First Peoples Fund to Build Native Artist Ecosystems in SD

The First Peoples Fund received $500,000 from the Northwest Area Foundation to build an arts ecosystem that will support Native artists.

The Northwest Area Foundation has awarded a half-million dollars to a South Dakota group that wants to generate economies for creative people on tribal homelands.

First Peoples Fund, Rapid City, South Dakota will use the funding to support Native artists and build arts ecosystems for them.

Northwest Area Foundation, St. Paul, Minnesota, has committed to using 40 percent of its grants to fund Native groups and projects in its eight-state, 75 Native-nation footprint. The states—Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, were served by the Great Northern Railway and the foundation was started by the son of the railroad’s founder.


The group also made grants to several other Native groups.

The foundation’s portrait of First Peoples noted that it had been given a $1 million grant to provide support through 2016.

It said the group “helps Native communities build financial assets, and also cultural and spiritual assets, which are just as important.”

Its profile of First Peoples president Lori Pourier notes she grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Lakota and is seeking to direct philanthropic attention to rural areas and American Indian tribes.

First Peoples funds a variety of small grant programs, including Artists in Business Leadership grants, the Community Spirit Awards and the Cultural Capital grants.

Artists First Peoples have supporters that include Scotti Clifford and Julianna Brown Eyes of Rocky Ford, South Dakota, who run a rock band and instill traditional Lakota values like independence into their children.

Another is Warren “Guss” Yellow Hair, Northern Cheyenne and Lakota, who travels Pine Ridge to teach children traditional knowledge, language and art.

Pourier told the foundation “As we find ways to help tribal economies through individual artists and entrepreneurs, we are also trying to nurture a generation that is connected to the past and looking toward a future with no barriers.”

Started in 1995, the group describes its values as, “Rooted in our traditional values of generosity, wisdom, respect, integrity, strength, fortitude and humility, First Peoples Fund sustains culture and cultivates entrepreneurial initiatives and community development programs for—and alongside—Native artists so that together we all celebrate a full, self-sustaining, artistic life.”

Several other Indian groups won awards from Northwest Area Foundation for the first quarter of 2017.

The Nez Perce Tribal Housing Authority of Lapwal, Idaho, will receive $100,000 over two years “to enhance individual financial counseling to clients, perform a staff analysis, and improve client financial education services.”

Warm Springs Community Action Team of Warm Springs, Oregon, will receive $232,229 over two years “to support efforts to expand and deepen financial skill-building programs and products.” It describes its mission as to alleviate poverty on the Warm Springs Reservation.

People’s Partners for Community Development of Lame Deer, Montana, will receive $288,000 over two years to combine and add new education/counseling services and lending products tailored to new and existing clients. The group works with the communities of the Northern Cheyenne Nation to help build their economies.