November 2021 Newsletter: Honoring the original stewards of Washington’s land

November 19th, 2021

November is Native American Heritage Month, an important time for us to honor and recognize the 34 nations and tribes who have lived and worked in Washington state for more than 10,000 years. We started the month in an uplifting way with Rena Priest, an enrolled member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation and current Washington State Poet Laureate, sharing her work in a virtual meeting with foundation staff, at the invitation of our newly formed Indigenous Communities Engagement employee group.

As we acknowledge the people who originally lived on and stewarded these lands and waters—and continue to do so today—I also believe that philanthropic organizations like ours have an opportunity to move beyond acknowledgment and move in a direction that puts resources back into the community.

While I’m new to the foundation, I am taking this month to learn more about the grants that my colleagues have provided to Tribes and Native-led organizations across the state for the last 20 years. Authentic partnerships are important to me, and I’ve been especially proud to discover how our work has evolved based on feedback from the Native community specifically. I’m also using this time to reflect on where my career in education began—on Yakama Nation lands in Central Washington, where tribal members took great care of me as a young teacher.

Continue scrolling to learn about organizations doing great work this year to support Indigenous people in Washington, and head to our website to meet a few of our grantees that are supporting Native communities.

Angela Jones


Washington State Initiative

Grantee Spotlight

The Potlatch Fund provides grants and leadership development to tribal nations in the Pacific Northwest. As a Native-led nonprofit, they know first-hand that Native communities possess the abilities to generate the best solutions to their challenges. And when COVID-19 first hit, Potlatch launched a Rapid Response Fund after hearing communities needed flexible, unrestricted funding—especially in rural areas—to respond to the multiple crises brought on or worsened by the pandemic. Learning from this approach, Potlatch launched a Resiliency Fund this June for organizations, projects, or artists that “seek to protect our way of life by funding resiliency actions that create hope, social connection, adaption, flexibility and purpose.

Read more about Potlatch and other local grantees.

Community Engagement

Seattle is the location of the Gates Foundation’s headquarters—and more importantly, it’s our home. That’s why we have a Community Engagement team that addresses emerging community needs through responsive grants. It’s how we show up as a good neighbor in the Puget Sound region. To support Native communities that have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our Community Engagement team provided more than $800,000 in responsive grants to the following Native-led organizations this year:

What We’re Reading and Watching

Back to all updates