Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards

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. 

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.

Honoring a Legacy

Honoring a Legacy

Dana Tiger (Mvskoke) was only five years old when her father passed. She turned to his art as a way to get to know him. Under the guidance of her uncle — renowned painter Johnny Tiger, Jr. — she came to know the richness of her culture and the bounty of its artistic tradition. But she didn’t know if she had it in her to carry on her father’s legacy. Dana’s children could paint. Her uncle. But could she?

A Heavy Responsibility, A True Privilege

A Heavy Responsibility, A True Privilege

Drawing lessons at age four. Carving at six. David R. Boxley was the first of his generation to hold a traditional potlatch in his village. He doesn’t take the privileges given to him lightly. His life and his art are dedicated to bringing back his People’s culture, to saving their language for this generation and the next. His work lives and breathes a connection into their past, present and future. 

Keeping His Hands and Heart Busy

Keeping His Hands and Heart Busy

Ronald J. Paquin (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa) with support from First Peoples Fund is creating art again and preparing to open his own studio. It’s his lifetime dream. What his heart wants to do.

Rolling into the New Year

Rolling into the New Year

First Peoples Fund took 2016 at a gallop.

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.

Relive Moments

Relive Moments

Our hearts are still full with deep gratitude following the 2016 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards. We are grateful for the support we received — from artists, community members, volunteers, businesses, sponsors, donors large and small, media, and local government. Together, we brought the celebration home to Rapid City to shine a light on what is working, and what has always worked, in Indian Country.