Grantees & Grantmaking, Strategic Approach | February 3, 2022

Video: Our Commitment to Native-Led Groups Educated Us About the Need for Justice—CEO Kevin Walker

By Kevin Walker     President and CEO, NWAF

Ten years ago, we committed 40 percent of our grant dollars to Native-led nonprofits. CEO Kevin Walker discusses how we’ve changed as a result.

A tiny sliver of foundation giving goes to Native-led groups. We decided 10 years ago to fund bigger and deeper.

Our commitment is rooted in our history. The Northwest Area Foundation was endowed by a family whose wealth primarily came from a railroad that stretched from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Northwest. The 76 Native nations in this region suffered great harm from America’s westward expansion, which was facilitated, in part, by the railroad. We made our commitment as an act of acknowledgement and repair.

We discussed this commitment recently with CEO Kevin Walker, who points out that Native-led groups think about prosperity and what it takes to thrive in ways that go beyond simple economics. Prosperity and thriving include community building, cultural wisdom, and the need to heal from historical trauma.

Watch the video to see Kevin discuss what we learned and how it’s led us to focus our grantmaking on justice and the need to change systems that weren’t designed to work for Native communities.

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