Dustin Monroe
Vice-President Potlatch Fund Board of Directors
Gala Committee Chair

Dear Friends,

My heart is filled with gratitude for all of you who joined Potlatch Fund for our 18th Annual Gala. Along with so many other organizations this year, Potlatch Fund transitioned this event to be online to keep our loved ones and communities safe from COVID-19. Serving as the Chair of the Gala Committee and the Potlatch Board Vice-President, I knew we had our work cut out for us.

We weren’t sure how our community would respond to a virtual event. Our strength as a community comes from those times; we can greet one another face-to-face and gather to share our cultures and stories. We miss those opportunities, and we know you do, too. We have faith that eventually, the pandemic will be behind us, and we can once again celebrate in person.

In the meantime, thank you. We asked our community for support for this year’s gala, and you embraced the opportunity to contribute to our mission. Because of your help, we will continue to send critical funds to Native communities throughout our service area of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. We will support our Native artists and culture keepers, our language preservationists, and our youth.

This year’s gala theme was “Indigenous resilience; Colonial resistance.” Throughout the evening, we were reminded just how relevant this theme is to what’s happening across Indian country, made even more urgent by the pandemic. While less than 1 percent of philanthropic dollars in the country go to Native communities, those same communities suffer from disproportionate poverty and disease levels.

This funding model—based upon colonial practices of accumulation and control—has tragic consequences for our Native communities.

Potlatch Fund offers a different funding model built upon generosity and reciprocity, one rooted in community values and taking care of one another. Creating community is the secret of our resilience and will be the key to our long-term health as Indigenous people.

Our keynote speaker, Edgar Villanueva, reminded us that mainstream philanthropy is not the answer for Native communities. “Ultimately, no one is going to take care of us like we can,” he said, “and this is the reason why the Potlatch Fund is so important. We need to have Indigenous-led infrastructure within philanthropy to resource and to take care of our communities.”

Edgar explained how money—often considered the problem when viewed through a colonizing lens—can be medicine if we liberate it.

“If we think of money as a representation of relationship, that it’s just a proxy, it’s something to help facilitate the relationship, redistributing wealth in the way it was done in the potlatch tradition, then money can be medicine,” Edgar Villanueva told us.

As one of our grant recipient partners, I know firsthand that every dollar you give creates hope in a community in the past. And hope is medicine, especially right now.

I have many people to thank. First, I would like to raise my hands to the Potlatch Fund staff. Brian Tanner, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships, and Katherine Paul, Relationship Manager, transformed our in-person gala into an online event while retaining the spirit of celebration befitting a year during which Potlatch Fund will grant close to $1 million. To give you some perspective, we’ve awarded approximately $5 million total since we began funding Native communities 15 years ago.

Thank you to the many grant recipient partners who shared with us how Potlatch Fund changed their lives, helping them support their tribes and Native communities through art, language preservation, and programs for our youth. We raise our hands to you.

Thank you to the performers who shared so generously of their time and talents to entertain us and bind us together as a community in the way that only art can.

Thank you to our many sponsors who helped make the evening possible, especially our host nation, Squaxin Island, who also provided the opening prayer and song, as well as the closing song and dance.

I would also like to thank my Potlatch Fund Board colleague, Renee’ Holt, who served with me on the Gala Committee.  Also, I want to express gratitude to the Potlatch Fund Board of Directors for their steadfast leadership and guidance during this tumultuous time. It is an honor to serve our Native communities alongside you.

Finally, I would like to invite you to support the work of the Potlatch Fund as we move forward. Our Spirit of Reciprocity Award winner, Se-ah-dom Edmo, told us that Native communities already have the answers. Yes, we’ve endured some horrific challenges as a result of colonization, but we are resilient.

“Through these challenges, our sense of what was true was never lost,” Se-ah-dom Edmo said. “It just takes us coming together to be able to speak it into existence once again.”

Thank you for coming together to reaffirm Native generosity and resilience and help us speak them into existence once again.

Keep well,

Dustin Monroe
Vice-President Potlatch Fund Board of Directors