Our mission is to strengthen American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities. We invest in and create innovative institutions and models that strengthen asset control and support economic development for American Indian people and their communities.
First Nations Development Institute recognizes that accessing healthy food is a challenge for many Native American children and families. Without access to healthy food, a nutritious diet and good health are out of reach. To increase access to healthy food, we support tribes and Native communities as they build sustainable food systems that improve health, strengthen food security and increase the control over Native agriculture and food systems. First Nations provides this assistance in the form of financial and technical support, including training materials, to projects that address agriculture and food sectors in Native communities.
First Nations Development Institute works with our national and local partners to identify, develop and implement household and community asset-building strategies that empower Native people. Working with our community partners in tribal colleges and community development financial institutions (CDFIs), we share ideas through peer learning and we finance program development through our grantmaking program. Working with our national and regional partners, we have helped share information about household asset-building programs such as Individual Development Accounts, Children’s Savings Accounts, and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites. We also conduct research on issues related to predatory lending in Native communities and work to raise awareness of this problem. First Nations’ programs help move families and communities toward financial security.
To create systemic economic change, First Nations also works with Native American communities to develop new businesses and services, and reclaim direct control of assets. We seek to help communities understand, create and control the way in which Native assets are valued, as well as the decision-making process in deciding whether to monetize those assets.
First Nations works with reservation and rural Indian communities to create and support CDFIs, Native businesses and tribal programs with early-stage investments and capitalization to stimulate business growth through new financial models, products and services. Through entrepreneurship and business-development projects targeted at both the tribal (macro) and individual (micro) levels, First Nations creates and supports sustainable economic development in Native communities.
Through grant support, technical assistance and training, First Nations provides tribes and Native communities with the tools and resources necessary to create new community-based nonprofit organizations and to strengthen the capacity of existing nonprofits and tribal agencies or departments. For more than 35 years, First Nations has supported hundreds of model projects that help revitalize Native communities, while integrating social empowerment and economic strategies. First Nations believes that by bolstering tribal and community institutions, we are helping to build economically stronger and healthier Native communities for the long term.
First Nations believes that Native youth represent the future of Native communities, and that their health and well-being determines the future health and well-being of a community overall. By investing in youth and giving them a sense of place and tradition in the community, a community ensures that it will have bright and capable future leaders. First Nations invests in Native youth and their families through many programs, but the cornerstone of our youth efforts is the Native Youth and Culture Fund, which annually provides grant support to numerous youth-related projects. We also have a range of financial education programs that are geared toward Native youth, including the Crazy Cash City reality fair and the $pending Frenzy workshop. The goal is to provide programs that meet youth where they are, support them in accomplishing their goals and dreams, and prepare them for an empowered adulthood guided by their cultures, families and traditions.
First Nations works in partnership with Native American tribes and communities throughout the U.S. to assist them in designing and administering financial and investor education programs. Our projects range from helping individuals and families understand the basics of financial management – opening and maintaining a bank account and using credit wisely – to helping individuals understand financial markets and a variety of financial instruments for borrowing and saving.
Learning how to manage finances ensures that Native people will be more likely to save and invest. Our programs result in increased investment levels and economic growth in Native communities.
First Nations Development Institute uses the Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families curriculum, which was originally developed by First Nations Development Institute and the Fannie Mae Foundation. For more information about this publication, visit our Knowledge Center.
Native American communities have sustainably managed their lands for thousands of years, cultivating, adapting, and transferring traditional ecological knowledge over many generations. This expansive reservoir of knowledge and deep connection to land keep Native communities strong and encourage the land to be more productive. Such relationships also benefit the natural world that we depend on, and the importance of being in harmony and true connection with places. In May 2019, the United Nations’ Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that environmental impacts were less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous peoples and local communities. The goal of the Stewarding Native Lands program is to provide financial and technical assistance to support Native ecological stewardship and improve Native control of and access to ancestral lands and resources to ensure the sustainable, economic, spiritual and cultural well-being of Native communities.