By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015


First Peoples Fund is thrilled to welcome a new cohort of 25 artist fellows who embody the Collective Spirit® and whose lives reflect the traditional values at the heart of our work — generosity, wisdom, respect, integrity, strength, fortitude and humility. Each year, we offer two fellowship grant programs for artists: Artist in Business Leadership and Cultural Capital.

“We have such a range of mediums,” First Peoples Fund Program Manager Mary Bordeaux (Sicangu Lakota) said. “Everything from Indigenous foods to performing artists. We have artists using traditional techniques in modern ways. I’m excited about working with the artists, seeing them grow, and their projects come to fruition.”


Artist in Business Leadership Program


Out of a record 75 applications from Native artists across the country, 15 artists were selected to receive the Artist in Business Leadership (ALB) fellowship to assist them in furthering their art career aspirations. Through projects of their own design as well as assistance and training provided by First Peoples Fund, the artists will develop skills to help them grow a thriving business for themselves and their families.

When an individual artist is uplifted and supported, they impact their families, communities and the benefits can ripple out regionally and nationally. This inspires artists to fully honor their cultural creativity and frees them to embrace their Native identity and voice.

“The Artist in Business Leadership fellows are doing work within to stabilize themselves as artists,” Mary said.

The artists moving through the ABL in 2018 are:

"Duality" - Nanibaa Beck

"Duality" - Nanibaa Beck

"Native Ophelia" - Jaida Grey Eagle

"Native Ophelia" - Jaida Grey Eagle

"Puuk" - Fox Spears

"Puuk" - Fox Spears

Jack Wallace Gladstone

Jack Wallace Gladstone

"A New New Hope" - Rico Worl

"A New New Hope" - Rico Worl

Nanibaa Beck (Dine) 
Metal worker and jeweler. Carrboro, North Carolina

Roxanne L. Best (Confederated Tribe of the Colville Indian Reservation) 
Culinary arts, photography, and writing. Okanogan, Washington

Heidi K. Brandow (Dine / Native Hawaiian) 
Drawing and mixed media artist, painter, and photographer. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Alexandra Buffalohead (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate)
Musician and singer. Eagan, Minnesota

Jaida Grey Eagle (Oglala Lakota)  
Photographer, beadworker, filmmaker. Prior Lake, Minnesota

Pauline Klementson (Stebbins Community Association)
Basketry artist. Nome, Alaska

Traci McClellan-Sorell (Cherokee Nation) 
Writer. Olathe, Kansas

Jeff Peterson (Native Hawaiian) — musician and songwriter. Kailua, Hawai’i

Fox Spears (Karuk) 
Drawing and mixed media artist, painter, and printmaker. Seattle, Washington

Jack Wallace Gladstone (Blackfeet) 
Musician, composer, and storyteller. East Glacier, Montana

Dana Warrington (Menominee / Prairie Band Potawatomi)
Quillwork artist. Cherokee, North Carolina      

Peter Williams (Yup’ik / Sitka)
Interdisciplinary artist. Sitka, Alaska

Rico Worl (Tlingit / Athabascan)
Interdisciplinary artist. Juneau, Alaska

Laura Youngbird (Minnesota Chippewa Grand Portage Band)
Printmaker. Breckenridge, Minnesota           

Raye Zaragoza (Pima / O’odham)  Singer/songwriter. North Hollywood, California



Cultural Capital Fellowship


Cultural Capital (CC) fellows focus their valuable time and resources on projects which benefit their communities by sustaining or revitalizing cultural practices. These artists and culture bearers ensure generations to come have access to traditions that might otherwise be lost.

The CC fellowship reinforces their goals to pass on ancestral knowledge in their community with financial and technical support throughout the year. These artists are generous with their time and abilities, sharing their knowledge with all who desire to learn.

“I’m looking forward to the classes that are planned,” Mary said. “Young people are working with elders to document the work. It’s that transference of ancestral knowledge. There are some young artists conducting classes. While they may not be the experts, they make sure everyone is in the same place, including the experts: culture bearers alongside the young people.”

We are pleased to welcome these Cultural Capital fellows into the program this year:

Bernice Akamine (Native Hawaiian) — weaver, basketry and textile artist. Volcano, Hawai’i                        

Cecelia Fire Thunder (Oglala Lakota) — storyteller and doll maker. Martin, South Dakota

Lisa Iron Cloud (Oglala Lakota) — beadwork, quillwork, and sewing artist. Rapid City, South Dakota

Arlo Iron Cloud Sr. (Oglala Lakota) — filmmaker and storyteller. Rapid City, South Dakota          

Wesley May (Red Lake Band of Chippewa) — painter. Red Lake, Minnesota    

Kandi McGilton (Metlakatla Indian Community) — weaver, basketry and beadwork artist. Metlakatla, Alaska

J. Waylon Miller (Northern Cheyenne) — storyteller and tribal music preservationist. Rapid City, South Dakota

Joseph Brophy Toledo (Jemez Pueblo) — carver, painter, and storyteller. Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico    

Micheal Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota) — filmmaker, mixed media, and music. Rapid City, South Dakota

Matilda Wilson (Atsugewi Band of the Pit River Tribe) — basketry artist. Burney, California

"Pahele I" by Bernice Akamine

"Pahele I" by Bernice Akamine

"Eagle and Rainbow" by Kandi McGilton

"Eagle and Rainbow" by Kandi McGilton

Image of Micheal Two Bulls working

Image of Micheal Two Bulls working


Family Connections


Receiving either the ABL or the CC fellowship goes beyond support for a year or a single project. Artist fellows are brought into the First Peoples Fund family and introduced to a vast network of artists, new market opportunities, and a chance to build relationships while they continue to grow in their confidence and ability as Native artists.

This proved the case for singer / songwriter Cary Morin (Crow/Assiniboine), who received an Artist in Business Leadership grant last year.

The Armory Cary Morin 01 copy.jpg

“Cary’s First Peoples Fund award was critical to his level of success in 2017,” Celeste Di Iorio said of her husband. “Without it, we would not have been able to achieve the publicity and grow his fanbase to the level it is today. Cary is now on the worldwide map in a way that he has never been before. He is teetering on the brink of the next level of success, for which we are very hopeful for in 2018.”

We will continue to follow Cary’s success and others as we bring the 2018 ABL and CC fellows into the family.

Learn more about this year's Fellows in our monthly eSPIRIT newsletter, which highlights two fellows every month. You can subscribe to eSPIRIT by scrolling to the bottom of any page on our website and entering your email address. Don't miss this opportunity to hear more about these exceptional artists and culture bearers, their work and their communities. 

Photo credits:
Header Image, "Hi" by Heidi Brandow, Mixed Medium (wood, plaster, acrylic, graphite, paper, resin)

Image of Cary Morin provided by artist.