History of NWAF

The Northwest Area Foundation, originally named the Lexington Foundation, was established in 1934. Minnesota businessman and philanthropist Louis W. Hill founded the organization to promote economic revitalization and improve the standard of living for the region’s most vulnerable citizens.

Louis was the son of Great Northern Railway founder James J. Hill. The region served by the Foundation—Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, as well as the 76 Native nations that share the same geography—corresponds to the freight routes of the Great Northern Railway.

Wealth generated by the railroad helped fund the Foundation, but the impact on Native communities was devastating. Read more.