BERKELEY, Calif. – Dennis J. Bowen Sr., longtime community health advocate and former president of the Seneca Nation, has been elected to serve as chairman of the board directors of the Seva Foundation. Bowen has been a member of the board since 2000.
“Dennis brings a wealth of experience that’s a perfect fit for us,” said Seva Executive Director Tony Kozlowski. “He’s been successful in strategic development and diplomacy on an international scale, yet he also has a career in community-based health and education agencies much like the ones Seva supports.”
As president and CEO of the Seneca Nation in New York from 1994 – ’96, Bowen was responsible for 430 employees and a $112 million budget. During his term, Bowen developed international trade agreements with Egypt, secured legal victories that strengthened the sovereignty of Indian nations in the United States and advanced the interests of indigenous people at the United Nations.
Bowen has a 35-year career in human services, with a focus on youth and family wellness programs. He is currently the prevention program coordinator for the Tuba City Unified School District in Arizona. Additionally, Bowen has served as president of the school district’s board of education and was a member of the Governor’s Drug Policy Committee in Arizona.
“Native Americans and other indigenous people are accustomed to having their voices ignored,” Bowen said. “But Seva is different. We listen to those voices, and then work in partnership with local people to solve problems in the community – always respecting the cultural and spiritual traditions of the people we serve. That’s the key to building sustainable programs, and that’s why we’ve been so successful.”
Relative to their proportion of the United States population, American Indians remain largely unrepresented and underserved within the world of philanthropy, as described in a report titled “Large Foundation’s Grantmaking to Native America,” published in September of 2005 by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. The survey of the 900 largest foundations in the United States found that giving to American Indian causes and concerns over the past 15 years amounted to only 0.3 percent of total grantmaking.
“Seva is committed to bringing Native American leadership into the foundation arena,” noted Bowen. “There are two Native Americans on our board, and our Native American Program Action Group brings together Native leaders from across the U.S. to help direct our work in Indian country.”
Bowen will be focusing on Seva’s plans for expansion. “There’s a growing demand around the world for Seva’s expertise,” he said. “To meet the need, we’ll have to increase our fund-raising capacity. That’s a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve seen the difference Seva makes in people’s lives, and that’s a constant source of inspiration.”
Working in eight countries in addition to the United States, Seva provides financial resources and technical expertise to help communities build sustainable solutions that improve the health and economic security of people in need. Widely known for its sight-restoring eye care programs, Seva also supports a variety of American Indian projects in the areas of health and wellness, community development, environmental protection and cultural preservation.
Seva’s work in Indian country began 1980, when it provided seed money to help launch the Porcupine Clinic, the first Native American owned and operated health clinic in the country. Since then, Seva’s efforts have expanded into two program areas. The “Small Grants Program” funds grass-roots organizations working in the areas of health and wellness, environmental restoration, community economic development, spiritual and cultural renewal, and treaty rights protection. The “Diabetes Wellness Project” addresses one of deadliest epidemics affecting Natives, merging traditional knowledge with medical science to provide effective prevention education and treatment