Community Spirit Awards

Sewing Traditional Regalia with a Contemporary Flare

Sewing Traditional Regalia with a Contemporary Flare

Taught by her grandmother, Melissa Widner (White Earth) has been sewing and beading for 30 years. While Melissa spent time observing the perfect stitches and traditional patterns created by her grandmother, she is also drawn to flashy material with a contemporary flair. She was nominated and selected as 2019 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award Honoree. The Community Spirit Awards recognize exceptional Native artists who have shown a lifetime commitment to perpetuating their art and sharing it within their communities. These practicing artists embody First Peoples Fund’s core principles: knowing our history and ourselves; honoring our ancestors and relations; sharing our stories and knowledge.

Wisconsin and Alaska Elders Recognized During Community Spirit Award Honorings

Wisconsin and Alaska Elders Recognized During Community Spirit Award Honorings

At the core of our work are culture bearers who continually guide us. The Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards were created to recognize these individuals by honoring them nationally. This spring, FPF honored two Community Spirit Award Nominees, Miscobinaysii (St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin) and Margaret Nakak (Yup’ik/Inupiaq).

Honoring Our Culture Bearers: The 2019 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards Recipients

Honoring Our Culture Bearers: The 2019 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards Recipients

The Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards recognizes exceptional Native artists who have shown a lifetime commitment to perpetuating their art and sharing it within their communities. These practicing artists embody First Peoples Fund’s core principles: knowing our history and ourselves; honoring our ancestors and relations; sharing our stories and knowledge.

We are honored to announce the four recipients of the 2019 Community Spirit Awards.

THE INSPIRING RECIPIENTS OF THE 2018 COMMUNITY SPIRIT AWARDS

THE INSPIRING RECIPIENTS OF THE 2018 COMMUNITY SPIRIT AWARDS

The Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards (CSA) recognizes exceptional artists who have shown a lifetime commitment to perpetuating their art and sharing it within their communities. These practicing artists embody the Collective Spirit®, and are nominated for the award by members of their communities. Meet this year's artists.

Anna Brown Ehlers - National Heritage Award

Anna Brown Ehlers - National Heritage Award

Anna Brown Ehlers remembers the moment when she first dreamed of becoming a Chilkat weaver. She was four, Alaska had just become a state, and her uncle was dancing in his traditional Chilkat blanket during a community celebration.

“I saw that beautiful design and those rich colors. I watched the fringe gracefully moving back and forth as my uncle danced, and I knew I hoped I could do that someday,” she said.

Fifty-eight years later, Anna has been recognized as among the country’s foremost artists by the National Endowment for the Arts through a National Heritage Fellowship. The awards were announced in June. In 2001, First Peoples Fund honored Anna through a Community Spirit Award for her work to revitalize and pass on Chilkat weaving, an art form that was nearly lost in her lifetime.

Ho'omai'ka'i 'ana, Cyril

Ho'omai'ka'i 'ana, Cyril

Two of First Peoples Fund’s Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award honorees, Chilkat weaver Anna Brown Ehlers (Tlingit) and slack key guitar master Cyril Lani Pahinui (Native Hawaiian) received the 2017 National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Award, which were announced last week.

When we reached out to Cyril, a 2013 Community Spirit honoree, to congratulate him, he sent back the beautiful message below filled with aloha, love and community spirit, which we share with you. A post about Anna is coming soon. Cyril has been battling health issues and working composing and teaching from a hospital bed for more than a year.

Master Folk and Traditional Artists Receive Top Honor

Master Folk and Traditional Artists Receive Top Honor

First Peoples Fund is excited to share that two of our Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award honorees have received the 2017 National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Award, announced last week. Chilkat weaver Anna Brown Ehlers (Tlingit) was a Community Spirit Award honoree in 2001, and slack key guitar master Cyril Lani Pahinui (Native Hawaiian) was a 2013 honoree. 

The National Endowment for the Arts impact in Indian Country

The National Endowment for the Arts impact in Indian Country

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.

Help Us Honor Culture Bearers

Help Us Honor Culture Bearers

Do you know a Native artist who has dedicated his or her life and work to sustaining cultural traditions within their community? First Peoples Fund has opened nominations for the 2018 Community Spirit Awards, and we want to hear from you.

Introducing the 2017 Community Spirit Honorees

Introducing the 2017 Community Spirit Honorees

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.