By Lori Pourier, President of First Peoples Fund
2016 MARKS A NEW CHAPTER FOR FIRST PEOPLES FUND.
We welcomed more artists and culture bearers than ever before into our fellowship programs and partnered with dozens of organizations in their efforts to build local Indigenous Arts Economies across Indian Country.
Close to home, we launched the first of its kind Rolling Rez Arts on Pine Ridge, bringing art and banking services across the reservation through our partnership with Lakota Federal Credit Union and Artspace Projects. Dances with Words™, our youth development program on Pine Ridge, is going stronger than ever. The Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards returned home to Rapid City to the biggest audience yet through tremendous support and generosity from the local community and our family of artists.
With our national partners we prepared for the launch of Intercultural Leadership Institute early next year. ILI is committed to cultural equity and change making within and among diverse community arts leaders. We contributed the Native perspective to the national conversation about arts, economy and community, most recently through a contribution to the National Endowment for the Arts’ 50th anniversary celebration publication, How to do Creative Placemaking.
After nearly 20 years of programming and ten years of rapid growth, First Peoples Fund also made time for a pause. We developed a detailed plan for strengthening our organization in support of Native artists, their families and their tribal communities for years to come.
But so often this year our hearts were with our relatives of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Our thoughts were with the storytellers and the leaders of songs, dance and prayer — the culture bearers and water protectors who wove together a diverse and peaceful community of people connected by a simple truth. Mni wiconi. Water is life.
Through a collaboration with Google American Indian Network and First Peoples Fund’s artist fellow Louie Gong (Nooksack) and Eighth Generation, the first Native-owned company to produce wool blankets, we helped make possible delivery of 55 blankets to the Oceti Sakowin camp just before the season’s first big storm hit earlier this month.
Artists and culture bearers have always been the carriers of truth, activating human integrity, connectedness and generosity. At First Peoples Fund, we know that together we enter a new chapter in which a fundamental commitment to truth and free expression is broadly in question, our work on behalf of Native artists and culture bearers is more important than ever.
Please join us. Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on social media, volunteer, and if you are moved, please make a financial contribution.
In community spirit, lila wopila tanka.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE IMAGES FROM 2016
Cover Image: Rolling Rez Arts by Bird Runningwater