Organizations Supporting Native Americans in STEM

Organizations Supporting Native Americans in STEM

By NAT Staff

More and more, Native Americans are entering STEM fields, but there is still a lack of representation in the classroom. Most higher education institutions lack culturally relevant inclusion and support strategies for Native American students and faculty. Fortunately, groups dedicated to the advancement of Native American and Chicano scholars in STEM are growing in popularity around the country.

Here are a list of programs and organizations hoping to help change the narrative surrounding minority students in higher education:

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is a national nonprofit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies and careers. Founded in 1977, AISES supports 230 affiliated pre-college schools, 196 chartered college and university chapters, 3 tribal chapters, and 18 professional chapters in the U.S. and Canada. They promote the highest standards of education and professional excellence to widen the STEM workforce and grow sector support. They highlight the geographic, economic, and social aspects of STEM education and careers. In addition to awarding nearly $12 million and counting in academic scholarships, AISES offers internships, professional development and career resources, national and regional conferences, leadership development summits, and other STEM-focused programming.

AISES student members at Dartmouth University. (Photo Credit:

members of AISES UCLA chapter
Members of the AISES UCLA chapter received national recognition for its work to promote professional development for Indigenous students in STEM. (Photo Credit: Anna Syed/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Native American Science and Engineering Program (NASEP)

UofA Native American Science & Engineering Program

NASEP is a year-long program designed to provide Native American, Alaskan Native, and Hawaiian Native high school students with a vision of a career in a STEM field, connect with academic professionals and industry representatives, and effectively prepare for the college admissions process. Participants receive important information about academic success and are exposed to different STEM career paths. A few of their yearly opportunities outside of the summer experience have included college and scholarship advisement, conference attendance, and networking with STEM professionals.

UA Students at NAU
University of Arizona Students at Northern Arizona University.

The Caroline and Ora Smith Foundation

Ora Mae and Caroline
Ora Mae and Caroline

Based in Chicago, the Caroline and Ora Smith Foundation promotes, sponsors, supports, and trains Native American girls and women around the country in the STEM fields in programs that are evidence-based, culturally appropriate and supported by the community, and tailored to what works best in each specific community. Their work focuses on, but is not limited to, grade school, middle school, junior high school, college, and graduate programs. They track progress and provide measurable outcomes that can be replicated in other sites. Their goal is to increase the number of Native American women in the STEM fields.

Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)


SACNAS is the official acronym for Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science. They’ve been working to make sure that those most underrepresented in STEM have the support they need to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership. At SACNAS, it’s understood that diverse voices bring creative solutions to the world’s most pressing scientific problems. That’s why they’re building a national network that is innovative, powerful, and inclusive. Their programs and events train and support the next generation of diverse STEM talent. As one pursues an education or career in STEM, SACNAS is here to give support with exclusive teaching and learning resources, valuable networking and mentoring opportunities, and special cultural events and celebrations.


American Indian Services (AIS) PREP

AIS PREP is a free educational preparatory program for Native American youth provided by American Indian Services. Students will experience three summers of rigorous STEM instruction designed to prepare them for higher education. Hands-on projects, challenging homework, field trips, and daily career awareness lectures keep students engaged as they progress. AIS PREP’s academically demanding STEM content has been proven to raise test scores and help students become ready to pursue advanced high school courses.

students of Lower Brule Research

Students of Lower Brule Research. (Photo Credit: Devon Riter)

Indigenous Research and STEM Education (IRSE)


Indigenous Research and STEM Education (IRSE) is dedicated to the advancement of Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, and First Nation students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic disciplines and professions. Under IRSE, the Montana American Indian in Math and Science (MT AIMS) program is a partnership between the North American Native Research and Education Foundation (NANREF) and the University of Montana (UM). The long-term vision of the AIMS program is to provide linked STEM programming to Native American students across the country, from sixth grade through their freshman year in college, and continued support through the pursuit of a Ph.D. The program utilizes Field Initiated Innovations in improving and expanding STEM learning and engagement.

MT AIMS members

Young members of the MT AIMS program.

Cal Poly Humboldt's Indian Natural Resources, Science and Engineering Program (INRSEP)


Cal Poly Humboldt's Indian Natural Resources, Science and Engineering Program (INRSEP) + Diversity in STEM provides academic and research support services to first generation, low income, and historically underrepresented students in STEM disciplines with a focus on American Indian and Indigenous students. They strive to work as partners with local tribal communities to learn from their wisdom and contribute to their goals. Their mission is to improve STEM fields by empowering students to become leaders who give back to their communities, society, and future generations while strengthening connections with their heritage and culture.

Cal Poly Humboldt is partially located on the ancestral homeland of the Wiyot people. They strive to acknowledge the history of this land and their indebtedness to all neighboring tribal communities.

