Current Projects

Tribal Stewardship in the Northern Great Plains

First Nations originally launched the MESO project in early 2015 with the aim of helping tribes achieve a balance between ecological stewardship and economic development. In particular, it aims to help tribes explore and inform ecological stewardship practices in the Great Plains of South Dakota and Montana by facilitating the dialogue around and active implementation of strategies that catalyze tribal-controlled ecological stewardship initiatives that are compatible with community tribal values and contribute to tribal economic and community development opportunities. Funding for this project was provided by the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

New 2021 Grant Opportunity

As part of this project, and with the support of Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and the Chicago Community Foundation, First Nations is awarding 2021 Tribal Stewardship in the Northern Great Plains Grants, averaging $25,000 to $30,000 each, to organizations in Native communities that are growing and/or expanding programs that support sustainable economic opportunities and preserve native grasslands in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.


Scroll down to learn about grantees of the overall Tribal Stewardship in the Northern Great Plains project.

2019-2021 Grantees

Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy, Montana

Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy will use funding for a Geographic Information System (GIS) database to map tribal resources for timber sales, forest development, fuels, and fire management projects. Medicinal plants, riparian areas, waterways, and wildlife areas will also be mapped to protect these sensitive areas and resources.

Fort Belknap Community Economic Development Corporation, Montana

Fort Belknap Community Economic Development Corporation will use funding for the creation of a new tipi and cabin campground on the southern end of the Fort Belknap reservation, which includes a cultural and education village. The campgrounds and cultural village will be used to promote and grow ecotourism on the reservation.

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, South Dakota

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe will use funding to increase the pronghorn population on tribal lands through the sterilization of coyotes, as well as restore black-footed ferrets to the area. Research into the effectiveness of these models will be used to inform future tribal conservation efforts.

The Center Pole, Montana

 The Center Pole will use funds for the creation of an integrated model living landscape that includes grasslands restoration, traditional permaculture, and soil regeneration based on traditional ecological knowledge, in the form of sustainable food sovereignty, education, and ecotourism center on the Crow Indian Reservation.

2015-2018 Grantees

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, South Dakota

To obtain tribal land that will support a self-sustaining population of black-footed ferrets, an endangered species native to North America. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has been an active participant in the national black-footed ferret recovery effort since 2002 by releasing 69 ferrets into several prairie dog colonies. Through this funding, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe will secure legislation for the protection of prairie dogs and ferrets, and release a new colony of black-footed ferrets on tribal-controlled land.

Crow Tribe, Montana

The project’s goals of the Crow Tribe are developing bison monitoring and testing in a cost-effective and ecologically sound manner, retaining the native species in the wildlife area, and increasing the true valuation of the land and vegetative forage for livestock, wildlife, and waterfowl on tribal lands.

Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Chippewa Cree Tribe Carbon Credits Project (CCTCCP), Montana

For the creation of tribal self-sufficiency and economic stability; to open up economic, social and environmental opportunities for community growth and asset development; and to significantly increase forest management and development efficiency. The funding is supporting the development of a Carbon Credit Plan as well as the revision of the current Forest Management and Development Plan and Fire Management Plan for the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Chippewa Cree Tribe.

Fort Belknap Community Economic Development Corporation, Montana

Construction of Hole in the Wall trail on the Fort Belknap Reservation

Fort Belknap Community Economic Development Corporation will use this funding for the creation of the new Aaniiih Nakoda tipi and cabin campground, which also hosts community cultural, educational, health, and wellness activities for visitor and community members, plus the renovation of an RV Park for visitors and recreational trail construction and maintenance.

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, South Dakota

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe will use funding for determining the value of carbon stored by habitat restoration and preservation projects on tribal lands and the feasibility of entering into the carbon market, determining the feasibility of selling harvested eastern red cedar, and conducting surveys to assess black-footed ferret population size and distribution.

Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota

Oglala Sioux Tribe will use funding for riparian area assessment and reforestation/forestry thinning, including an inventory of plants associated with the dominant tree species combined with coring cottonwoods to determine their age and create a baseline of data for future management and other impacts.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe, South Dakota

For the creation of maps documenting the land ownership patterns across the tribal lands with hunting regulations and other critical information about land use and multiple wildlife population surveys, which will ensure the vision for conservation and wildlife protection in alignment with the needs of the people and culture of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.