The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has awarded nearly $2.5 million in grants to a dozen Indian tribes and Indian-related nonprofits across the United States, including five recipients in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota.
"Recognizing that there is a need in Indian Country and being fortunate enough to help out in areas that we can is just an enormous source of pride for all of our community members," said Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, secretary and treasurer for the Mdewakanton Sioux.
One of the recipients is the First Peoples Fund, an art and culture nonprofit based in Rapid City, S.D. It received $200,000 from the Mdewakanton Sioux to build a center for art, culture and community for the Oglala Lakota who live on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
"It will be a living, breathing space for artist and culture," said Lori Pourier, president and CEO of the First Peoples Fund. Without the help of the Mdewakanton Sioux, she said, the center would not be opening in May 2020.
Officials with the Mdewakanton Sioux, a sovereign nation located on the outskirts of the southwest metro and based in Prior Lake, say that the tribe is the single largest benefactor for Indian tribes nationwide. They say it has donated more than $350 million to causes and organizations on native lands in the last 25 years.
"The tribe by itself leads by example and if there's an issue in Indian Country ... our members are quick to jump in and organize help," Crooks-Stratton said.
The tribe looks at a number of factors before awarding grants, the most important of which is the potential effect the money would have on a community.
"When somebody in your community needs a hand and you have something to offer, I think it's just human nature to offer assistance when you can," Crooks-Stratton said.
David Mullen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.