Our Commitment to Native People and Native Nations

We believe that investing in Native people, Native communities and Native nations is one of the highest impact things we can do.

The challenges facing Native communities are profound and deeply rooted in historic injustices and a fraught history of ever-changing relations with federal, state and local governments.

But philanthropic impact is not just about addressing a profound need. Impact comes from investing in extraordinary people and institutions to address that need. It comes from investing in big ideas for change. We see extraordinary people and institutions with big ideas throughout Native nations and Native communities in our region.

We have supported Native organizations and issues for decades. Through the years, we have made significant investments in tribal colleges and judicial law libraries and many key Native institutions in the region. We have also invested in lots of Native leaders through the Bush Fellowship and the Native Nation Rebuilders program, including a number of people who have gone on to serve as tribal elected leaders.

In 2008, we elevated our commitment to Native peoples with a focus on supporting stronger tribal governance in the 23 Native nations in the geographic region we serve. We did a lot of work with tribes on issues from commercial codes to constitutional reform, culminating in the creation of the Native Governance Center.

Today, we support Native people and nations in our region through all of our grant programs. While we still believe in the critical importance of tribal governance, we are open to funding Native-led work on any issue. We work hard to make sure Native people and organizations know what we have to offer and to ensure our programs are working to meet their needs. We track and publicly share what percentage of funding goes to Native people and organizations. We have a community grant program partner, the Good Relatives Collaborative, focused specifically on supporting Native organizations. We also seeded the Collective Abundance Fund to support wealth building for Indigenous individuals and families. In all our work with Native nations, we aim to support Native self-determination and tribal sovereignty.

For anyone working on issues important to Native communities in our region and seeking Bush Foundation support, the path is the same as any of our open grant programs. See all of our grants and opportunities.

Learn more about the Native nations in the region we serve.

A note for our colleagues working in philanthropy

The last funding report from First Nations Development Institute lists us as the seventh-largest funder, among foundations, of Native issues in the U.S. On one hand, it is exciting to be recognized as one of the top funders of Native American organizations and issues. We are proud of the work we are doing with Native partners around the region and love having that work highlighted and celebrated.

On the other hand, we have a smaller endowment and a lower total annual grantmaking budget than most of the other foundations on the list. So being ranked so high is actually more of an indication that giving to Native issues is just not a priority to most other foundations. We want to help change that.

We hope our relationships and our grantmaking experience can be useful to others. That feels uncomfortably presumptuous to declare, but we’re declaring it because we believe being an influencer on Native issues within philanthropy is one of the most useful ambitions we can have. Toward this end, we partnered with Candid and Native Americans in Philanthropy on a project to track overall giving to Native issues and provide resources to help funders do more and do better.

We have two staff members specifically focused on how the Bush Foundation can be available and helpful to Native communities — Eileen Briggs and Dr. Mattie DeCarlo. If you work in philanthropy and want to learn more about what we do and/or the promising work we see in our region, please reach out to them.