The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP)


The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program is an alliance-based program based on the Tinto model for student retention. The overall goal of the program is to assist universities and colleges in diversifying the nation's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to historically underrepresented populations. The LSAMP program provides funding to alliances that implement comprehensive, evidence-based, innovative, and sustained strategies that ultimately result in the graduation of well-prepared, highly-qualified students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue graduate studies or careers in STEM.

LSAMP Scholars
LSAMP Scholars from Arapahoe Community College.

National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME)


NACME is the largest provider of college scholarships for underrepresented minorities pursuing degrees at schools of engineering. Their mission is to enrich society with an American workforce that champions diversity in STEM by increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in engineering and computer science. NACME partners with like-minded entities to provide scholarships, resources, and opportunities for high-achieving, underrepresented minority college students pursuing careers in engineering and computer science. By supporting their academic endeavors and professional development, NACME produces well-qualified candidates that meet today's urgent hiring demands for more diverse STEM talent.

Ute Mountain Youth Energy Day in Colorado
Students learn about types of solar panels and arrays during the Ute Mountain Youth Energy Day in Colorado, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. (Photo Credit: Josh Bauer)

The National GEM Consortium

Founded in 1976 at the University of Notre Dame, The National GEM Consortium has operated quietly and steadily to graduate over 4,000 researchers, professors, entrepreneurs, inventors, and business leaders, including over 200 men and women with doctorates in the physical sciences, life sciences, and engineering. Their mission is to enhance the value of the nation’s human capital by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups (African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans) at the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and science.

Photo Credit: National GEM Consortium

The Geoscience Alliance (GA)

Geoscience Alliance

The Geoscience Alliance (GA) is a national alliance of individuals committed to broadening the participation of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and people of Native Hawai’ian ancestry in the geosciences. Its members are faculty and staff from Tribal Colleges, universities, and research centers; Native elders and community members; industry and corporate representatives; students (K12, undergraduate, and graduate); formal and informal educators; and other interested individuals.

Margaret Rudolf at the Geoscience Alliance conference
At the Geoscience Alliance poster session where Margaret Rudolf shares her research on educational outreach with conference attendees. (Photo courtesy of Geoscience Alliance)

The Society for Science’s Advocate Program

The Advocate Program

The Advocate Program, a program of Society for Science, provides a stipend and year-round support to an individual (teacher, counselor, mentor), who agrees to serve as an advocate for 3-5 students from traditionally underrepresented racial or ethnic groups  (American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latinx), or from low-income households, and transition them from conducting a scientific or engineering research project to completing applications to scientific competition(s).

Lead Advocate Jennifer Claudio with cohort members
Lead Advocate Jennifer Claudio (center), overseeing a cohort of newer Advocates. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Claudio)

The American Indian College Fund


The American Indian College Fund invests in Native students and tribal college education to transform lives and communities. The American Indian College Fund was founded in 1989. For more than 30 years, the College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native student access to higher education. They provide scholarships, programming to improve American Indian and Alaska Native student access to higher education, and the support and tools to succeed once they’re enrolled. The College Fund also supports 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), most of which are chartered by tribal governments and are located on or near Indian reservations.

graduating students of CSUSM
Graduating students at California State University San Marcos are recognized at the annual American Indian Student Honoring Ceremony

Margarita at IAIA
Margarita (Navajo), at the Institute of American Indian Arts (Photo Credit: The American Indian College Fund)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Tribal STEM Subcommittee


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Tribal STEM Subcommittee, comprised of members of DOE working groups, convenes as part of a cooperative agreement between DOE and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). In partnership with DOE, Indian Country and NCSL, the subcommittee stems from a commitment by members to focus and build on DOE working group conversations related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Current projects are centered around STEM career opportunities for tribal members, including youth, and gaps in opportunities.

students in college
Students in a College Horizons workshop at Bowdoin College, funded by NCSL. (Photo Credit: College Horizons)

Natives in Tech+Nucamp


In partnership with Natives in Tech, a non-profit organization working to cultivate a tech ecosystem of Native technologists, Nucamp is offering a Natives in Tech Scholarship Fund to support Native communities, available for anyone at least 18 years old who is a member of a federally recognized tribal nation. With a shared goal of increasing the representation of Native American Web and Mobile Developers in the tech industry, Nucamp and Natives in Tech are working together to prepare and launch more Native technologists into high-demand coding careers. Beyond inclusion within Nucamp’s national network of coders, students will engage with Natives in Tech’s growing community for networking and support.

