The Japanese Macaque or "Snow Monkeys" perch in a tree at the Minnesota Zoo. Despite the harsh conditions, these monkeys are right at home, and are natives of the high mountains of Japan.
George HW Bush is flown back to capital to lie in state
Minn. medical marijuana expanding to include Alzheimer\'s
5 charged with providing alcohol to teen in fatal fall from Bemidji State dorm
Charges: Man pointed gun at Somali teens in Eden Prairie McDonald\'s
Schools struggle with widening student and teacher racial gap
Rice Street\'s Mike Hartzell, known as Bones, has died
$5.7M Edina estate set on Mirror Lake includes huge indoor pool
Will Vikings\' DeFilippo be candidate for Packers\' head coaching job?
Prior Lake star scores 63 points to break girls\' basketball scoring record
Women play a deadly game of sexual politics in St. Paul theater revival
\'It\'s the next right step.\' Gophers face Georgia Tech in Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota is among the leaders in giving to American Indian causes
Minnesota is home to six of the 30 foundations most generous to Indian causes, giving $118.5 million between 2006 and 2014.
Share on: Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Share on Pinterest
The family of railroad baron James J. Hill started a charitable foundation in 1934 with the wealth it accrued after the railroad swept westward through American Indian lands.
Today, that Northwest Area Foundation is trying to make amends, giving 40 percent of its $16 million in annual grants to Indian-led organizations. It’s joined by a handful of Minnesota foundations that have prioritized such giving in recent years — bucking a national decline in philanthropy to Indian causes.
Annual charitable giving to Indian causes has dropped by one-third nationally in nearly a decade’s time, according to a recent analysis by the Colorado-based nonprofit First Nations Development Institute.
But Minnesota is a bright spot as home to six of the 30 foundations most generous to Indian causes, giving $118.5 million in that time. Only New York gave more between 2006 and 2014.
“I don’t know what’s in the water up there, but Twin Cities philanthropies are doing great work for Indian Country,” said First Nations President and CEO Michael E. Roberts.
The Northwest Area Foundation, Bush Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, McKnight Foundation, Charles K. Blandin Foundation and Otto Bremer Trust are all making large investments in Indian Country. In addition, Indian communities in Minnesota with financial means, including the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, are also prominent givers.
Jen Ford Reedy, the president of the Bush Foundation.Behind her are portraits of Archibald and Edyth Bassler Bush done by Bush Fellow Frank Gaard
Together, they are pouring millions of dollars and low-interest loans into the arts, education, good-governance programs, business development and antipoverty efforts benefiting tribes across the country.
“A lot of our major funders are based in Minnesota,” said Anna Seaton Huntington, development director at the First Peoples Fund in Rapid City, S.D. “It makes sense Minnesota is going to lead the way for the rest of the country.”
First Peoples, which supports artists and creative businesses, has received millions in grants from Minnesota foundations and private donors. In contrast, only about $10,000 of its $3 million annual budget typically comes from South Dakota foundations and donors.
“We feel so fortunate to be in the funding region of many of those Minnesota-based philanthropies,” Huntington said.
The Northwest Area Foundation decided to allocate 40 percent of its grants to Indian Country about seven years ago. In 2017, that amounted to about $7 million, said its President and CEO Kevin Walker, with much of it focused on economic issues, such as workforce development and small business loans, across eight states and 75 Indian tribes.
“For us, it was about making the commitment, building relationships and sticking with it,” Walker said. “And you have to have a sense of optimism that the needle can be moved.”
They have awarded First Peoples Fund $1 million in recent years, and the organization’s CEO Lori Lea Pourier said that support has helped attract the attention of other national donors.
“They are a good example for other philanthropy because everyone is sitting on Indian people’s land,” she said. “I know many don’t want to hear it, but it’s really fact.”
She said native causes often struggle to get noticed, partly because foundations tend to focus on dense urban populations while many tribes are in rural areas. Plus, Pourier said, tribes often lack relationships with foundation staff, and there’s a perception that issues in Indian Country are too difficult to solve — and sometimes it’s “flat-out racism.”
The St. Paul-based Bush Foundation has given away $30 million to Indian causes since 2013, prioritizing native-led organizations and programs dealing with leadership and governance, as well as arts, education and culture.
