Native American Heritage Month: Na’ah Illahee Fund
To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, we are hosting a series of Profiles and Stories to amplify and honor people, businesses, organizations, stories and projects related to Seattle’s Indigenous community.
The Na’ah Illahee Fund is an Indigenous women-led organization dedicated to the continued regeneration of Indigenous communities. Focused on indigenous ecology, food sovereignty and wise action, they strive to advance climate and gender justice, while creating healthy pathways to self-determination and movement building.
Tell us a bit about Na’ah Illahee and the services you provide. What are you proud of?
Launched in 2005, the Na’ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is firmly rooted in Indigenous-led philanthropy and strategic action as we advance self-determination, Indigenous climate and environmental justice, and coalition building among Indigenous peoples. communities. Since our inception, we’ve nurtured over 100 community efforts through fiscal and small grant sponsorships, established multiple cohort-based intergenerational, urban and rural leadership models, and cultivated lasting relationships with individuals from hundreds of communities. tribal nations across North America. We are proud to continue to uplift women and indigenous peoples as leaders of their communities and stewards of the land.
How have the incidents of the past two years affected Na’ah Illahee and your work?
COVID has had a profound impact on the Na’ah Illahee Fund. In March 2020, we formed the Native Community Crisis Response Fund (NCCR) in direct response to the impacts of systemic inequalities on Indigenous individuals and families with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PRN has since taken on a new life and has become an important part of our long-term goals; it is a platform for new and deeper partnerships that contribute to a fair recovery from the pandemic,
leading to a just transition – or the necessary shift from extractive and exploitative economies to regenerative and just economies.
Our vision is multidimensional, with both immediate and long-term support for our communities rooted in Indigenous values ââand beliefs. Thanks to PRN at the height of the pandemic, we distributed $ 800,000 and 1,500 boxes of Indigenous food across the state. Many of the items in the food boxes were of indigenous or local origin and were tailored to each family to best assist them in times of crisis. We have also built garden beds in homes and community spaces to maintain food security and better health. We created a COVID Relief Grant for Indigenous Artists to support the disrupted livelihoods of up to 40 artists in Seattle. Other funds have been used to support families in crisis, tribal family violence programs and Indigenous nonprofits supporting their communities. Then we took the funding and created the funds that fixed the long-term systemic issues that caused the disproportionate impact. In 2021, we launched our Food Sovereignty Grant, our Green Infrastructure Capacity Building Grant, and we just closed the Help End Gender-Based Violence grant and MMIWP, the Red Hedge Fund. is in progress. We will have distributed $ 1.2 million in grants this year, and we hope to make $ 1.5 million in 2022. As is often the case, we received more applications than we could fund, we therefore know that we are serving areas of great need in our communities.
What are your hopes for the future? Both for Na’ah Illahee and for Seattle?
Our hopes for the future are to be able to continue to increase our funds to meet the needs of Indigenous communities in the Northwest and to continue our intersectional model of capacity building for communities that strengthen the leadership of women and Indigenous peoples. For Seattle, we hope it will continue to be a thriving philanthropic region where there are many significant financial resources from donors and funds that support us and other community organizations so that we can continue to distribute resources. to indigenous / other communities in great need.
You recently partnered with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods on an Indigenous-focused cohort of the People’s Academy for Community Engagement. Can you tell us a bit about this partnership and how it has aligned
with the Na’ah Illahee mission? What was your biggest lesson from this collaboration?
The PACE Academy was exciting! We recruited a group of Native American citizens from Seattle who embarked on a six-week program to engage with city governments to learn more about how government works and is structured, and how they can advocate in for policies that will benefit Indigenous communities. The biggest takeaway was the incredible empowerment the cohort members felt and gained over time, where they felt they could really make a difference, and they put together new tools to really help. achieve it.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, tell us about a person or organization Seattle needs to know more about.
The Lhaq’temish Foundation is a beneficiary of a grant for the capacity building of green infrastructure, their project is Lhaq’temish Lummi Skekwel. The Lhaq’temish Foundation supports Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) new pre-engineering program focused on renewable energy and energy sovereignty. This program aims to educate indigenous students through hands-on projects, teaching them the basics of solar photovoltaic systems and electrical engineering. With a grant provided by the Na’ah Illahee Fund, a 15 kW solar photovoltaic panel will be purchased and installed on the roof of the NWIC campus library. Training students and community members in the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of wind and solar power systems will support both the NWIC and the Lummi Nation in the design and development of micro-grids.
systems aimed at tribal energy sovereignty. Students will learn everything from planning and design to construction and maintenance, which will enable them to be leaders in their respective communities.
To learn more about the Na’ah Illahee Fund www.naahillahee.org.