First Peoples Fund



Rapid City, SD

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2017):

Revenue: $2,382,817
Expenses: $2,022,669
Assets: $2,417,171

Executive Director:

Lori Pourier


Native American Arts Community Foundation



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The First Peoples Fund is a left-of-center grantmaking organization that supports Native American artists and related organizations.

The First Peoples Fund was founded in 1995 in Rapid City, South Dakota as a donor-advised fund operated by the Tides Foundation. 1 The First Peoples Fund became an independent community foundation in 2003. 2


The First Peoples Fund provides year-long fellowships for artists or persons who practice Native American, Native Alaskan, or Native Hawaiian crafts and are members of a recognized tribe. 3 The Fund also provides training and microgrants to Native Americans seeking to develop arts-based businesses through a series of workshops. 4 The workshops especially focus on marketing and business development skills. 5

The Fund also supports Native American, Alaskan, and Hawaiian community organizations through its Indigenous Arts Ecology grant program. 6

Advocacy Activity

The First Peoples Fund has also been involved in advocacy in support of left-of-center political causes. Founder Jennifer Easton — who was not Native American — said that she founded the Fund after a “powerful dream” in which she was “standing between two groups of people—the Cavalry on one side and the Warriors on the other.” Easton described the “cavalry” as a group of white people who were “doing the wrong thing” and claims that “At the end of the dream, I turned and walked toward the Native people.” Easton has said that the Fund was “[her] personal way of apologizing” for “so much the U.S. government has done wrong when it comes to Natives.” 7

In 2020, the Fund joined other groups organized by the left-wing Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to call for Congress to authorize an extension of door-to-door counting as part of the 2020 U.S. Census. 8

Major Donors

In 2020, the First Peoples Fund received $1.25 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of an emergency grantmaking program to support artists and arts organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 9 The same year, the Fund received $500,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for a “national field scan” of Native American arts organizations. 10

Since 2004, the First Peoples Fund has received more than $3.3 million from the Bush Foundation, a Minnesota-based foundation that has a substantial giving focus on American Indian causes. 11 In 2014, the First Peoples Fund won the Bush Prize for Community Innovation, awarded to persons or groups with “a track record of successful community problem solving.” 12


  1. “What We Do.” First Peoples Fund. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  2. “What We Do.” First Peoples Fund. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  3. “Fellowships.” First Peoples Fund. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  4. “Community Workshops.” First Peoples Fund. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  5. Gourd, Sheri. “Native artists learn how to market their talent.” Tahlequah (OK) Daily Press. April 15, 2018. Accessed on Westlaw (2018 WLNR 10287958) November 11, 2020.
  6. “Indigenous Arts Ecology.” First Peoples Fund. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  7. “Five Questions With Jennifer Easton.” First Peoples Fund. January 1, 2014. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  8. “Broad Coalition Calls on Senate to Extend 2020 Census Data Reporting Deadlines.” Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. October 23, 2020. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  9. “Mellon Foundation Launches New Initiative to Support 1,500 Artists and Small Arts Organizations as COVID-19 Crisis Continues.” Mellon Foundation. August 27, 2020.
  10. “Foundation grants $4.5 million to support health and well-being in Native communities across the United States.” Philanthropy News Digest. July 9, 2020. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  11. “First Peoples Fund.” Bush Foundation. Accessed November 11, 2020.
  12. “Bush Prize for Community Innovation.” Bush Foundation. Accessed November 11, 2020.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 2003

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $2,382,817 $2,022,669 $2,417,171 $1,447,648 N $2,338,158 $42,010 $3,004 $147,502 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $1,831,089 $1,914,708 $1,880,728 $1,271,353 N $1,815,156 $19,071 $2,312 $119,272
    2015 Dec Form 990 $2,058,299 $1,721,062 $2,412,110 $1,719,116 N $1,984,304 $66,576 $4,112 $114,731 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $1,598,237 $1,520,988 $1,934,610 $1,578,853 N $1,523,197 $69,101 $4,442 $113,781 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $1,261,785 $1,252,272 $2,155,262 $1,878,094 N $1,216,029 $43,036 $679 $104,620 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,057,771 $1,029,140 $996,107 $728,452 N $989,709 $66,666 $1,396 $100,713 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $941,461 $761,191 $783,161 $551,007 N $896,556 $43,878 $1,027 $80,627 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    First Peoples Fund

    706 West Boulevard
    Rapid City, SD 57709-2977