Bush Foundation President Jennifer Ford Reedy said effective philanthropy in those communities comes from building “really strong, trusting friendships” and a commitment to supporting community leaders — not dictating solutions from the outside.
“We kept showing up,” Ford Reedy said. “It showed we were serious about these communities.”
The Bush Foundation established the Native Governance Center in St. Paul in 2015, which provides leadership development and tribal governance support. The center has now spun off as its own nonprofit.
Executive Director Wayne Ducheneaux II, a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux, said the center is training tribal leaders and helping them rewrite old, faulty boilerplate constitutions forced on tribes by the federal government decades ago.
“Bush understands it took several hundreds of years for Indian Country to get in this state we are in,” he said. “It will take a long-term investment and partnership in Indian Country to help Indian Country climb back up.”
The First Nations report on the decline in giving to Indian causes doesn’t include giving by tribes. But people working on those issues in Minnesota point to leadership by tribes — and giving by those with means — as a catalyst.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, gave away $18 million last year to Indian causes and other recipient groups.
This fall, Tribal Chairman Charles Vig and others traveled to Washington, D.C., for the groundbreaking of the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The tribe was the first in the nation to commit $1 million to the project — and others have since followed suit.
“Native Americans served at a higher percentage than other ethnic groups,” said Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, the tribe’s secretary and treasurer. “It’s important our vets have a place of honor on the Mall.”
Vig said the tribe wants its philanthropy to model its values: restoring and respecting the land and healing the mind and body.
That has translated into a wide range of projects, including $300,000 for a Wisconsin tribe rebuilding its wastewater treatment facility, $750,000 to help the Red Lake Nation in northern Minnesota build a new community center, and $500,000 for the Blackfeet Nation in Montana to enhance its broadband network.
In Scott County, where the tribe is located, it has given $50,000 for a new bookmobile and recently announced $300,000 in grants for trail improvements.
“We give because we can, and it’s part of our culture,” Vig said.
Shannon Prather has covered philanthropy and nonprofits for the past two years. She has two decades of experience reporting for newspapers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Wisconsin and North Dakota. She has covered a variety of topics including the legal system, law enforcement, education, municipal government and slice-of-life community news.
No profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks.
Comments that violate the above will be removed. Repeat violators may lose their commenting privileges on StarTribune.com.
Comments will be reviewed before being published.
Vikings Familiar shortcomings on display as Vikings fall to New England
Local Schools struggle with widening student and teacher racial gap
East Metro Rice Street\'s Mike Hartzell, known as Bones, has died
Vikings Souhan: Patriots show Vikings what they do to inferior opponents
Home & Garden $5.7M Edina estate set on Mirror Lake includes huge indoor pool
West Metro Charges: Man pointed gun at Somali teens in Eden Prairie McDonald\'s
Familiar shortcomings on display as Vikings fall to New England
Souhan: Patriots show Vikings what they do to inferior opponents
Highlights of what Republican lame-duck bills would do
A sweeping series of proposals offered by Wisconsin Republican state lawmakers for a lame-duck legislative session would weaken the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, move a 2020 presidential primary date and much more.
Wisconsin Republicans forge ahead with power-stripping bills
Wisconsin Republicans were moving quickly Monday with a rare lame-duck session that would move the 2020 presidential primary date and make sweeping changes to the duties of the governor and attorney general\'s offices.
Charges: Man pointed gun at Somali teens in Eden Prairie McDonald's
The man didn\'t have a permit to carry the gun, according to the complaint.
Baseball cap saves man from serious injury in St. Paul shooting
A bullet fired at the man early Sunday was found lodged in the forehead area of the baseball cap he was wearing.
Isaac Jon Morris fell from a seventh floor window of Tamarack Hall on Sept. 30.
Rice Street\'s Mike Hartzell, known as Bones, has died • East Metro
5 charged with providing alcohol to teen in fatal fall from Bemidji State dorm • Local
2 dead in crash at 4th Street ramp off of I-94 in downtown Mpls. • Minneapolis
Two Mpls. police officers on leave over racist Christmas tree decorations • Minneapolis
Minn. medical marijuana expanding to include Alzheimer\'s • Local