Cherokee Nation gives a big check to Rogers County Schools. (Cherokee Nation)

Honoring Their Culture and Heritage, Tribes Give Generously

Mark Fogarty
November 30, 2012

Amuyich. Potlatch. Yawa’. There are as many American Indian words for giving, or generosity of spirit, or the necessity of acting on your beliefs, as there are Indian languages.

Philanthropy is deep in the roots of the culture of many tribal nations, and it flows naturally from these mostly cooperative societies.

ICTMN’s first annual survey of giving in Indian country shows an impressive diversity of efforts—from modest to major—supported by amounts ranging from humble to huge. Who benefits from tribal giving? Needy individuals and tribal communities, of course, but also other tribes and even state and county governments.

Donations range from a modest $6,520 to a tribe that donated more than $29 million in fiscal 2012, including $15 million for other tribes. Another tribe has handed over $50 million since 2001. And not all donations were made in cash: One tribe donated 9,000 turkeys to help needy families. One tribe saw all its members honored by the National Indian Gaming Association for their humanitarian work in helping a local community devastated by a tornado.

The following survey is not meant to be comprehensive; it is just a small sample of the good works being done by some tribes, and represents only a small percentage of the extensive philanthropic efforts by tribes in recent years.

Agua Caliente Band Of Cahuilla Indians
The Assistance League of Palm Springs, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, Stroke Recovery Center, and the American Diabetes Association were each recently presented a $25,000 check through proceeds from the band’s annual Invitational Charity Golf Tournament.

Ak-Chin Indian Community
Donated $300,000 in March for the Against Abuse to build a Maricopa, Arizona shelter for battered women and children. In May, the Ak-Chin Indian Community hosted the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life in Maricopa, raising $121,372; of which $50,000 was donated by the tribe. In October, an Ak-Chin Fire Department station offered free haircuts, donating $300 and 200 inches of hair to be used for wigs for children who have suffered from cancer and other hair-loss-causing illnesses. Also that month, the tribe committed a $150,000 cash contribution to the Maricopa food bank.

Cabazon Band of Mission Indians
All proceeds from its First Annual Drive Against Hunger Golf Tournament were distributed to Find Food Bank, Martha’s Village & Kitchen and Well in the Desert.

Cherokee Nation
In February, the tribe distributed nearly $3 million to area 95 school districts during its Public School Appreciation Day held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, Oklahoma. In October, the tribe awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships to 32 students for the 2012–2013 academic school year. “We want our students to have every opportunity to succeed, despite their financial background,” said Kimberlie Gilliland, executive director of the Cherokee Nation Foundation. “These scholarships are an investment in their future and the future of the Cherokee Nation.” In May, through a two-to-one matching program with the University of Tulsa, the Cherokee Nation Foundation gifted $333,334 to help create a $1 million endowment. It also funded $40,000 in Junior Achievement Programming, which serves to increase the percentage of Cherokee high school graduates who are better equipped to complete their college education.

Choctaw Nation Of Oklahoma
Contributed $3.3 million to schools, fire departments, churches, police departments, counties, cities and charitable organizations in fiscal 2011.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Gave more than $1.9 million to charitable and community organizations in 2011.

Cocopah Indian Tribe
Will donate $50,000 to the Yuma Community Food Bank.

Coeur d’Alene Tribe
Since the Coeur d’Alene Tribe first signed a gaming compact with the state of Idaho in 1992, tribal leaders have donated five percent of net casino gaming proceeds to education on or near their reservation. As of December 2011, donations totaled $16.8 million.

Confederated Salish And Kootenai Tribes
The Salish and Kootenai Housing Authority donated $21,783 to local organizations and events in 2012.

Confederated Tribes of The Colville Reservation
Donated $108,000 to keep the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Colville Fish Hatchery operational in 2009 and 2010.

Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua And Siuslaw Indians
Established its Three Rivers Foundation, the giving arm of its Three Rivers Casino and Hotel in Florence, Oregon, in October 2011 to support education, health, public safety, problem gambling, the arts, the environment, cultural activities and historic preservation. In 2012, the foundation gave more than $175,000 to 47 local organizations.

