No strings are attached to $50 million that a South Dakota nonprofit will use to bridge wealth disparities in Native American communities.
The Bush Foundation, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, has established a trust to redistribute $100 million to Black and Indigenous communities in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota with two steward organizations at the helm.
NDN Collective of Rapid City will steward $50 million to Indigenous people and Nexus Partnerships of Minnesota will steward $50 million to Black communities.
Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective, says the grant is profound.
“The Bush Foundation didn’t wake up one day and say they were going to do this, you know? The reality is after the death of George Floyd happened, an uprising happened throughout this whole country calling out the racial inequities that exist.”
‘Cannot be business as usual’
Tilsen is referring to the 2020 murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by white former police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin recently pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights, after being convicted of murder and sent to prison. Globally, solidarity protests erupted after Floyd’s death. In a July 2020 statement, The Bush Foundation said it was committed to reprioritizing its funding.
“For the Bush Foundation and for institutions all over this region, it cannot be business as usual.”
The Community Trust Fund is just that, not usual. The funds are flexible and devoid of means testing. NDN Collective and Nexus can use the money in any way they see fit for their communities. Nick Tilsen lists some possibilities.
“Down payment assistance for homeownership, a down payment for people trying to start a business in their community, to create a livelihood for somebody who is trying to get into higher education. Somebody who needs to make repairs on their home, a spiritual leader who might need to build a ceremony house for their ceremony practices – so different things that are related to building assets and building wealth.”
Because the funds are so flexible, they can reach beyond what foundations typically identify as avenues to build wealth.
“It’s not just financial but there’s important parts of our culture as Indigenous people that are fundamentally part of our definition of wealth,” Tilsen says. “So we are broadening that definition and really redefining it on Indigenous terms, so there’s going to be some things in there like supporting folks to learn their language and supporting culture and ceremonial work, because we also see those as assets.”
Working on wealth gaps
NDN Collective has been doing economic redistribution since its inception. So far, Tilsen says …….