That circle-thinking model translated into a foundation for the idea behind Lakota Funds. Visionary leaders in the community realized that in order to break the cycle of poverty on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, they needed to focus on key roadblocks to economic development: access to capital, technical assistance, business networks, and infrastructure. With assistance from Oglala Lakota College and First Nations Development Institute, Lakota Funds was established in 1986 as the first-ever Native American community development financial institution (CDFI) on a reservation. They began work to break through the roadblocks.
First Peoples Fund held our 2017 Fellowship Convening earlier this month in Minneapolis. The convening is an extended professional development opportunity, balanced with time for sharing, reflecting and creating new bonds. "My biggest takeaway from the convening were the connections I made with the staff and fellow artists. I got to know my support network there and met new collaborators,” said 2017 fellow Paul Wennell (Anishinaabe/Oneida), a hip-hop artist based in Minneapolis.
A space that illuminates the human condition, celebrates cultural differences and promotes human rights is leading two groundbreaking projects with funding in part by First Peoples Fund’s Our Nations Spaces (ONS) grant program. Pangea World Theater of Minneapolis has worked with artists from many communities locally, nationally and internationally to create new aesthetic realities for an increasingly diverse audience.
Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota) is a self-taught artist gaining recognition through her digital vector work. Her art has shown at All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis and Red Cloud Heritage Center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, as well as a solo show at the Sioux Indian Museum in Rapid City, South Dakota. She’s currently an artist-in-residence at Nawayee Center School in Minneapolis, working with Native students for the Mde Maka Ska festival. Marlena is a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artists in Business Leadership fellow.
A heartfelt thank you to the New York Times for highlighting the importance of the National Endowment of the Arts funding for Lakota Country. If approved by Congress, the national budget proposal would mean the elimination of NEA grants to Native artists and the organizations and institutions that support them across Indian Country.
Paul Wenell, Jr. is an Anishinaabe and Oneida hip-hop artist who performs and records under the name Tall Paul. The music video for his bilingual track titled “Prayers in a Song” reached over a quarter million views on YouTube, opening several media and performance opportunities. He’s enrolled in the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota, and he’s an artist with Dream Warriors Management and a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artists in Business Leadership fellow.
Through the Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards, we recognize the work of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian culture bearers who uphold the Collective Spirit®. Through their work and their lifeways, these artists embody the traditional values of First Peoples Fund — generosity and wisdom, respect and integrity, strength and humility.
These culture bearers are sustaining the arts of Indigenous people within their communities, growing arts ecologies, and teaching the next generation of artists and culture bearers of their People.
In 2017, we honor four outstanding culture bearers as they join nearly 100 past recipients of this prestigious award.
Through this series, we highlight the extraordinary people who serve as First Peoples Fund’s board of directors. They are the culture bearers and leaders from national nonprofits within and beyond Indian Country who graciously guide First Peoples Fund and strengthen the Collective Spirit®.
Kelley Lindquist has served as president of Artspace Projects since 1987. Under his leadership, Artspace has grown from a staff of one and an annual budget of $60,000 into the nation’s leading nonprofit developer of space for artists with a staff of 70, a budget of $12 million, and stewardship of properties comprising more than two million square feet of residential, studio, office, rehearsal, and performance space. To date, Artspace has completed 35 major projects including more than 1,500 affordable live/work residences for artists and their families.