Grantees & Grantmaking | May 14, 2024

Q1 Grantmaking Focuses on Rebuilding Vibrant Native Economies

NWNC Resource Navigator Duane Lane (Yakima) guides photographer and client Kari Rowe (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, Oglala Lakota) at NWNC’s Gathering 2024. Photo courtesy of NWNC.

Q1 2024 grants fuel the work of grantee partners working toward economic justice and self-determination for their communities.

“Reimagining Indigenous futures requires creating opportunities for individual businesses while investing in community connectedness,” says James Alan Parker (Chippewa Cree), executive director of Northwest Native Chamber (NWNC), a nonprofit that brings education and economic opportunities to Native entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest.

NWNC (known also as Oregon Native American Chamber) is a long-time grantee partner of the Foundation. For more than three decades NWNC has been filling key gaps in its community for critical business training, technical assistance, and other services tailored to a growing roster of entrepreneurs in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

“Reimagining Indigenous futures requires creating opportunities for individual businesses while investing in community connectedness.”

James Alan Parker (Chippewa Cree)
Executive Director, NWNC
NWNC relies on culturally specific programs, advocacy, and coalition building.

Native populations thrived in the Pacific Northwest for millennia before colonization. However, resulting unjust government policies forced them from their historic lands and established long-standing barriers that damaged cultural traditions and practices. The impact of those barriers continue to this day.

Portland, OR, where NWNC is headquartered, is home to more than 75,000 Native Americans who represent over 380 Tribal affiliations from across the continent. NWNC is building community among that diverse group and throughout the Northwest through programs that support education and growth, advocacy and relationship building, and economic justice and transformation.

NWNC will use a two-year, $250,000 grant to further build the momentum of its programs to revitalize Native economies.

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Trenal Original founder Kellen Trenal (Niimíipuu, Nez Perce) (front) poses with models after his Native fashion showcase at NWNC’s Gathering 2023. Photo courtesy of NWNC.

Thriving Tribal economies and inter-Tribal trade contribute to sustainable Indigenous futures.

While NWNC is responding to today’s gaps, it’s also taking a long view. “We’re filling gaps, and there’s a big need. But our dream scenario is that we close down because we’re not needed anymore,” says Parker.

And that approach is in demand. In 2020 NWNC served 59 Native businesses; since 2022 that number has grown exponentially to more than 300 businesses served.

As Amber Faist (Coquille), NWNC’s programs director, puts it, “We’re looking at how we can help Native entrepreneurs access the capital they need to grow their businesses. How can we best support clients aiming at future-ready industries—such as clean energy contracting? How can we advocate for sustainable procurement practices?”

In 2020 NWNC served 59 Native businesses; since 2022 that number has grown exponentially to more than 300 businesses served.

NWNC takes a holistic approach to rebuilding Indigenous prosperity.

NWNC’s forward-looking vision and mission to advance opportunities for Native peoples is also reflected in its stewardship of a new Native American center in Portland in collaboration with a coalition that includes the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

“The Center for Tribal Nations project is a restoration and reclamation that will bring Tribal peoples back to the shores of the Willamette River, a historic center of commerce and trade,” says Parker.

NWNC’s programs and initiatives take a holistic rather than formulaic approach to rebuilding the economic and cultural prosperity of Indigenous people in its region and—by example and extension—in the nation.

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During the launch of Native Enterprise, NWNC’s business development course, NWNC Resource Navigator Jen Maynard (Kaska Dena) networks with business owner Troy Douglass (Grand Ronde Tribal Member) of Back to the Basket. Photo courtesy of NWNC.

NWNC’s work is part of a larger tapestry of ongoing support for justice-focused grantees.

We begin 2024 as we hope to proceed: fueling racial, social, and economic justice by supporting grantees leading change in their communities.

NWNC is one of the 26 grants approved by our board in the first quarter of 2024. Totaling more than $1.9 million targeting racial, social, and economic justice, Q1 grants also included:

Headwaters Foundation for Justice of Minneapolis will use a two-year, $500,000 grant to support pooled grantmaking efforts focused on Native communities, Black communities, and social justice–focused nonprofits in Minnesota.

The Duluth office of Local Initiatives Support Corporation will receive $250,000 over two years to enhance its ecological approach to supporting Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) wealth, entrepreneurship, and economic sustainability.

Additional information on our work and recent grantmaking is available from Paul Bachleitner, director of communications, at

Check out these recent posts to learn more about the community-strengthening work of our grantee partners.

In 2023, our grantmaking supported our priority communities at the highest rate since we started tracking the diversity of grantee partner leadership in 2019.

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