National Native Arts and Cultures Foundation
Government suppression of Native American language, religion, and culture was done historically through the machinery of government in order to forcibly assimilate Native Americans into mainstream society and to stamp out their supposed inferior and backwards cultures. As a result of widespread ethnocide which occurred during the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, much of the beautiful Native American cultures was destroyed. Yet indigenous peoples have struggled to preserve what little remains; and their beautiful contributions to world art and American heritage have caused growing appreciation in the United States and around the world in recent years, as seen in the founding of the National Museum of the American Indian and in the collections of world-class art museums. Yet, most Native American artists live on a subsistence level and there is no government support for Native art and culture, with surprisingly little assistance from the American philanthropic community. There is a need for remedial measures, and NARF is participating in the birth and founding of a new national Native arts and culture foundation that will establish and manage a multi-million dollar permanent endowment from which monetary awards can be made to Native American artists and those local and regional organizations which currently support Native art and culture. With assistance and leadership from the Ford Foundation a feasibility study demonstrated the need and interest in such a national endowment in 2006. Significant initial funding was committed by the Ford Foundation, and a founding board of directors was formed. The articles of incorporation and by-laws have been approved and 501(c)(3) approval was awarded by the IRS. Fundraising and organizational development for the new foundation are underway and we hope the new foundation will be operational in twelve months. Funds are now being transferred to the foundation this Spring by major donors, as the drive to create a multi-million dollar permanent endowment continues. The foundation has initiated a national search for a President; and will hire the President and found its offices later this year.
Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee) assisted during the feasibility study and is the founding Chairman of the Board of Directors for the foundation. Other board members are: Joy Harjo, (Muscokee-Creek) poet and musician, Elizabeth Woody, a writer and cultural specialist from the Warm Springs Reservation, Marshall McKay, Chairman of the Rumsey Rancheria, Letitia Chambers, a private consultant of Cherokee descent, and Buffy St. Marie, the renowned singer/activist. The feasibility study and interim staffing is done by the Larson-Allen Public Service Group of Minneapolis, supported by consulting assistance from prominent Native American art, culture, and education leaders, such as Della Warrior, JoAnn Chase, and Pamela Kingfisher.
This foundation holds enormous potential for assisting in the nation-wide tribal effort to preserve, sustain, and pass on our Native American art and cultures--including endangered traditional art forms (and associated practices), as well as all forms of contemporary art such as painting, sculpture, theater, dance, literature, film, and music. It is hoped that the foundation will become a powerful funding engine for the Native American cultural renaissance which is sweeping America and help fund our nation's philanthropy on this historic movement. The foundation is currently engaged in a national search for a president and intends to found an office and open its doors for business in 2009.