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Maada'ookiing comes to life, digging into the work of Indigenous-led grassroots grantmaking


Maada'ookiing ("the distribution" in Ojibwe) was formally launched on May 1st, and the response from Native community, partners, and other philanthropic organizations has been gratifying.

It is a program two years in the making and one that is unique in northeastern Minnesota. The Northland Foundation Board of Trustees started with the seed of an idea to bring more creativity and equity to funding in the region. What grew from that seed, after months of study, dialogue, and planning is beginning to bloom.

Maada'ookiing was created to strengthen relationships with Indigenous community, build partnerships with Native nations, and offer support for Indigenous-led community building that happens outside of formally organized groups or organizations. A short video shares some high points:

It includes a grassroots grant opportunity offering up to $2,500 in funding for individuals or small groups who are Tribal citizens, descendants, or have kinship ties or affiliation to Indigenous communities within the foundation’s geographic service area. The first grant round, which closed on June 1st, attracted 20 applications requesting a total of $47,244.

“These projects respect and advance Tribal sovereignty and will benefit Northeast Minnesota with grassroot solutions so we all can thrive.” —LeAnn Littlewolf, Senior Program Officer

LeAnn Littlewolf, Senior Program Officer, stated, "The submissions are creative, culturally responsive, and community-driven to strengthen Indigenous culture, community, and capacity. Our board will have a challenge to choose from among these applications."

A pool of $25,000 is available to award in this round. The Maada'ookiing Board will meet June 23rd to make funding decisions. Future application deadlines will be the 15th of September, February, and May.

Indigenous Designed

In undertaking to partner more closely with Native nations and Indigenous community, Northland Foundation embarked with a guiding principle that stands true in all of its work: Communities know best. Preparation work included a study of the foundation’s own history, the history of philanthropy as a whole in relation to Native nations and Indigenous-led nonprofits, and the longstanding inequities in grantmaking.

A consultant, Karen Diver, helped lead a process to seek input from Tribal elected officials and Indigenous leaders in philanthropy, nonprofit, and other sectors. Indigenous leaders and community members came together to dialogue about past and emerging issues, community strengths, and best approaches to partnership. This design team then helped create the structure, strategies, and guidance and elected an Indigenous Board of Directors.

Indigenous Led

The Maada'ookiing Board is made up of representatives from the region’s Tribal Nations and Indigenous community leaders who provide guidance and oversight.

"The Board members are a 'dream team'. We are thankful to them for volunteering their time, vision, and expertise so that Maada'ookiing is, as promised, by and for Native people," stated Tony Sertich, President of the Northland Foundation.

"This program is being watched closely by Native communities and by other funders, and we feel a big responsibility to do it well. Having such accomplished leaders serving on the Board is reassuring," added Sertich.

More information

For more details, please visit the website or email LeAnn Littlewolf. You are also invited to sign up for Maada'ookiing news and emailed updates.


With sincere gratitude

Miigwech (thank you) to everyone who has helped to bring Maada'ookiing to this point and all those who will continue working to move it forward!