COVID-19 Response to Recovery

First Nations Pivots to Support Native Communities

When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020, First Nations dedicated resources to rapid response efforts.

As part of our Emergency Response Fund, First Nations coordinated meat, water, and nonperishable food distributions to multiple tribes in the Southwest, including the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Nation, and Pueblo communities. First Nations also awarded grants to tribes and response teams serving Indigenous people across the United States. Our generous funders enabled us to grant over $1.8 million to date, and 100% of funds raised continue to go to Native communities that have been using these donations to meet the most immediate needs of their people.

But this is just the beginning of First Nations’ efforts.

The pandemic has underscored the health, economic, and infrastructure inequities in Indian Country that have created devastating effects on Native families and entire Native communities. At the same time, First Nations has seen repeatedly the deep capacity of Native people to create innovative support systems for their communities in the face of these deficiencies.

The new documentary GATHER focuses on the growing Native American food sovereignty movement and raises national and international awareness of the need to invest in Native food systems, which is more important now than ever as Native communities recover from the effects of COVID-19.

Now, many of these Native communities have seen an influx in outside resources since the beginning of the pandemic. As they continue to build on their internal systems, ongoing assistance will be needed to address not only the pre-existing inequities throughout Indian Country, but also the resulting impacts of COVID-19 on Native economies, health, health care, education, and more.

Based on this, First Nations is transitioning from direct relief to recovery strategies as the long-term ramifications of the pandemic become clearer.

A focus on recovery

In witnessing the work of rapid response teams on the ground, First Nations has seen clearly the Native ability to organize and act quickly and effectively. Now, First Nations will build on this energy with support for stronger and more consistent infrastructures.

First Nations will:

  • Continue to coordinate the First Nations Emergency Response Fund. This fund is tracking to reach over $4 million, and all donations received will go directly to helping Native people beyond this crisis and into the future.
  • Gain knowledge. The COVID-19 and Native American Nonprofit Sector Survey is active now to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 on the Native nonprofit sector and the areas of support needed to advance Native-led change past the pandemic.
  • Promote Healing Through Harvesting. As Native communities respond to immediate needs related to the pandemic, First Nations’ long-standing commitment to efforts such as strengthening Native food systems and bolstering Native food economies is imperative. To support this work, check the Nourishing Native Foods and Health Fund on the donate page. And to learn more about First Nations’ food sovereignty work and watch the trailer of the upcoming film GATHER, which highlights Native food initiatives, visit

To ensure funding to Indian country does not markedly decrease in an ensuing recession, First Nations’ will also increase advocacy on behalf of Indian-controlled organizations to institutional funders and individual donors to increase their engagement and investment.

Moving forward, First Nations aims to give Native families and tribes hope and confidence that will impact everyday lives.

Check back for ongoing updates and news.