by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
MINNEAPOLIS - On a percentage basis, giving benefiting American Indians has declined during the past ten years, according the “Foundation Funding for Native American Issues and Peoples” report just released by the Native Americans in Philanthropy.
In 2000 the giving to benefit American Indians was 0.5 percent of total grant dollars to organizations and activities. By 2009, foundations cut back in giving due to the global economic crises, the number shrank to 0.3 percent.
“Reading the findings of the Foundation Center’s study, one is tempted to ask whether philanthropy has yet understood that Native Americans are 21st century people,”
commented Ron Rowell (Choctaw/Kaskaskia), president of the board of directors of the Native American in Philanthropy. “It is clear that we need mainstream foundations to bring many more Native Americans onto boards of trustees and staff. I fear that until that happens we will continue to remain distant figments of others’ historical imagination.”
“To reach a level of equity, funding would have to grow to more than five times the 2009 level, the rate of growth recommended in 1990,”
comments Louis Delgado (Oneida), who helped to found Native Americans in Philanthropy in January 1990.
The report by compiled by The Foundation Center in cooperation with Native Americans in Philanthropy monitored the trends in foundation giving benefiting American Indians from 2000 through 2009. The report contains three parts, the first part deals with the trends with trends; the second part is a call to action and the third part is called “Native American and Foundation Priorities: Commonalities and Disconnects.”
The 18-page “Foundation Funding for Native American Issues and Peoples” report provides a glimpse into funding by issue areas; by recipient type and types of support provided.
In terms of percentage, the largest percentage of foundation giving benefiting American Indians went to education with 27 percent; the second highest by issue area went to arts and culture which was at 18 percent.
When analyzed by number of grants funded, there is a notable shift. Human services received 26 percent of the total number of grants, followed by arts and culture at 19 percent.
In order to bring the some equity to giving benefiting American Indians, the second part of the report has “A Call to Action: The Need for More Funding Benefiting Native Americans” that was written by Delgado.
“A concerted effort to meet with Native leadership in the region and identify ways in which the foundation community could be more supportive would definitely be worthwhile,”
Delgado points out in 2009 only 32 percent of organizations funded of the organizations awarded grants to benefit American Indians are Native controlled. He writes “it is imperative that funders who make grants thoroughly investigate the requests to ensure that money and services do actually benefit Native people, and that Native people actively participate in directing services.”
Part three of the report, written by Sarah Hicks, PhD who is Alutiiq and is an enrolled member of the Native Village of Ouzinkie, deals with the disconnect between foundations and American Indians.
“A large proportion of Arts and Culture-related foundation grantmaking to Native American causes is for preservation activities, and such grants are generally made to non-Native controlled organizations,”
writes Dr. Hicks, who takes up where Delgado leaves off in examining grant awards going to non-Native controlled organizations under guise of benefiting American Indians.
Dr. Hicks also argues there is a need in Indian Country to receive more money for operating support versus only committing funds to fund programs. In 2009, 75 percent of the dollars to American Indian causes went to program support.
While the report is overall disappointing to the Native American in Philanthropy, Rowell is hopeful.
“Let’s insure that the next report on giving to Native communities by mainstream philanthropy is something to celebrate,”
To read the full report, go to “Foundation Funding for Native American Issues and Peoples” report
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