections, resources, and innovation, they began collecting masks and funds. But, from there, the question soon became: Where would their donation do the most good? That’s when they learned about First Nations Development Institute and the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and made a generous donation of $4,000 to help Native communities.
The Power to Fundraise:
Investing in Native Communities’ Development Capacity
At the back end of every organization is the development component — the internal system of fundraising, donor engagement, and donor stewardship that is imperative for successful operations and sustainability. But for many Native-led organizations, leaders and staff are in the weeds of programming and are not ideally positioned to carve out time to dedicate to fundraising. This is why First Nations launched the Native Fundraisers Community of Practice.
Native Youth Get Opportunity to See Everything “Out There”
It was the chance for Native teens and young adults to see Native entrepreneurs in action. An opportunity to stand before a crowd and present their own innovative ideas. This was the inaugural Native Youth Business Plan Competition at RES 2020, a partnership by First Nations and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. “For people like me to get off Reservation and see what is out there in the world, it opened up a lot of new opportunities,” said one participant.
Fundraising and Development:
Building Capacity at Dakota Wicohan
When it comes to initiatives to improve life in Native communities, the investments that are direly needed are often not the shiny, exciting ones that make headlines. Instead what’s needed is the back-end structure, the technical, operational aspects that lay the groundwork for greater things to happen. First Nations recognizes this need and provides essential training and technical assistance to tribal organizations throughout Indian Country. As a result, organizations like Dakota Wicohan in Morton, Minnesota, are accomplishing feats that may not be shiny and exciting but are every bit as crucial to their missions.
New Documentary Film Provides Hope After a Glimpse of Life Post-Apocalypse
First Nations is proud to announce the release of GATHER, a full-length documentary film that explores the importance of Native food systems that were once deliberately destroyed and the heroic “post-apocalyptic” efforts underway to rebuild them.
The film is the result of a two-year collaboration between First Nations and Indian-American documentary film director Sanjay Rawal, and in many ways, it reflects the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday, who wrote in House Made of Dawn, “They have assumed the names and gestures of their enemies, but have held on to their own, secret souls; and in this there is a resistance and an overcoming, a long outwaiting.”
Stay tuned to learn about opportunities to see the film and help us raise awareness about Native food sovereignty.
First Nations Turns 40!
The year 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of First Nations Development Institute. We are honored that Minnesota artist Gordon Coons has created an original piece for First Nations commemorating this important date. Thank you, Gordon!
Watch for news, emails, and social media posts throughout the year highlighting our history, as well as more information about Gordon Coons and “Nibwaakaawin/Wisdom” and its connection with the theme of our 40th anniversary, “Honoring Indigenous Knowledge.”
Thank You to All Who Have Supported Native Communities
Thanks to generous donors and funders, First Nations was able to award $1,441,500 in immediate and swift emergency funds to 102 select Native nations and Native-led organizations (including in Alaska and Hawaii) to support human services, response and relief efforts. First Nations has also coordinated the donation of over 21,000 gallons of water and over 14,000 pounds of USDA-certified meat, and we helped coordinate PPE donations directly to Indian communities.