Dear Friends,

I don’t have to tell you that we are living in strange, unprecedented times. We all experience the COVID-19 crisis differently, and yet we are all in it together.  Daily, we are inspired by and grateful for all of the people risking their health and their lives to combat this disease.

At Potlatch Fund, we are responding to COVID-19 by stepping up our support of the Native nonprofit organizations that are crucial to maintaining our way of life. I’ll share more about how we’ll be doing that later in this letter.

But right now, I am elated to welcome Cleora Hill-Scott (Crow/ Sioux/ Pawnee) as the new, permanent Executive Director of Potlatch Fund.  We are fortunate to have a strong, Native woman to both lead us through this present crisis and to help us envision our way forward when our lives regain some sense of normalcy.

Cleora, also known by her Apsalooke’ name Basssá Itchish (Good Leader), is from the Apsalooke’ (Crow) Nation of Montana and comes to Potlatch Fund with a truly impressive breadth of leadership experience in the Pacific Northwest. She’s served on many notable tribal governments and organizations such as the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Crow Tribal Administration, and Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board.

In her prior capacity as Interim Executive Director, Cleora demonstrated compassion, grounding, and heart, leading us all to believe that she is the right leader to elevate Potlatch to the next level.

Cleora herself says, “I have a passion to see our communities not just end our suffering but succeed on our own terms. I do this the best way I know how, and it drives every decision I make. I am happy those decisions have led me here to Potlatch Fund.”

We hope you will join us as we celebrate having Cleora on board for the long term. We are grateful for her experience during this deeply challenging time for our communities.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the board and staff of Potlatch Fund carefully considered how the organization could be most impactful.  We determined that our best strategy would be to double down on the work that we do best: supporting Native nonprofit organizations to ensure that they weather this storm.

We will be offering $220,000 in Critical Response Grants to prior grantees. These grants will be for unrestricted funds focused on three specific areas: youth-led educational programs, Native artists, and Native language speakers.

We look forward to sharing more details about this decision with you soon. If you have been selected for a Critical Response grant, you will receive an email and phone call from us in the next 1-2 weeks.

Through tragedy can also come opportunity.  I am trying to find silver linings to these dark clouds wherever I can.  One of those silver linings is the strength and resiliency of Potlatch Fund.  We, too, will get through this to live another day and to continue our commitment to building a vibrant Native nonprofit community.

In health and prosperity,

Amber Schulz-Oliver
President, Potlatch Fund