Eli Tail of Native Girls Code
Eli Tail, a participant of Native Girls Code, using a Hummingbird Robotics Kit to animate a scene from a traditional Cherokee family story. (Photo Credit: Na’ah Illahee Fund/Native Girls Code)

Homepage Photo Credit:

The Battle of Little Bighorn: Original 1876 Newspaper Story

“The Custer Fight” by Charles Marion Russell

On the morning of June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry charged into battle against Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians. Custer’s orders were to wait for reinforcements at the mouth of the Little Big Horn River before attacking the Indians, but Chief Sitting Bull had been spotted nearby, and Custer was impatient to attack.

A treaty had given the Sioux exclusive rights to the Black Hills, but when gold was later discovered in the area, white miners flocked to the territory. Despite the treaty, the U.S. government ordered the Indians away from the invading settlers and back to their reservations.

Custer’s job was to force the Indians back to their reservations. Some of the Indians refused to leave their sacred land, and other hunters were camped in remote places and never learned of the order. The US Army prepared for battle anyway.

Custer planned to attack the Indian camp from three sides, but Chief Sitting Bull was ready for them. The first two groups, led by Captain Benteen and Major Reno, were immediately forced to retreat to one side of the river, where they continued to fight as best they could. Custer was not as lucky. Custer’s troops charged the Indians from the north. Quickly encircled by their enemy, Custer and 265 of his soldiers were killed in less than an hour. The Indians retreated two days later when the troops Custer had been ordered to wait for arrived.

Sitting Bull, 1883 (Photo Credit: David F. Barry)

The Battle of Little Big Horn was a short-lived victory for the Native Americans. Federal troops soon poured into the Black Hills. While many Native Americans surrendered, Sitting Bull escaped to Canada.

Original Story from Newspapers Across the Nation:

Terrible Battle with Indians, Gen. Custer, 15 Officers and Every Man of Five Companies Slain


Report from the disastrous fight in the Montana Territory:

“Gen. Custer found the Indian camp of twenty-five lodges on Little Horn, and immediately attacked it with five companies, charging into the thickest of the camp.

Nothing is known of the operations of this detachment after the charge, as they were only traced by their dead. Maj. Reno attacked the lower parts of the camp, with the seven remaining companies.

“Custer, his two brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law, with about three hundred men were killed; only thirty-one wounded. Two hundred and seven men were buried in one place. The Indians surrounded seven companies and held them in the hills one day away from water.

“Gen. Gibbon’s command then came insight. The Indians broke camp and left in the night. A regiment of the 7th cavalry, Gibbon’s command, is returning to the mouth of Little Horn, where there is a steamboat.

“The Indians got the arms of the killed soldiers. Seventeen commissioned officers were killed. The whole Custer family died at the head of the column.


“Other accounts say the battle was fought on the 25th, 30 or 40 miles below Little Horn. Custer attacked the village of 2,500 to 4,000 warriors on one side, and Col. Reno on the other. Gen. Custer’s fifteen officers and every man of the five companies were killed.

Reno retreated under protection of the reserves. The whole number killed was 315. Gen. Gibbon joined Reno. The dead are much mutilated. Lieut. Crittenden, a son of Gen. Crittenden, was killed.”

The following is the text of the original dispatch confirming the report of Gen. Custer’s fight on Little Horn River received at Gen. Sheridan’s headquarters:

“Gen. Custer left Rosebank on the 22d with 12 companies of infantry and the 7th cavalry. On the 24th a fresh trail was reported. On the morning of the 25th an Indian village three miles long and half a mile wide was reported 15 miles off.

“Gen. Custer pushed for it. They had made 78 miles in 24 hours preceding the battle. When near the village, the Indians appeared moving as if retreating. Reno, with seven companies, was ordered to attack the right, and Gen. Custer, with five companies, vigorously attacked the left of the camp.

“Reno felt them with three companies, and was immediately surrounded, and after hours of fighting, losing Lieutenants Hodgson and Mcintosh and twelve men and several Indian scouts killed and many wound ed, cut his way out and gained a bluff 300 feet high, where he entrenched, and where he was soon joined by Col. Renton with 4 companies. Here the Indians made repeated assaults but were repulsed with great slaughter.

“The Indians finally gained higher ground than Reno and with longer range guns than the cavalry, kept up a galling fire till night.

“The Indians renewed the attack at daylight. Maj. Reno had lost 40-odd killed before reaching the bluff, many in hand-to-hand conflicts, the Indians outnumbering them ten to one.

“The Last Stand” by Frederic Remington

“The men were without water 36 hours. They determined to reach water at all hazards, and Col. Benton made a sally and routed the main body, guarding the main approach to the water.

“The water was gained with one killed and seven wounded. The fighting ceased for the night, during which Maj. Reno proposed to resist further attacks. They had now been 48 hours fighting with no word from Gen. Custer. Twenty-four hours more of suspense and fighting ended, when the Indians abandoned their village in meat haste.

