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  • Writer's pictureArctic Indigenous Fund

Arctic Indigenous Fund Update -AIF Goes to Norway!

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

“Empowering and strengthening Indigenous communities by providing creative opportunities and experiences that promote culture, language and overall wellness.”

-Shayla Snowshoe, Canada Advisor

In September 2019, the Arctic Indigenous Fund (AIF) held a successful meeting in Norway, which happens to be the home of two Indigenous advisors out of the eight. On top of the traditional food, beautiful scenery and indirect knowledge exchange that they all experienced, the AIF team worked hard on their upcoming grant cycle plus other organizational matters.

The on-going work of the AIF is due to a successful first year, where a lot was accomplished. After a year-one debrief the team also had many lessons to learn and as part of their consensus decision-making ways of doing, they came to solutions that the Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Sápmi (Norway) advisors could all agree on. They look forward to better administration, relationships, communication, and processes! As a self-determining Indigenous-led philanthropy group, they are learning the best way they know how – by doing. It is the same way an Indigenous elder would teach to cut a fish. The elder hands over the knife, they welcome mistakes because they know that by doing, only then will one learn to become skilled with a knife, so their fish cuts improve each and every time. The AIF is like the elder’s student, their Indigenous philanthropy success can only come with time and mistakes, only then can philanthropic funding be distributed in ways that better support the needs of Northern communities and align with existing Indigenous-led efforts and leadership.

As the AIF enters grant cycle two, each region made decisions on how to grant to Indigenous Youth in the Arctic in a good way with their purpose and vision in mind. All regions made the decision to do a call-out, this is the opposite direction from their grant cycle one. Instead of starting and fostering relationships with future partners and offering proposals, the team decided on an open call two-tier application process. The open call by letter of interest is scheduled to launch in February 2020 in the Alaska, Canada and Sápmi (Norway) regions only. Greenland opted out on this first step and will only do full proposals which are scheduled for April 2020, this gives the Greenland advisors leeway to plan for the next annual meeting which will take place in Greenland September 2020!

As part of the launch and decisions made in Norway, the team comprised a branding committee that is trusted with choosing an AIF logo, the committee decided to work with a professional graphic designer: Vincent Designs. They are pleased with the company that was chosen and are very close to launching the AIF logo which will compliment grant cycle two’s call out. In addition, the AIF will be debuting their very own website! This will go live at the same time as the call out.

The AIF are doing important groundbreaking work in the philanthropy sector and are paving the way for Indigenous people alike which means that they chose to develop an advisor transition plan, so new advisors can be part of the movement. The advisors have a four-year plan to transition in new advisors - the work to recruit is to come. The longevity of this plan is exciting, as the philanthropy sector is experiencing new trends that align with the AIF’s purpose and vision. “Trust in the knowledge and will of our communities.” This is a quote from one of the Sápmi advisors, it is what Indigenous philanthropy means to them. This is the future of philanthropy and the AIF gets to be part of it.

With traditions, culture, spirituality and language as the backbone of the AIF, they used these strengths when sharing their work with the partners/ guests during their time in Norway. A representative from RSF and Tamalpais Trust were in attendance and it strengthened the relationships. With more insight and understanding, the partners can carry-on the oral stories that were shared, so that they can better support the upcoming initiatives of the AIF. Since then, the AIF representative (the Indigenous Initiates Fellow) visited the home of the guests in San Francisco, CA to have further discussions on the future of the AIF. This is a great example of how important relationship building is to the AIF. Not only is it a part of their way of life as Indigenous peoples but their deep-rooted knowledge of relationships trickle into their work because their awareness of how vital relationship can be when it comes to longevity and wellbeing of an organization. Much like the respect, connection and relationship that Indigenous people have with the land – they are experts when it comes to nature and nurture.

Norway brought the team closer together where they all worked hard, shared stories, laughed and ate every meal together – they moved forward like a family. They dove deep into their hopes and dreams for the future of Indigenous people and the outcome was outstanding. Despite their cultural differences and language barriers, that did not stop them from collectively making decisions for their organization as a whole. Like any family, they encountered setbacks like misunderstandings and opposite views but they still managed to come out of the week stronger and their vision for the future of the AIF became clearer. As they continue to use their resilience and reclaim power and control, they will be a force in a sector that wants to better understand Indigenous knowledge as it becomes more common and well respected. Thankfully it comes at a crucial time as social justice work needs their input and support, and the economy and the environment need their guidance.

To stay up to date with all things Indigenous philanthropy follow the AIF on all of their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), as they share more and more information to their following. They look forward to developing and changing the narrative in the philanthropy sector, their plans to fundraise and network are in the works – they are excited for new relationships, future knowledge exchanges and to continue with Indigenous-led funding in the North.

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