Stories

Resiliency in Action

Featured photo at top: Kitchen prep at the Lakota Waldorf School. Photo credit Lakota Waldorf Facebook page.

Native Communities Respond to COVID-19

It’s been over a year since COVID-19 began taking lives, threatening communities, and shutting down operations around the world. The global impact has been enormous, and some of the hardest hit areas in America have been in Native communities.

On the day many businesses and organizations began closing doors and shifting to work-from-home scenarios, First Nations knew that the effect on tribal nations would be devastating. Immediately, we concepted and launched the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund We then got on the phone with our funding partners and reached out to our friends and supporters who care as much as we do. Our strategy was clear: Get Native communities the help they need as soon as possible. No cumbersome application processes, no red tape, no extra steps.

Since then, First Nations has been able to give $3,299,000 in 258 grants to Native-led organizations and causes, with more rounds of funding being regularly issued. These grants are made possible thanks to an outpouring of donations from individuals nationwide as well as generous philanthropic funders, including Bank of America and Agua Fund.

We appreciate all those who have donated, shared our message, and helped raise awareness.

To let our friends and supporters know how important your help is, we are happy to share these messages from a handful of grant recipients. Each one is a heartfelt message from folks who have received vital funding and who have been able to keep operations running in times that have been nothing short of devastating. Thank you all, and please enjoy these notes of thanks as we have.


Hopi Education Endowment Fund, Kykotsmovi, Arizona

From: LuAnn Leonard, Executive Director:

“We are honored to accept the award for use in the Hopi Higher Education Emergency Fund. Like a wound when the band-aid is uncovered, the challenges of the digital divide in Indian Country were fully exposed when the pandemic hit in March. We found schools, students and communities struggling to help Native American college students finish their coursework online while facing extraordinary challenges, especially on the reservation. … First Nations’ Emergency Relief Grant is a tremendous help and will enable us to serve more students than anticipated.”

To learn more and donate directly to the Hopi Education Endowment Fund, visit https://www.hopieducationfund.org/


Thunder Valley has been able to continue vital work to support families. Photo credit Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation Facebook page.

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, Porcupine, South Dakota

From Tatewin Means, Executive Director:

“Your generosity promises to act as a vital component in helping Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation continue our mission and help us work to protect and keep our communities safe. We have been honored with your involvement with our efforts to alleviate the challenges our community faces during this challenging and historically familiar time for First Nations people. Your generous gift makes it possible to keep developing and implementing solutions for these challenges. Our supporters like you spark the momentum that propels our response to powerfully take on this pandemic.”

To learn more and donate directly to the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, visit https://thundervalley.org.


One of the many programs of ALU LIKE focuses on Employment and Training, providing year-round services to eligible adults 18 years or older and youth ages 14-24.  Photo credit ALU LIKE Facebook page.

ALU LIKE, Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii

From Mervina K. M. Cash-Kaeo, President and CEO:

“Words cannot adequately express how thankful we are for your assistance in helping us respond to the COVID-19 emergency. ALU LIKE, Inc. did not close our operations and instead used technology and remote access tools to continue to meet the needs of our native Hawaiian participants. The decision to remain open and the cost to supply our staff and participants with personal protection equipment when we could not avoid face to face meetings has adversely affected our operational budget period. We are both humbled and thankful for your thoughtful assistance.”

To learn more and donate directly to ALU LIKE, Inc., visit http://www.alulike.org.


In March 2020, Lakota Waldorf School began sending learning packets to students. Here, teacher Celestine Stadnick leads weekly virtual classes from her living room that she converted into an online classroom. Photo Credit Lakota Waldorf Facebook page.

Lakota Waldorf School, Kyle, South Dakota

From Isabel Stadnick, Administration and Development:

“Your support has provided significant assistance to us, allowing us to access more tools, develop more resources, as well as connect and reach out to our students to ensure their wellbeing and learning experiences are at the highest level during this epidemic … We sincerely appreciate your generosity and support for the Lakota children, the Lakota Waldorf School, and our community.”

To learn more and donate directly to Lakota Waldorf School, visit http://lakotawaldorfschool.org.


First Nations is Here to Help

As the fallout of COVID-19 goes on and Native communities recover and rebuild, First Nations is maintaining and sharing information through a network of Native organizations and funders on support available in Indian Country. Native organizations requiring assistance are welcomed to contact First Nations with specific questions.

Also, through channels like the publication Charting the Path Forward and contributions to podcasts like Native America Calling, First Nations continues to advocate for Native communities through research and knowledge sharing surrounding Native causes and the philanthropic sector.

Donations to First Nations’ COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund are still being accepted. Give securely here.