First-of-its-kind fund awards more than $200,000 to tribes and Native nonprofits in Minnesota

Healthy Children Healthy Nations Fund supports efforts to improve early childhood development and nutrition in Native American communities

Prior Lake, Minn. – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), Better Way Foundation, and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations today announced that their Healthy Children, Healthy Nations (HCHN) Fund has awarded $220,000 in grants to 10 Native American tribes and nonprofits in Minnesota. These grants will support innovation in and the expansion of early childhood development and childhood nutrition programs in Minnesota’s Native communities.

“We were astonished by the overwhelming response to this grant program, and the many impressive applications we received,” said Andreas Hipple, executive director of Better Way Foundation. “These grants will support many innovative projects, capacity building and effective programming to benefit our state’s Native American children.”

Launched in January 2019, the HCHN Fund is the first donor-advised fund committed to Native early childhood development and nutrition in Minnesota. The fund supports work that expands Native early childhood development programs, provides healthful early nutrition to children, and seeks to build whole, healthy Native children, families and communities.

“There are many tribal governments and Native-led organizations working to improve early childhood development and nutrition in our state, yet there is a critical shortage of financial resources available to them,” said SMSC Chairman Charles R. Vig. “We believe that these grants can provide some of the support they need to continue their important efforts.”

The SMSC and Better Way Foundation each committed $100,000 to seed the fund, and Casey Family Programs contributed $20,000. This grant-making fund is administered by the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations and received research support from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’s Center for Indian Country Development.

Grants were offered to tribes and Native nonprofits whose work aligns with the goals of the initiative and who need additional support to either help advance a specific element of their work, develop a new initiative, or explore new collaborations, partnerships and strategies.

Specific recipients include:

  • American Indian Community Housing Organization – A $25,000 grant for the organization to identify a strategy to provide early intervention to Native American families dealing with historical trauma.
  • American Indian Family Center – $25,000 grant to develop an urban intergenerational healing garden.
  • Indigenous Breastfeeding Coalition of Minnesota – A $25,000 grant to hire a part-time staff member to lead planning and implementation for a community coalition workshop.
  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe – A $15,000 grant toward developing a Native American language summit.
  • Lower Sioux Indian Community – A $25,000 grant to support a Dakota language program for teachers at the tribe’s Early Head Start and Head Start facilities.
  • Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center – A $24,965 grant to support the organization’s GroShed Food and Medicine Project, which will provide plant medicine and cooking lessons to families and children.
  • Montessori American Indian Childcare Center – A $25,000 grant to strengthen the organization’s Ojibwe language revitalization program for children.
  • Native American Community Clinic – A $15,000 grant to support the organization’s 10-week Indigenous healthy eating and child care program for young children and families.
  • Prairie Island Indian Community – A $15,000 grant to develop a youth-focused program within the tribe’s existing Dakota language education initiative.
  • Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians – A $25,000 grant to establish a garden and develop educational materials for the tribe’s early childhood immersion school program.

“These grant recipients are doing important work to strengthen Native communities here in Minnesota,” said Eric J. Jolly, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundations. “The Foundations are proud to be a partner in the Healthy Children, Healthy Nations Fund, and we’re thankful that its leaders are supporting these innovative projects.”

In Minnesota, there are more than 5,000 Native American children under the age of five. Many are at risk of starting school behind, and are more likely to suffer adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than kids in other populations.

“Our research shows that an extra dollar spent on the education of vulnerable children saves between $4 to $16 in future social costs related to health care, education and crime,” said Patrice Kunesh, assistant vice president and director of the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. “These sorts of investments impact positive change not just for the grantees, but the broader community.”

This collaborative fund is an outgrowth of the Healthy Children, Healthy Nations initiative, a project of the SMSC’S Seeds of Native Health campaign, Better Way Foundation, and the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. This joint effort issued a report in April 2018, “Charting Pathways on Early Childhood Development and Nutrition for Minnesota’s Native Children,” after it convened practitioners, funders and tribal leaders to determine ways to improve the health and well-being of Minnesota’s Native children.


About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Dakota tribal government located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to other tribal governments and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources. The SMSC’s government, Gaming Enterprise and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County and attract millions of visitors to the region. More information is available at

About Seeds of Native Health
Seeds of Native Health is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s philanthropic campaign to improve Native American nutrition and food access. Launched in 2015, the $10 million campaign has provided grants to local communities and funded research, education, and capacity-building efforts. Partners include the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Better Way Foundation, First Nations Development Institute, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and the University of Minnesota. More information is available at

About Better Way Foundation
Started in 1988 by Gerald (Gerry) A. and Henrietta (Hanky) Rauenhorst, founders of the Opus Group, Better Way Foundation is focused on building a future where child well-being contributes to strong families and communities. Better Way Foundation invests in systemic, holistic, and evidence-based approaches that support the positive development of all children. Better Way Foundation supports both international and domestic partners, and has connected with exceptional community-based leaders investing in the lives of children and strengthening their communities. More information is available at

About Casey Family Programs
Casey Family Programs is the nation’s largest operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and building Communities of Hope for children and families across America. Founded in 1966, we work in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two territories and with more than a dozen tribal nations to influence long-lasting improvements to the safety and success of children, families and the communities where they live. Learn more at

About the Center for Indian Country Development of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Launched in 2015, the mission of the Center for Indian Country Development (CICD) is to help self-governing communities of American Indians attain their economic development goals. Its research and engagement strategies focus on four areas: land (support the best economic use and effective governance of land); business and entrepreneurship (support diversified businesses to strengthen reservation economies), homeownership (better understand mortgage lending processes and homeownership systems), and education (explore synergies between high-quality early childhood development programs and Native language preservation and evaluate educational achievement and funding gaps). More information is available at

About the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations
We believe in the best of Minnesota and the power of its communities. With roots in Saint Paul and partners across the state, we are Minnesota’s largest community foundation and the partner of choice for thousands of donors, nonprofits and community organizations. We inspire generosity to make Minnesota better for all who call it home. Learn more at