Confederated Tribes Of Grand Ronde
Contributes six percent of net profits from its casino to its Spirit Mountain Community Fund, which distributes money to charitable organizations in western Oregon, and to tribes anywhere in Oregon. Since its inception 15 years ago, the fund, now the 10th largest foundations in Oregon, has given $56 million to charitable organizations.

Confederated Tribes Of Siletz Indians
The Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund distributed $126,729 to 48 local organizations in May 2012.

Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians
Since 1997, its foundation has awarded $12,115,294 in grants to nonprofit organizations who provide vital services to children and families. The tribal council also added $7,120,294 in donations to community-based organizations. Additional donations made by the tribe’s Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon, tribal businesses and other economic development arms come to nearly $5 million.

Gila River Indian Community
Donated a sum of $150,000 from 2009 to 2011 to the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center for Women & Children.


Gun Lake Tribe (Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band Of Pottawatomi Indians)
Gun Lake Casino, through its Charitable Giving Program, donated $13,000 to 13 Allegan County libraries in August. In October, the casino partnered with two Susan G. Komen affiliates to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Hopi Tribe
In November, the tribe donated a portion of its profits from its Native American Market weekend event at Hopi Travel Plaza to local schools.

Jackson Rancheria Band Of Miwuk Indians
Announced a donation of $10,000 to the American Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. The tribe has additionally made it a mission to restore and overhaul all the dilapidated parks and recreational space in Amador County in California this year. As of October, tribal donations had amounted to nearly $485,000, in addition to donated manual labor.

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
In 2008, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe donated $1.5 million to expand the Blyn Fire District fire station in Sequim, Washington.

Kalispel Tribe of Indians
In October, they gave $14,000 to provide new equipment for athletes of the Cusick, Washington school district; the Kalispel Charitable Fund expects to make $1 million in community donations this year.

Lummi Nation
Recently poured $900,000 in charitable donations into the local and greater Washington economy. Since 2002, the Lummi Nation has given more than $5 million to nearby communities and organizations.

Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribal Nation
Since 1993, the tribe has donated more than $100 million in cash, services and material goods to hundreds of charitable organizations, other tribes and humanitarian outreach services around the nation. Among its long list of donations is a $10 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution in 1994 and a $5 million gift to the Mystic Aquarium in 1998.

Morongo Band of Mission Indians
Has provided more than $5 million over the past five years to local and national nonprofit organizations through its Community Outreach Department. These organizations include veterans and military groups, homeless shelters, family support services, educational services and hospitals. In November 2011 the Morongo Band of Mission Indians donated over 9,000 turkeys to feed the homeless, veterans, and poverty stricken people of Southern California. The tribe has also supported the American Red Cross through millions of dollars in donations.

Nez Perce
Made a $3 million contribution to the Native American Rights Fund for its role in a major trust fund lawsuit. Since 2002, the tribe has given more than the required five percent of net proceeds to education and to support causes including college scholarships, social programs, wildlife restoration and local kindergarten classes. The tribe donated $284,000 to local education in 2011, up from $127,000 in 2010.

Oneida Indian Nation
In 2012, the Oneida Indian Nation donated $1 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, $61,000 from the Oneida Nation Foundation to local and national charities, nearly $21,000 to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and $5,000 to Oz-Stravaganza! festival in Chittenango, New York. The tribe’s annual NB3 Foundation Challenge also raised $2 million for the NB3 Foundation, which works to improve the health and wellness of Native youth throughout Indian country. Earlier this year, the Oneida Nation also announced a $10 million pledge to the American Revolution Center in Philadelphia. The gift was made in part to recognize the little-known but extraordinary role the Oneidas played as America’s first ally during the Revolutionary War.

Pala Band of Mission Indians
In April, put up $100,000 toward helping fund transportation programs in two local school districts. In October, they gave another $140,000 to the Bonsall Union School District to fund transportation and support programs for the 2012–2013 school year at the Vivian Banks Charter School on the Pala reservation.

