June 2024 Newsletter

Highlights from First Nations, Gratitude for You

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the June 2024 issue of Indian Giver, First Nations’ quarterly newsletter.

In this summer issue, we highlight our Native Fundraisers Community of Practice (NFCoP), a unique program that has helped many Native partners become more effective fundraisers through strengths-based storytelling. You will also learn how Kawerak, Inc., a valued First Nations partner in the green energy movement, is inspiring Native Alaskan youth to pursue jobs in renewable energy. And we share a great story about Xine:wh-ding, Inc., a Native nonprofit organization on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation that started a language immersion nest for toddlers to pass on the Hupa language and culture to the next generation.

In our Donor Spotlight, we honor Charles Norman Shay, a 100-year-old Penobscot elder who takes a yearly pilgrimage to Omaha Beach in France to commemorate D-Day and honor his fellow soldiers who died there. Also featured is 2023 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow Anna Brown Ehlers, an award-winning Chilkat weaver who is creating the largest Chilkat blanket in history.

Thank you for your continued support of First Nations. We hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable summer!

STRONGER TOGETHER: The Value of Community and Storytelling in Native Fundraising

In 2019, First Nations created the Native Fundraisers Community of Practice (NFCoP), a program that brings together a select group of Native leaders on the frontlines of fundraising. NFCoP participants learn how to tell the unique story of their Native-led organizations and tribes to produce better charitable outcomes. In five years, facilitators have trained close to 90 Native leaders working in Native arts, food sovereignty, Native language preservation and revitalization, resource conservation, education, Indigenous activism, and youth enrichment. Here’s what some participants say about NFCoP: “It gave me confidence in how to tell our story.” “I learned how to approach private foundations.” “Before going, we wrote small grants. We now have multiple grants of a million a year.” Read more.

Giving Staying Power to Solar Power

Kawerak, Inc., in Nome, Alaska ― a valued First Nations partner in the green energy movement ― is working hard to bring renewable energy to the Native Alaskans it represents in the Bering Strait region. Thanks in part to a First Nations grant through the Green Jobs in Indian Country Project, Kawerak hired a sustainability coordinator to work on several renewable energy initiatives. One strategy is to inspire Native Alaskan youth to pursue careers in renewable energy through a series of solar power workshops. The overall goal is to ensure a greener future by educating the environmental gatekeepers of tomorrow. What’s more, Kawerak is also advancing its agricultural operation at Pilgrim Hot Springs to address food insecurity in some remote Alaskan villages. Learn more.

Hupa Immersion Program Strengthens Continuum of Language and Culture

To help pass on the Hupa language and culture to the next generation, five language advocates founded Xine:wh-ding, Inc., a Native nonprofit organization on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. This group of women has launched a Hupa language immersion nest for toddlers, ages 18 months to 35 months, and plans to grow this nest into a full-time Hupa Language Immersion School, following these children up to eighth grade. Sara Merrick, director of research and development and a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow, says, “We want to build out a viable alternative to the school system that’s completely dedicated to Hupa language and lifeways.” Read more.


Meet 2023 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow Anna Brown Ehlers

Anna Brown Ehlers (Chilkat Tlingit) knew exactly what she wanted to spend her life doing when she was only 4 years old and saw her uncle marching in a 4th of July parade wrapped in a Chilkat blanket. Today, the celebrated weaver’s woven treasures are in high demand. Just one Chilkat blanket can take up to a year or more to create, and can fetch an asking price of at least $80,000. Currently, she is wrapped up in creating a masterwork: the largest Chilkat blanket in history. “I have come to a time in my life where it is time to fulfill my dream of creating a monumental showpiece to share with the world,” she says. Read more.


A 100-Year-Old Penobscot Veteran Returns Every Year to Omaha Beach to Commemorate D-Day, Accompanied by Donor Paul Herbert

When Charles Norman Shay (Penobscot) was just 19 years old, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and became a combat medic assigned to the first wave of infantrymen who stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944. After making it to the embankment safely, Shay crawled on his belly back into enemy fire to save many soldiers struggling in the water. “I knew if no one went to help them, they were doomed to die; they would drown,” Shay recalls that historic day 80 years ago. First Nations Development Institute and donor Paul Herbert, Shay’s close friend, pay tribute to the now-100-year-old veteran who once risked it all to save his imperiled comrades-in-arms on D-Day. Read more about the Native war hero.


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

It Always Ends Up Being Like a Family

In a new video, Autumn Romero (Chippewa Cree/Sicangu Lakota), Lead Program Officer at First Nations Development Institute, highlights the impactful gathering of the most recent cohort of the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, earlier this year. Under a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, First Nations' Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship supports outstanding Native Americans from a wide variety of fields who utilize different modes of expression in communicating their knowledge and work. During this cohort's first in-person convening at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, fellows shared their work, crafted vision boards for their fellowship journey, learned about the local community, and forged deep connections. Watch the video.

First Nations’ Staff Convenes In-Person for Collaboration and Vision Setting

With staff in Colorado, New Mexico, California, and remote locations throughout the country, opportunities for First Nations’ staff to meet in-person are imperative to our work. In April, we gathered in Albuquerque to connect, share ideas, and act on synergies to better serve Native communities.

New First Nations Publications Available

This quarter, First Nations added three new publications to our online Knowledge Center: Native Nutrition Policy, Conservation Planning Curriculum for Native American Ranchers; and Conservation Planning Curriculum for Native American Ranchers: Workbook. Access the resources here.

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!