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Empowering Native Youth: A Look Into the 2022 Native Youth Grantmakers Program at Native Americans in Philanthropy

November 14, 2023 | 5 min read

Empowering Native Youth: A Look Into the 2022 Native Youth Grantmakers Program at Native Americans in Philanthropy

At Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), our mission extends beyond simply advocating for increased funding to Native causes and organizations. We are committed to promoting effective and equitable philanthropy in Native communities by cultivating a diverse and robust network of Indigenous leaders. This community of leaders is integral to our work since the most significant barriers Native people face in philanthropy continues to be invisibility and exclusion from decision-making spaces.   Our vision for an equitable and inclusive philanthropic sector would be incomplete without our youth. We strongly believe that Native youth bring a critical perspective to the world of philanthropy and deserve decision-making power when it comes to the issues that impact us all.  The Native Youth Grantmakers (NYG) program was founded to introduce Native youth to the flourishing community of Native-led philanthropy organizations and Indigenous philanthropy professionals, educate them about the sector at large, develop their leadership skills, and actively include them in participatory grantmaking through the Native Voices Rising collaborative.  


Tapping Into Youth Leadership


Our first cohort of Native Youth Grantmakers is comprised of eight highly accomplished Native youth leaders looking to gain a deeper understanding of philanthropy and its potential to drive positive change within their communities. Our participants came from a range of experiences; some were fresh out of high school, others were in the midst of pursuing an undergraduate degree, and others were young professionals beginning their careers with their Tribes or communities.   We were and remain immensely proud to have named these impressive leaders as our 2022 Native Youth Grantmakers: 
  • Alyson Brown (Seneca Nation) 
  • Candice Joe (Navajo Nation) 
  • Sadie Kelley (Oneida, Kiowa, Comanche, Muskogee Creek, Shoshone, and Paiute Nations) 
  • Gianni Lacey-Howard (Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation) 
  • Holly Masten (Yurok Tribe) 
  • Karen McGirt (Muscogee Nation) 
  • Deanna Mousseau (Kul Wicasa Oyate and Oglala Sioux Tribe) 
  • Sophia TurningRobe (Spokane Tribe and Siksika First Nation) 


Community-Centered Approach


An essential aspect of the NYG program was its community-centered approach. Recognizing the diversity of Native communities across what is now known as the United States, the program prioritized a hybrid program of virtual and in-person events.   Participants were encouraged to join program leaders at Native Youth Grantmaker retreats held all over the country including Albuquerque, New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC. These retreats served as an opportunity for team building and leadership development as the participants drew upon their individual cultural heritages and connected philanthropic lessons with the values and traditions of their respective Tribes.   The 2022 Native Youth Grantmakers attended the “Power In Solidarity” gathering, a philanthropy conference co-hosted by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) and Native Americans in Philanthropy. During their Washington, DC visit they were able to meet with representatives from Congress and NAP CEO Erik Stegman. This approach ensured that participants of the NYG program are better able to understand the unique needs and aspirations of Native communities outside of their own. 


Mentorship & Networking


The NYG program provided participants with invaluable mentorship and networking opportunities. The participants are charged to select mentors from their sponsoring organizations to guide them along their program as they begin to better understand how their respective tribes and sponsor organizations fit within the philanthropic landscape. In addition to their own selected mentors, NAP introduced the NYG participants to seasoned professionals in the philanthropic sector and to leaders of several Native-led organizations. The 2022 Native Youth Grantmakers met with several philanthropic and Native-led foundations and organizations such as the New Mexico Museum Foundation, Santa Fe Community Foundation, Center for American Progress, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.   The end of the yearlong program coincided with two of our Native Youth Grantmakers attending Vice President Kamala Harris’ Earth Day event held at her home, the Naval Observatory.   By fostering these relationships, NAP ensured that the impact of the NYG program extends beyond its immediate scope, enabling participants to continue their professional and philanthropic journeys well into the future. 


Amplifying Indigenous Youth Voices Through Native Voices Rising


The Native Youth Grantmakers name is a true and apt description of the program; we provide our participants with hands-on experience in grantmaking through our Native Voices Rising collaborative.  Native Voices Rising is a grantmaking collaborative created and led by Common Counsel Foundation and Native Americans in Philanthropy. Native Voices Rising is designed to support organizing, advocacy, and civic engagement in American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.  Eligible organizations are rooted in a Native community, led by Native people, and hold a vision for change that improves the lives of Native community members. The grant applications are reviewed by a primarily Indigenous group of grant reviewers which allows the collaborative to serve as a working model of support for grassroots groups led by and for Native communities and to amplify Native voices elevating Indigenous solutions to historic harms and society’s most pressing issues.  The Native Youth Grantmakers are empowered to have a genuine and substantive impact by serving as grant reviewers of the Native Voices Rising grant applications. Through the grantmaking process, these young leaders developed a profound understanding of the challenges faced by various Native communities, while simultaneously learning how to effectively allocate resources to make a tangible impact. 


Congratulations to Our First Native Youth Grantmakers


At the heart of the NYG program was the recognition that Native youth possess invaluable insights and perspectives that should be central to decision-making processes. However, we were truly not prepared by how inspired we would be by the poise, dedication, and passion of the 2022 Native Youth Grantmakers.  In addition to their regular academic, professional, and personal obligations, they committed to this program and its rigorous schedule of virtual meetings, in-person retreats, mentor sessions, and grant review discussions with the same unwavering sense of diligence applied to all other areas of their lives.  The 2022 Native Youth Grantmakers are a credit to their Tribes and communities and a testament to their generation’s drive to create positive change for all of Indian Country. 


A Look To The Future

As we celebrate our 2022-Native Youth Grantmakers as they complete their yearlong program and become the foundation of our Native youth network, we prepare to welcome our 2023 Native Youth Grantmakers. We recently closed our application period and ended with over 40 applicants representing 31 states and 36 Tribes. We anticipate announcing the new cohort in June and kicking off a new program year with a retreat in Los Angeles. We are excited to get to know the new cohort of Native Youth Grantmakers as they follow the example of their predecessors and pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for Native communities. For more information, please visit 


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