Each year, First Peoples Fund honors and celebrates exceptional American Indian, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian artists who embody the Collective Spirit—that which manifests self-awareness and a sense of responsibility to sustain the cultural fabric of a community. First Peoples Fund chooses its Community Spirit Award honorees for their commitment to sustaining the cultural values of Native people.

Artists are absolutely central to producing the tangible, visible forms of creation that help the people know who they are. They manifest the tools that support the spiritual practices of the people: the beadwork and clothing that prepare the dancers for the dance; the pipes for ceremony; the drums and rattles for the songs and prayers. Visioning is an important part of all Native cultures, and producing art gives presence to the visions of the people.

The same spirit that guides artists’ work also drives artists to do service in their communities. Artists convey the sacred meanings behind the materials they use. Artists honor the eagle and the grass in the crafting of the bows and arrows, the baskets, the dance regalia, the headdresses. When artists show the meaning of the beautiful things they make, it helps heal the Peoples spirits and shows how others can also give back.

The process of bringing spirit back to community is an important responsibility for artists—it is part of a sacred honor system. First Peoples Fund works strengthen that honor system by recognizing these exceptional artists for knowing themselves, honoring others, and sustaining spirit in their own communities.

Previous year Community Spirit Award recipients are eligible to participate in our Cultural Capital Grant Program.

Nominees for the Community Spirit Award must be:

  • Practicing artists of demonstrated maturity in their field.
  • Continually practicing artists for a minimum of 10 years.
  • Documented affiliate of a United States tribe.
  • Note: In addition to Visual Arts, First Peoples recognizes contemporary and traditional forms of Performing Arts and Literary Arts.

Fellowships will be awarded to artists who:

  • Demonstrate an artistic practice that passes on the traditions and the life ways of the people.
  • Show a commitment to building the strength of native communities by sharing their skills and talents with others in their respective communities; and
  • Are deeply rooted and maintain direct ties to their tribal community.

Nomination process

  • Nominate online or send a postcard to include complete names and addresses of both nominee and nominator to PO Box 2977, Rapid City, South Dakota 57709.
  • Nominated candidates must be from an American Indian community.
  • Applications will be mailed out after nomination deadline has passed. (July 1, 2015)
  • Click here to nominate now!

 Selection process and expectations

  • A national selection committee will review nominees and select awardees from those that meet the outlined qualifications.
  • Fellowship recipients will receive $7,500 designed to give them the opportunity to continue to practice their art.

Got questions?
For more information, please contact Miranne Walker at (605) 348-0324 or