National Directory of Foundation Grants for Native Americans

Sep 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 11-1: 10th Anniversary Issue, Media Reviews

GRANT DIRECTORYBy Phyllis A. Meiners
CRC Publishing Company-EagleRock Books, Kansas City, MO, $99.95
205 pages

Review by Ned Harper

Where are tribal colleges to find additional funding to combat their condition of perpetual penury? While the federal government spends in excess of $120,000 to send a single cadet to the Air Force Academy, Congress and the President support tribal colleges at shamefully minimal levels.  Years ago the Carnegie Report spoke to the higher educational dimension of what many regard as America’s “dirty little secret”– conditions in Indian Country– and today the situation is worse.  With Washington willing to fund skimpy band-aids but not real solutions on reservations, one can only ask where to turn.

A promising source for funding today is private money. One approach is to send mailings to potentially supportive individuals identified through purchased mailing lists.  As the American Indian College Fund illustrates, this approach holds real promise.  A less widely-tested approach is to hire professional fundraisers who are paid a percentage of what they raise.

A time-tested source, and one that some tribal colleges have tapped into with moderate success for years, is private foundations.  To aid tribal entities there is a new publication, The National Directory of Foundation Grants for Native Americans  by Phyllis A. Meiners, which describes the grants offered by 55 foundations.

Of these, 44 specify education, 12 specify Native Americans, and 25 potentially would consider tribal colleges as a “special interest” under headings such as minorities, multicultural, diversity, ethnicity, or  race.  There is less potential for tribal colleges than the numbers might indicate since the directory is addressed to all tribal entities  — medical, environmental, economic, and so on  —  not just educational ones. Further, many foundations restrict awards to specific geographic areas (one confines Native American education projects to parts of Ohio), secondary and elementary institutions, and specific religious affiliations.  Some make small grants only, and most have never funded tribal colleges.

Still, the directory is well worth its hefty price tag of $99.95.  It provides a wide array of information on each foundation, including email addresses and web sites, special funding interests, priorities, restrictions, samples of grants awarded, application deadlines, and much more –all made manageable with a superbly detailed index. Perusing the pages turns up predictable old nuggets such as the Bush and MacArthur foundations as well as, for example, another new to this writer that makes $100,000 science grants to tribal colleges. Put in the time and read closely, there are some real gems to be found in this carefully compiled directory.

Ned Harper is a social science instructor at Diné College-Shiprock where he has taught for 21 years.  He has an MA in Latin American history.

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