| In May 2013, First Nations announced it received a substantial
grant from The Kresge Foundation that well use to help improve
numerous American Indian nonprofit organizations in urban or metropolitan
locations. The project will accomplish this by helping build the capacity
of those organizations, which means well provide tailored training
and technical assistance that will help them better organize, strategize,
manage and grow their organizations. In turn, they will become stronger,
more efficient and more effective in achieving their missions.
is a bit of a departure for First Nations. Throughout its more than
three decades of existence, First Nations has primarily focused
on rural and reservation-based Native communities. We are now expanding
into a new focus area that helps address the well-being of Native
Americans who happen to live and work in bigger cities.
And in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that we use
in everything we do with Native communities, we have partnered with
a great organization that provides us with enhanced street
smarts in those urban communities the National Urban
Indian Family Coalition, or NUIFC, which is a network of urban Indian
organizations that strengthen urban Native families. It is led by
Executive Director Janeen Comenote, who founded the organization.
Janeen is passionate about her work. We know that American
Indian families and children are among the most vulnerable of Americas
urban populations, she notes. Today, more than 4 million,
or 78% of American Indians, live off the reservation and lack a
collective national voice. In culturally and geographically diverse
Indian Country, the populations of American Indians residing off
reservation often remain the silent majority. American
Indians and Alaska Natives populate some of the most disproportionately
low social and economic standards in every large city in which they
reside, with a child poverty rate at 25%, which is nearly triple
the national average and unemployment at double the national average.
knows first-hand the situation of urban Indians. She was born and
raised in Seattle, Washington she is Hesquiaht and Kwakiutl
First Nation from her mothers side, and Oglala Lakota and
enrolled Quinault from her fathers side and she has
worked in this area, in one form or another, for nearly 20 years.
I am driven to do this. I have worked with Native street youth,
Indian child welfare, as well as poverty research and program development,
she says. This breadth and depth of experience has given me
a unique view into the day-to-day realities of Native people living
in urban areas as well as provided the impetus to do what I can
do to help address some of those disparities.
The partnership will draw upon First Nations extensive
capacity-building expertise and NUIFCs networks, evaluation
and data-collection experience, and insider knowledge of urban Indian
organizations and their needs. Over the life of the Kresge Foundation
grant, which runs to the end of 2016, First Nations and NUIFC with
work directly with as many as nine urban Native American nonprofits
to help them improve their management and leadership skills and
boost their organizational effectiveness, provide customized assistance
and training, host an annual capacity building conference for participants,
and document the projects best practices and potential for
replication in other Native American urban communities. First Nations
Senior Program Officer Montoya Whiteman (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes)
is managing the grant and the partnership.
For 32 years, First Nations has worked primarily in rural
and reservation-based Native American communities, helping them
develop much-needed stronger economies by doing our work on several
fronts, noted Michael E. Roberts (Tlingit), First Nations
president. Were now excited to take our successful track
record and apply it to urban communities of American Indians. Native
nonprofits that are more effective at what they do and how they
are managed are a key resource to the health, prosperity and growth
of Indian communities, whether rural or urban.
Urban Indian organizations, some of which were launched in the
1940s and 50s, are an important support to Native families and individuals,
providing cultural linkages as well as being a hub for accessing
essential services. There are nearly 250 local or state-focused
urban Indian organizations in NUIFCs network representing
over 600,000 Indians nationwide.
According to Janeen, one of the primary intentions of creating
the NUIFC is to ensure access to traditionally excluded organizations
and families, and to focus attention on the needs of urban Indians.
Our primary goal is to contribute to better living standards
and develop a resource pool through which we can reach this goal,
Janeen said. I cannot overemphasize the importance and impact
this innovative work will have in strengthening the urban Indian
nonprofit sector and thereby improving the outcomes for our communities.
Projects and partnerships like this provide important acknowledgment
that the needs of our urban populations are important and being
By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer