Northwest Area Foundation Awards Nearly $1.6 Million to Boost Native Business Sector

The Northwest Area Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.59 million to seven organizations working to increase the number and strength of reservation-based Native businesses.

The grants were awarded through the foundation's new two-year Native American Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, which aims to bolster Native financial institutions that work to help establish new businesses and jobs. The announcement comes on the heels of recent foundation-sponsored roundtable discussions with Native and philanthropic leaders during which social entrepreneurship was identified as one of several investment pathways for creating thriving Native communities.

The Oregon Native American Business and Entrepreneurial Network (ONABEN), which will lead the initiative, was awarded $491,627 to support an educational cohort in which participating Native organizations will meet regularly to learn and share best practices. The six nonprofits in the cohort include Hunkpati Investments, Inc. in Fort Thompson, South Dakota, which will receive up to $200,000 to help spur economic growth on the Crow Creek Sioux Indian reservation; the Northwest Native Development Fund in Nespelem, Washington, which will receive up to $200,000 to implement its Growing Into Our Footprint project to expand business training, outreach, tax preparation assistance, and access to loans; and the Four Bands Community Fund in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, which will receive up to $100,000 over two years to create a green business development curriculum that includes green business training and entrepreneurship outreach services.

"Historically, less than one-half of 1 percent of philanthropic dollars is invested in Native American programs, and studies indicate that number is decreasing," said Northwest Area Foundation president and CEO Kevin Walker. "This initiative seeks to invest in Native communities' ability to reduce poverty and build prosperity. We hope other funders will see this as an opportunity for investment and impact."

"Northwest Area Foundation Launches Native American Social Entrepreneurship Initiative." Northwest Area Foundation Press Release 10/13/2011.