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Grant to MHA Nation Will Bolster Self-Governance, Wealth Management


The Northwest Area Foundation (NAF) recently gave away $2.7 million to 24 organizations and entities with the overarching goal of reducing poverty and building prosperity. The organization—which oversees the eight states of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, including more than 70 sovereign Tribal Nations—is dedicated to helping people build assets and wealth through access to capital, job training and financial education.

One of the largest grants went to the Mandan, Hidatsa and the Arikara (MHA) Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, located in New Town, North Dakota. The NAF, in collaboration with the St. Paul, Minnesota-based Bush Foundation, will donate $222,400 over the course of two years to the tribe to bolster “the Tribe’s self-governance and its ability to manage wealth,” said Kevin Walker, president and CEO of the NAF. “For example, one of the goals is to conduct research that will help the Tribe understand and plan for potential revenue that will come with refinery and oil royalties, as well as from other tribal enterprises.”

The MHA Nation sits on top of the Bakken oil field in North Dakota. Its oil-rich lands are “changing the scope and complexity of MHA tribal governance,” Walker explained. “As MHA Nation assumes greater ownership and control over federal programs and moves toward increased self-reliance, the need for strategic planning, quality data systems and government capacity becomes paramount.

“MHA Nation has identified a need for a coordinated and comprehensive strategic plan to adequately address the growing issues, such as transportation, environment, economic development, water rights, natural resources, crime, taxation and cultural preservation.”

One component of this project involves employing an “appreciative inquiry process” intended to engage tribal members and the general public, eliciting “meaningful participation and buy-in,” Walker said. “The ability to gather, aggregate and communicate both qualitative and quantitative data will be critical to developing a comprehensive MHA Nation strategic plan that will truly guide the Nation into the future.”