Cris Stainbrook, Founding President, Indian Land Tenure FoundationLittle Canada, MN
The Tanka Fund at the Indian Land Tenure Foundation has received two grants from RSF; $2,500 from the Seed Fund for the production of educational materials and $4,000 from the Windrose Fund for the general program activities.
The Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) was formed as the result of a four-year community-wide planning process initiated by the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) in the late 1990s. I had worked on Indian land issues for several years prior to joining NWAF and when the opportunity came to get back to Indian Country, I took it.
I brought with me an understanding of the scope and scale of the goal the community had set—returning all lands inside the original boundaries of every reservation and important sacred sites outside reservation boundaries to Indian ownership, management, and control. With a progressive board of directors and a creative staff, ILTF has become a hybrid community/operating foundation that makes grants, delivers direct services, invests in Indian Country, develops for-profit businesses, and provides information and technical assistance on land-related issues to individual Indian landowners, tribes, and the federal government.
ILTF invested in Native American Natural Foods (NANF), makers of the Tanka Bar and other buffalo products. Together, they committed to creating and managing the Tanka Fund, aimed at increasing the number of individual Indian buffalo ranchers through provision of technical and financial assistance. NANF’s interest in the Tanka Fund is in increasing the amount of Indian-produced buffalo available for the production of NANF’s products and getting more buffalo back into the diets of Indian people. ILTF’s mission interest in the Tanka Fund relates to recovery of on-reservation land and the ability of individual Indian ranchers to operate viable ranching businesses. Along the way, we will work with partner funds to purchase lands and restore prairie ecosystems. In the end, we hope to return buffalo to a central feature of our Indian communities’ diets, economies, and environments and in doing so, truly restore the homelands of our Native nations.
Collaboration with RSF offers the chance to work with funders who understand that it doesn’t have to be just the economics or just the environment or just the health or just the culture, etc. These things are all part and parcel of our Indian communities and a weakness in any one area keeps us from being whole as a community and as individuals.