Native Americans in Philanthropy was proud to have joined our CHANGE Philanthropy partners in New Orleans September 17-20 for the 2017 UNITY Summit. This year’s summit grew to over 750 attendees from the previous summit held in 2014. The theme “Investing in Movements for Equity” highlighted ways in which philanthropy can align its investments along the core messages of Resistance, Protection, and Empowerment. The summit aimed to shift philanthropy energy and efforts towards a more inclusive and just society and advance change through equity.

Sessions and panels at the summit featured intersectional approaches to each topic, highlighting an array of perspectives and worldviews. As a core partner with CHANGE Philanthropy, the work of Native Americans in Philanthropy and the issues we advocate for were represented in vital, thought-provoking conversations around building a better tomorrow throughout the summit. Indigenous communities have had a longstanding culture of resistance, though we have often been omitted from various movements and advocacy spaces. The UNITY Summit planning committee and Native Americans in Philanthropy team made sure that Indigenous voices were lifted up throughout, encouraging philanthropy to decolonize its approaches to working with our communities.

David Garcia of the Tohono O’odham Nation joined the “Beyond Borders and Bans: Standing in Solidarity with Immigrant Communities” plenary, speaking from an Indigenous perspective on immigration. Our CEO Sarah Eagle Heart presented on the Brilliance in Resilience plenary to discuss how human rights begin at home. The plenary was packed with amazing stories of success and the trials that they endured toward success, including Sarah’s own personal story of resiliency and the challenges Natives and our youth are still facing to this day.

Sarah and Board Chair Edgar Villanueva discussed the challenges, opportunities, and future of the Boys and Men of Color space at the “Keeping our Sons and Brothers” session hosted by ABFE. Shirley Sneve, Board Secretary, also presented at a movement-building strategy lab, “Storytelling for Change”, looking at how media can be used as a powerful social justice tool. Native Americans in Philanthropy consultant Shelley Means represented Native Voices Rising with the “Agents of Change: Using Community-Driven Grantmaking” session. The session explored four models of community-centered giving that helping to redefine philanthropy, democratize capital, redistribute funds, educate donors, and effectively resource grantee groups.

Our 2017 Flying Eagle Woman Award was presented to Julia Kelly at the James A. Joseph Lecture and Awards Dinner alongside ABFE awardees. Julia, a former Command Sergeant Major, was recognized for her philanthropic work within the Native community, the Native veteran's community, and promoting Native values and traditions. The Flying Eagle Woman Award was established in response to the loss of Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa, who was an internationally known humanitarian who worked to further Native peoples' rights, Native women's issues, sovereignty, and human rights throughout the world.

Leaders from all the CHANGE coalition partners helped to close the summit with the “Movement Building Call to Action” panel, giving advice and guidance on how the sector can implement equity within its work. Following the UNITY Summit, Native Americans in Philanthropy invited our members, partners, allies and summit attendees to celebrate the accomplishments of Native movements from the past year at “Exist. Resist. Decolonize”. Native Americans in Philanthropy staff and board were honored to engage in this committed, vibrant community and look forward to seeing and being a part of the amazing partnerships and continued work. The summit provided not only a space for those working to advance resiliency, movement-building, and equity to connect and learn, but we have also walked away feeling rejuvenated in our work and thankful for the efforts of the CHANGE Philanthropy crew and planning team who put on an amazing summit!

About CHANGE Philanthropy
CHANGE Philanthropy is a philanthropic partnership dedicated to educating grantmakers about the value of inclusion in foundations, including increased understanding of the interrelatedness of multiple identities and issues. CHANGE Philanthropy consists of seven core partners with networks dedicated to bringing philanthropic attention and dollars to underserved communities: Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Women’s Funding Network, and Native Americans in Philanthropy. In addition to our seven Core Partners, CHANGE includes three Collaborating Partners including National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), Neighborhood Funders Groups (NFG), and the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE).


October 13, 2017


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