Poarch Band of Creek Indians
In February, gifted Montgomery Public Schools in Alabama with $1 million to give students access to new technology, and donated $1 million to Elmore County Schools. The following month, the tribe gave another $2 million to various organizations that have endured funding cuts in the past year, including those dedicated to helping children, helping animals and helping eradicate drug abuse. “Part of being a good neighbor is helping out others in need,” PCI Tribal Chairman Buford Rolin said. “Our state and its citizens have suffered a great deal during these tough economic times, and it’s important to pitch in and make a difference where we can.”

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
The tribe announced the donation on September 21 of $53,000 to the nearby Memorial Children’s Hospital, which will use the money to fund a pediatric intensive care unit on wheels, and $10,000 to the Ronald McDonald Family Room, which is looking to build their first home in the community. The tribe has given to community gardens, historic preservation organizations, and was the major donor to a new river otter exhibit at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana. The tribe’s educational efforts are leading to increased awareness of the otters as a culturally and spiritually significant animals to the tribe, and better understanding of Native American traditions.

Potawatomi Tribe
In December 2011, the Potawatomi Bingo Casino raised $989,239 through their 2011 Miracle on Canal Street program, which was donated to 30 children’s charities in southeastern Wisconsin.

Quapaw Tribe
When Joplin, Missouri was devastated by a tornado in May 2011, the tribe rushed in to help. For the first time in the 14-year life of the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award, the National Indian Gaming Association’s most prestigious honor, the award was given to an entire tribe, rather than a tribal leader, to recognize their altruistic actions.

San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians
Yawa’ is the Serrano word meaning “to act on one’s beliefs.” Since 2001, the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians has done just that, giving some $50 million to charities, including $550,000 to the San Bernardino County School’s Alliance for Education; and $13,500 to the High Desert Resource Network, which aids approximately 200 nonprofit organizations.

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
Since 2005, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation has given out more than $16 million to more than 700 local nonprofit groups, schools and public safety agencies, as part of their spirit of generosity, which they call ‘amuyich.

Seminole Tribe of Florida
Contributed $5,000 to the annual, four-mile March for Babies in Okeechobee, Florida, this year, and has donated close to $100,000 to the March of Dimes in the almost 15 years they’ve participated in the Okeechobee walk. In 2010, the tribe gave $1.75 million to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, which helps treat gambling addiction.

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
In 2012, donated more than $29 million—$15,706,934 to tribes, $2,231,938 to education, $1,763,758 to intergovernmental aid/payments, $743,219 in charitable donations, $771,647 to Indian organizations, $232,160 to holiday causes, $71,375 to automated external defibrillators, $72,952 to pow wows, $6,053,083 to health and $1,429,663 to mental health and social services.

Snoqualmie Tribe
In 2011, donated $314,000 in addition to an annual $100,000 gift to build and operate the Snoqualmie Community Center, which will be include a teen center, gymnasium, cardio-weight room, family changing rooms with showers, multipurpose rooms and a lobby with a fireplace.

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians
Donated $50,000 to the annual Ramona Pageant, held this April through May. The outdoor play tells a traditional story of Southern California Natives.

Squaxin Island Tribe
Sponsors the annual Washington State Senior Games in Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey, Washington each summer.

Stillaguamish Tribe Of Indians
In 2011, donated $86,864 to fund the Snohomish County, Washington deputy prosecutor position, which had been targeted for a budget cut.

Tulalip Tribes
Donated $1.26 million to the Marysville School District to provide funding for programs that faced state budget cuts.

United Auburn Indian Community
Over the course of eight years, the UAIC Community Giving Program has awarded more than $9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting needs in education, health, arts and humanities, environment, community development and social services. In 2012, the UAIC gave away more than $47,500 to community-based organizations in Placer County in California.

Yavapai-Apache Nation
Team Native Spirit, a Yavapai-Apache group of women dedicated to finding a cure for cancer, held a walk/run on October 6 and raised $6,520 to assist Northern Arizona Healthcare with providing local cancer patients with emergency relief while undergoing cancer treatment.

Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
In March, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation donated $25,000 to programs that serve people with developmental disabilities in Yolo County in California. Last July, the tribe donated $300,000 to a planned center for unity and tolerance in Sacramento.

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