Despite years of consistent growth in philanthropic dollars, the giving trend to Native organizations and causes continues to decline. The WASHMN Philanthropy Task Force is working to change that statistic. First, they have created a learning series to engage participants in conversations about equity in grantmaking, to counter misconceptions and the invisibility of Native peoples. The series, hosted by the Minnesota Council of Foundations, will provide support for Native-led work and organizations across the state.
The first session, Getting Grounded: Reclaiming Native Truth-We Are Still Here MN, aimed to ground foundations on the importance of narrative change. Presenters included Crystal Echo Hawk, founder of IllumiNative and the Reclaiming Native Truth Project (RNT), and Ramona Kitto Stately, Project Director of WASH MN. You can view it here.
Upcoming topics in the series are: During the first session, on March 31, Native Nations and Communities 101, attendees will be introduced to high-level topics specific to Native Nations and peoples, including what it means to be a Native Nation, the importance of treaties, basics of tribal citizenship and enrollment, and information on how to engage more effectively with Native communities. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask questions about the presentation and Native communities in general. The session will be led by Carly Bad Heart Bull and Stephanie Zadora of Native Ways Federation.
The second session takes place on May 3, Native Community Grantmaking: Learning Session. Hear how three foundations are directing grants to individuals, families, and Native-led organizations. Presenters will share details about their community discovery process, how they decided to create their specific grantmaking programs, and how they have nurtured trusting relationships between funders and grantee partners. Stories will be shared by Eileen Briggs, Nation Building Portfolio Director, Bush Foundation; Andreas Hipple, Executive Director, Better Way Foundation; and Erik Torch, Director of Grantmaking, Northland Foundation.
Contemporary Example of Healing and Narrative Change
Recent discoveries of so many children in adjacent cemeteries around residential schools in Canada provide a unique confluence of opportunities for philanthropy to begin to deliver resources to Native led non-profits and tribal nations who will need support to address the issues. The direct correlation between those incidents of atrocity and how it impacts indigenous people today needs to be understood by all. Resources should be coalesced to support indigenous communities and could look like the following:
- Pooled resources available for Native led non-profits and Tribal nations for their community based solutions.
- Funding to commission a study devoted to truthtelling to help begin to connect the dots that lead from the trauma of the boarding school experience as they connect the issues Tribes face today.
- Funding to create opportunities for Native peoples to tell their stories, for healing within the community first, and for outside consumption second, when they are ready.
A great example of current narrative change work in Minnesota today, funded by the McKnight Foundation, is called Sharing Narratives, Building Relationships: The White Earth Mission School Oral History Project. This is a collaboration between the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) of the White Earth Nation (WEN), the College of Saint Benedict (CSB), and the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict (SOSB); together they are working on a project that will include at least thirty oral history interviews documenting the lived experiences of the White Earth Mission School. The project will train a cohort of three young WEN members to conduct and transcribe interviews in their community and two CSB/SJU students to do so with SOSB. With interviewee consent, interviews will be recorded by videographers, transcribed, and made accessible through Mukurtu, a content management system designed for Indigenous communities to share and protect their cultural heritage. The overarching goal is to change narratives about structural inequities impacting Native communities; nurture Indigenous leadership; and strengthen relationships critical to our long- term collaborative goals, which promote Native-led social and environmental justice.