Donor Spotlight: Linda Waters

First Nations is grateful to all our donors, especially our monthly supporters who continue to give generously to support many of our programs.

First Nations’ Development Officer Marisa Page

For this Donor Spotlight, First Nations’ Development Officer Marisa Page sat down with longtime monthly supporter and ally Linda Waters to talk about her history of philanthropy. They discussed how she and her husband, Tedd Hansen, who live in the state of Washington, learned about First Nations and made a commitment to contribute regularly to Native causes.

“I get to meet a lot of wonderful people and Linda is certainly one of them. She is very kind and intelligent, and genuinely cares about Native peoples and tribal communities,” says Marisa. “I have gotten to know Linda through many Zoom calls and our shared passion for Indigenous advocacy. Our organization is very lucky to have Linda as an ally and supporter.”

Waters is especially passionate about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Haaland v. Brackeen case. “I was devastated to learn that Native children are still being stolen from their families and communities. Only now it’s by using the child welfare system,” says Waters, who goes into greater detail about her and Hansen’s support of ICWA in this First Nations blog post.

Tell us about yourself — family, occupation, hobbies, interests.

I am a retired mediator and conflict management specialist. I make my home with Tedd Hansen, my husband of more than 30 years, within a community of friends and family near and far. I am a trained ecologist and rose garden enthusiast. I enjoy a range of pursuits, from knitting to weather-spotting.

Philanthropist and monthly donor Linda Waters lives in Washington state with her husband, Tedd Hansen.

How did you get involved with philanthropy?

I guess I’ve always been aware of the need to share with others whatever resources I had. My parents donated money and time to many causes throughout their lives. I mostly donated my time when I was young, and then included donating money and professional services once I had them to give. My mother instilled in me that it’s part of our life’s work to lessen suffering however we can, even if it’s not a remarkable or flashy effort.

Tell us about your interest/background in wanting to support Native communities.

In spite of my outwardly liberal upbringing, I came to realize that I was surrounded primarily by the limited, paternalistic perspective of White culture. As I began to expand what I saw, I became increasingly aware of the enormity of the historical cruelty of colonization toward this land’s first citizens, and the country’s ongoing anti-Native bias. It caught my attention that my love of the natural world and the sense of being part of it rather than above it resonates with the perspective of many Native voices. I have gained unearned benefit from looking like the conquerors. Putting my power, such as it is, toward creating some type of equity, together, just seems like a no-brainer.

How did you learn about First Nations?

I read an article in late 2020 about the disproportionate impact of COVID on BIPOC communities, especially on Native families, with links to organizations providing assistance. The First Nations Development Institute site was straightforward and full of information. Its strong standing in charitable-giving rankings met our baseline for worthwhile organizations. Most impressive to me, though, was the trust-based approach to grants – give money to Native communities and trust them to use the money for whatever they know is most needed for their given situation. Having been the head of a small nonprofit myself in the past, most grantors’ requirements for time- and energy-intensive reports justifying how the money was spent diverted our limited time away from our real work. It made us feel small, as though we were somehow trying to scam the granting organization. What a breath of fresh air to see the lack of such burdens! I wanted to be a part of that.

What other nonprofits or causes do you support?

Locally, we support the food bank, a Latinx immigrant-support organization, the animal shelter, and public radio. I have provided pro-bono conflict management services for local groups. Nationally, we donate to a few political organizations, mainly prior to elections.

We value your insights about ICWA as a guest blogger. It shows that there are additional ways, besides monetarily, for supporters to engage in when it comes to issues they care about. What would you say about that experience?

I was happy with the idea of writing about ICWA and the current challenges it is facing. My husband and I don’t have a lot of extra money, so “donating” my writing seemed a good fit. That said, producing the blog post was a bit more difficult than I expected. It took a surprising amount of time and energy to do the necessary dive into nasty aspects of the reality of historical and current Native experience. What Native tribal communities have had to endure is daunting, heartbreaking, and hard to face. But intentionally allowing empathy is just painful, of course, nowhere close to actually experiencing the harm. The short-term discomfort was worth it, because I now have a deeper sense of why it’s important for me to do what I can to create a more life-affirming future for all of us.

That said, we of course value your contributions as a monthly supporter. What inspired you to start giving to First Nations monthly? What would you say to someone considering joining our monthly giving program?

Being monthly supporters allows us to budget for regular giving and easily makes our contribution a regular priority. Committing to consistent giving monthly also allows FNDI to be able to count on our ongoing support. In my experience, nonprofit income streams are somewhat unpredictable, leading to difficulty creating and maintaining programs. Having donors of even small amounts pledging monthly helps make the most of donations.

 Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share as a friend/ally of First Nations?

Thank you for doing what you do, despite the seemingly unending challenges you face. Your work is incredibly important. I feel honored to ally with you.