New Group Is Formed to Sponsor
The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation is being established to support the work of American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native artists. It will be the first permanently endowed national foundation of its kind.
“We needed our own endowment for native arts and culture in this country in the coming century,” said Elizabeth Theobald Richard from the Ford Foundation, which is overseeing the project. “The indigenous peoples of this country have an incredible wealth of cultural heritage and cultural expression that very few people know about. And it’s also incredibly underfunded.”
The NACF will provide grants to native artists and organizations, support arts leadership and help raise money to support indigenous arts and cultures.
“Arts and culture and traditional languages and religions have been the glue that held Native Americans together — often in the face of great adversity,” said Walter Echo-Hawk, chairman and creator of the foundation. “For many years the government policy was to assimilate native people into mainstream society and essentially stamp out [our culture]. It’s a testament to the tenacity of our people that we have any native cultures or religions left in the United States. We are seeing a remarkable cultural renaissance in the tribal communities. But the support of the arts has been almost nil. It’s been very difficult for Indian tribes to also support their own arts and cultures.”
The NACF will be based in Portland, Ore. Tara Lulani Arquette, a Native Hawaiian, is the president and chief executive. “In a sense, it’s part of our quest for self-determination and restoring our sovereignty,” said Ms. Arquette. “The mission of the foundation can’t be accomplished in one year or even five years. But there is a sense of urgency. Our elders — our wisdom keepers — are passing away in large numbers.”
The foundation will start with an annual operating budget of $500,000 and a staff of four. It hopes to provide about $4,000,000 in grants and program services over the next five years.