Recently the Potlatch Fund Board of Directors met to award 42 Critical Response Grants to individuals and organizations serving Native communities across the Pacific Northwest during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
From the beginning of the pandemic, Potlatch Fund has been strategizing the best ways to meet the most urgent needs of our communities. The decision was made early on to pause our regular grantmaking programs and to free up funds from both those programs and our general operating funds in order to get support to our Native communities as fast as possible. We were careful to honor the original intention of our grantmaking programs by supporting Native artists, Native language preservationists, and Native youth-led programs.
At the same time, we have been busy fundraising so that we can get our regular grantmaking programs back on track as soon as possible.
As the initial weeks of the pandemic have stretched into months, one thing has become increasingly clear to us: the coronavirus is taking a disproportionate toll on Native communities. Whether it’s the higher infection rates, or the loss of critical tribal income sources, or the allocated federal funds that have yet to reach Native communities, the virus is challenging our communities at all levels.
We had no way to know just how long the pandemic would last when COVID first arrived and the lockdowns began. But we made the decision then to trust our prior grantees to know the needs in their communities better than we could, and to offer unrestricted funding through our Critical Response Grants.
It is our hope that these grants will provide recipients with the flexibility to respond quickly to some of the most pressing needs in Native communities. In these times our goal is to support our Native communities and Native programs as they carry values, histories and knowledge across generations for our long-term sustainability.
The following individuals are all Native artists serving their communities:
Antoine Joseph Sandoval
Britt E. Rynearson
Jeffrey Todd Ferguson
Lauren Monroe Jr.
Valerie Anne Segrest
Vaughn Lee Eide
Solana Rose Booth
Asia Marie Tail
Delbert Wayne Miller
Elizabeth Ann Woody
Mary Ellen Kelsay
Sara Suzanne Siestreem
Sondra Simone Segundo
Sonya F. Oberly
Storme Geraldine Webber
The following organizations received grants to support Native language preservation and youth-led programs:
Aa Nii Nak, Inc.
Blackfeet Manpower WIO Program
Native American Community Development Corporation Financial Services
Coeur d’Alene Tribe
Jim Pepper Native Arts Council
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
Crow Language Consortium
Little Shell Tribe
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
Burns Paiute Tribe
The Museum At Warm Springs
Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation
Altogether, $220,000 in Critical Response Grants was awarded during this cycle to individuals and organizations serving Native communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.
We know there is much more work to do. In the weeks ahead, we will be rolling out Phase 2 of our COVID relief grants as we continue to explore the best ways to support and stand in solidarity with our Native family during this time.
Executive Director, Potlatch Fund