2017 End of the Year Letter

By Lori Pourier, President of First Peoples Fund

“I thank culture bearers for their leadership and their wisdom. They enrich us all by the knowledge and profound insights they share. They don’t do their work for themselves or their children, or even their grandchildren. They do what they do for their grandchildren’s grandchildren. I think that is a good way.” — Jennifer Easton, 1947 -  2017, Founder of First Peoples Fund

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Dear Friend of First Peoples Fund,

2017 has been a year of reflection for First Peoples Fund. In August, our founder Jennifer Easton passed away, far too early. First Peoples Fund has changed the lives of thousands of Native artists, culture bearers and their families — as they have changed ours — since Jennifer’s founding in 1995. We are proud and deeply grateful to be part of carrying on her vision.  

2017 was also an exciting year of growth at First Peoples Fund. Just a few highlights:

  • The fire and hope in the voices of First Peoples Fund’s youth team of Dances with Words poets at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam in San Francisco: “I see people use my problems for their pleasure… My people’s problems are not a romantic tragedy.” — Ohitika Lock (Standing Rock Sioux). “We are the hope our ancestors dreamed of.” — Marcus Red Shirt (Oglala Lakota).    

  • Our growing staff worked with our national partners to bring the first Intercultural Leadership Institute cohort of 30 artists, culture bearers and community change-makers from across the country to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the He Sapa (Black Hills)  for a week of immersive learning about Lakota history, culture and movements within the Oceti Sakowin.   

  • Nearly 25 years of good work by First Peoples Fund was acknowledged and celebrated on a national platform through my being awarded a Ford Foundation Art of Change fellowship.

  • The National Endowment for the Arts featured us on the cover of their November magazine, and this summer the New York Times included First Peoples Fund and the Rolling Rez Arts bus in a story about support for the arts in rural America. We are grateful for the national recognition of our good work.

Looking ahead to 2018, we can hardly believe that the groundbreaking for Oglala Lakota Artspace on the Pine Ridge Reservation is just six months away. Through a partnership among First Peoples Fund, Artspace Projects and Lakota Funds, this wholly unique 8,500-square-foot artspace will provide a home for Rolling Rez Arts and build on its momentum, expanding opportunities for artist entrepreneurs and culture bearers as well as young and emerging artists on Pine Ridge by offering working studio, production and performance space in addition to business training, retail opportunities and banking services offered by the Lakota Federal Credit Union.  The Oglala Lakota Artspace will be the first of its kind in Indian Country and builds off the collaborative efforts of Lakota Funds and FPF since 1999.

We hope that you are proud to be part of First Peoples Fund’s circle, and that you will continue to stand alongside us. Our work would not be possible without friends like you, and your long-term investment in our mission - to honor and support the Collective Spirit of Native artists and culture bearers.

As we welcome the New Year, we will carry on Jennifer Easton’s original vision, guiding our work by our hearts to create tangible change. We invite you to join us in the impactful work we do alongside artists, culture bearers, Native CDFIs, and other stakeholders to grow the Indigenous Arts Ecology nationwide by partnering with us today. Click here to donate.

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Wolakota (Peace),

Lori Pourier
First Peoples Fund