ANA's Unique Funding Lets Grantees Pick Their Path

By Acting Commissioner Stacey Ecoffey

As we enter open season for our 2018 Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), I wanted to highlight what makes ANA’s grants unique, and share the stories of some current grantees. We understand the multitude of needs and challenges that tribal communities face and our funding opportunities reflect this diversity. That is why ANA grant programs are not designed to tell communities what they need to do, but instead, to help them carry out projects that they design based on what they decide is most needed.

ANA is constantly working to better support American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders through our funding and other efforts. ANA’s vision is to see Native communities thriving. In Fiscal Year 2017, we funded 179 new and continuing grants with our $51.8 million budget. In addition to this, we provided training and technical assistance (T/TA) to applicants and grantees across all four geographic regions: East, West, Alaska, and Pacific. In fiscal year 2017, the T/TA teams provided training and technical assistance to 471 participants in reference to understanding FOAs and application development alone.

Aside from helping potential applicants, T/TA regional team members are the people most often on-site and physically present to work with grantees requiring assistance. They are an integral part of ANA. T/TA services include training and technical assistance in planning, developing, conducting, and administering ANA projects; short term in-service training for personnel working on ANA-funded projects; and technical assistance in revising a denied grant proposal. Our T/TA providers host webinars, visit project sites, and create toolkits and manuals all to help our grantees and prospective applicants.

There is certainly a great deal of need throughout Indian Country for funds. For example, last year we received and reviewed 318 applications for funding. However, we were only able to fund 39 new grants along with our 140 continuing grants. The 318 applicants requested nearly $100 million in funds to support projects that would improve their communities. That is why we want to be sure that the projects ANA funds succeed.

Success can look different in each community. Which is why ANA’s funding categories are so broad: social and economic development strategies, Native language preservation and maintenance, and environmental regulatory enhancement. A wide variety of projects are covered by these funding programs and the several more focused initiatives we have within them for issues such as developing language nests, empowering Native youth, and creating sustainable employment strategies.

Here are just a few examples of the projects that we are funding:

  • The Thlopthlocco Tribal Town in Oklahoma has an inadequate and unsecured Information Technology (IT) infrastructure. This affects the administration of the tribal government and programs that serve 957 tribal members and also prevents easy communication with other organizations and communities. They are using their ANA funding to enhance communications by installing fiber optic, high-speed IT infrastructure in five tribal buildings. This will allow the community to run better, to connect with others, and to find further partnerships and funding opportunities that can build their capacity.
  • The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians in Oregon are more concerned with maintaining their traditional subsistence practices. Tribal members use Roosevelt elk to meet cultural, subsistence, and ceremonial needs as they have for generations. The “Elk Conservation and Restoration Capacity Building and Demonstration Project” will help the Tribe effectively manage elk populations on their lands. The ability to manage wildlife populations will empower Cow Creek and offer them the opportunity to restore other traditions.
  • Some are preserving their culture and language in other ways. Halau Hula O Kaeo in California is encouraging Native Hawaiians in the area to use their language through dance. Native Hawaiian language educators at four Hula dance schools will increase their language proficiency and develop a community-based Hawaiian language curriculum that incorporates dance, songs, and chanting. This project demonstrates how traditions build upon each other, with students learning their language even as they learn movements and music that have been handed down for generations.

No matter what the focus of the project is, each of these grantees is ultimately strengthening community ties, identity, and capability. The key is that these benefits come from community involvement in determining what is critical to their success. ANA funding allows communities to identify their challenges and solve them in a way that has meaning for them.

With our 2018 FOAs now open, I can’t wait to see what sort of innovative projects will be proposed. There is no idea too big, small, or “out there” to consider if they help Native peoples achieve better lives and outcomes.