A Letter from Our CEO

A Letter from Our CEO

Dear Mitakyapi (“Relatives” in the Lakota language and is a traditional greeting),  

Cante Waste ya Nape Ciyu zape ye (“I shake your hand with a good heart”).

What a start to 2019 it’s been!  The first few months of the year have absolutely flown by for our team as we focused on balancing implementation of our core programs with new opportunities to bring attention to the issues that we are all collectively working to address.  

For the past few months, our team has been traversing the country conducting The Blanket Exercise with numerous leaders in philanthropy, faith and nonprofit communities.  It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to share the intimate space created by The Blanket Exercise with so many existing and new allies. One experience that stood out for us was hosting a Truth and Healing Circle and The Blanket Exercise  during the United Nations’ Commission of the Status of Women with our very supportive co-hosts and allies Anne Hathaway, Gina Diez-Barroso, Piper Perabo, Monica Ramirez and Justice for Migrant Women, and We Stand United. When we first launched this initiative, as part of our Truth and Healing Movement, we were amazed to see the overwhelming response by organizations interested in participating.  We are working hard to ensure that we are able to share the exercise with everyone who is interested.  

NAP participated in the Women’s March again this year, joining tens of thousands of people in Washington D.C. and millions across the country in making our voices heard.  We were pleased that the organizers invited Native women to share this valuable platform to make our voices heard as part of this social movement. I served on the planning committee, and NAP staff were featured at the opening of the event. Native people marched at the front of the crowd and multiple Native speakers were featured on stage.

There was news on two for major entertainment projects that NAP was involved with .  First, the animated virtual-reality project “Crow: The Legend”, which was released in 2018 and highlights indigenous worldview using a responsible respectful storytelling approach, Native involvement and a minority-led cast, won two Emmy Awards in February. Second, I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of the highly-anticipated Netflix series “Chambers” starring Sivan Alyra Rose (San Carlos Apache), the first-ever Native person ever to start as the lead of a television series, as well as other Native cast members Marcus Lavoi (White Earth), Sydney Freeland (Navajo), Griffin Powell Arcand (Plains Cree) and Jason Gavin. Walking the red carpet with Sivan and the other non-Native was Stars Uma Thurman and Tony Goldwyn, a welcome affirmation that the work we are all doing to normalize modern Natives throughout pop culture is paying dividends. We believe education of and collaboration with the entertainment industry is a critical vector to shift narratives related to Native Americans. Our strategy focuses on narrative change in support of long term funding and policy objectives.  We hope philanthropy and entertainment will continue this journey with us as we advance and expand our efforts.

Our strategy calls for educating philanthropy and changing narratives to reduce the headwinds facing the Native civil sector, which are troubling. Institutional philanthropy awards roughly $60 billion each year; in 2017 that amount grew to $67 billion (Giving USA, 2018; https://givingusa.org/see-the-numbers-giving-usa-2018-infographic/). Preliminary data by Candid (formerly Foundation Center) reveal that, on average, 0.45% of funding by large U.S. foundations has explicitly been directed to Native American peoples and causes. Over a 15-year period from 2002 to 2016, the share of funding for Native Americans never exceeded 0.75%, even though the 6.8 million Native Americans in the U.S. represent 2% of the total U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018; https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2018/aian.html).

Much of our work involves liaising with and educating philanthropy to reverse this trend, and we are set to release in partnership with Candid, formerly Foundation Center, a web portal that will provide extensive insights into the Native funding landscape across the country.  Stay tuned for more on this exciting new tool for developing funding priorities.

Our team is currently planning for NAP’s 30th Anniversary Summit and Celebration in September.  We hope of course to see many of you there, but in the process, we have been reflecting on the long-term allyship of our members, generosity of our funders, dedication and vision of our Board of Directors  and the support of our other allies – all of whom make it possible for us at NAP to do this work on behalf of Native Peoples. Thank you for everything you do.

We look forward to seeing you Chicago!






Sarah Eagle Heart

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