“Gen. Terry, with Gen. Gibbon’s command and his own infantry, had arrived, and as the comrades met the men wept on each other’s necks. Inquiries were then made for Gen. Custer, but none could tell where he was.

General George Armstrong Custer (Photo Credit: Black Hills Visitor)

“Soon, an officer came rushing into camp, and related that he had found Gen. Custer dead and stripped naked, and near him his two brothers, Col. Tom and Boston Custer, his brother-in-law Col. Calhoun, and his nephew Col. Yates, Col. Keogh. Capt. Smith, Lieut. Crittenden, Lieut. Sturgis, Col. Cooke, Lieut. Porter, Lieut. Harrington, Dr. Lord, Maj. Kellogg, the N. Y. Tribune correspondent, and one hundred and ninety men and scouts. Gen. Custer went into battle with Companies C, L, I, F and E, of the 7th cavalry, and the staff and non-commissioned officers of his regiment, and a number of scouts, and only one scout remained to tell the tale all were killed.

“Gen. Custer was surrounded on every side by the Indians, and men and horses fell as they fought on the skirmish line or in line of battle.

“Custer was among the last who fell, but when his cheering voice was no longer heard, the Indians made easy work of the remainder.

“The bodies of all save the newspaper correspondents were stripped and most of them were horribly mutilated. Custer was shot through the body and through the head. The troops cared for the wounded and buried their dead and returned to their camp for supplies and instructions from the General of the army.

“Col. Smith arrived at Bismarck last night with 35 of the wounded. The Indians lost heavily in the battle. The Crow scout survived by hiding in a ravine.

“He believes the Indians lost more than the whites. The village numbered 1,500 and it is thought there were 4,000 warriors.

“The Herald correspondent, Kellogg, was killed.”

To learn more about the Battle of Bighorn (aka Custer’s Last Stand):

To Improve the Reservation, the Federal Government Needs to Act Now

By Ian Skorodin

improve the reservation with broadband

The American Library Association reports nearly 7 in every 10 residents on rural tribal lands remain without access to fixed high-capacity broadband and are cut off from educational and economic opportunities.

Our community faces tough problems. Broadband offers a ray of hope but Federal agencies must take action.

While tough challenges are nothing new for Native Americans, nearly 2 years of COVID-19 have been brutal. Federal figures show the massive harm this pandemic has inflicted on us. COVID has hit Native American communities harder than any other community in the U.S. We have more than 3 times the hospitalization rate and more than twice the death rate as non-Native communities.

But more than that, this pandemic is putting the traditional way of life for many Native Americans under unprecedented pressure. Among Diné living on the Navajo Nation, two-thirds of COVID deaths are people over age 65. Their deaths take away cultural and historical knowledge that may never be regained. More generally, traditional communal living that has existed for generations on many reservations is being pushed aside.

Against this backdrop, the need for Federal action is obvious and urgent. On November 15, President Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that included $65 billion to expand affordable high-speed Internet service with a special focus on left-behind places like Native American reservations.

With this bill signed into law, Federal agencies must move quickly to fund broadband expansion on reservations – no more delays. To appreciate why, here’s a depressing statistic from a 2018 report by the American Library Association: Nearly 7 in every 10 residents on rural tribal lands remain without access to fixed high-capacity broadband and are cut off from educational and economic opportunities.”

Think about how this issue affects Native Americans on a personal level:

  • Children on reservations are falling behind in their school work. They can’t do their homework because unlike millions of other students, there’s not enough broadband access.
  • Seniors and people with disabilities have lower life expectancy because they can’t get medical and rehabilitative care. Unlike millions of seniors outside reservations, our people living on reservations, who don’t have reliable home broadband, can’t access basic telehealth services.
  • Jobs are hard to come by and job growth is failing. Let’s face it, how can someone create or maintain a small business these days without reliable broadband service?

Earlier this year, I was part of a federal commission that looked at using the Internet to empower people who’ve been left behind. We started with the reality that broadband is changing the world faster than any technology in history. But the faster this technology moves and the more benefits it provides, the greater the disadvantages for those who are left behind.

Our report offers specific suggestions and guidance for improving broadband access and adoption. These include:

  1. Simplifying government broadband support programs and improving coordination so libraries better focus on digital adoption skills and training.
  2. Simplifying the Federal E-Rate program, especially its application process.
  3. Taking a hard look at technology lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic – what worked and what hasn’t?

Nowhere is the need for broadband action more obvious than it is on Native American reservations. The Navajo Nation is the nation’s largest and by far most populous reservation. According to Congressional testimony by the Dine Nation President last year, 60% of residents lack fixed internet access. Those that do have internet access rely on “a patchwork of service providers that results in sporadic to non-existent connectivity.”

The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is the second largest reservation by population (about 17,000 residents). Fewer than half (48%) of its households have broadband. And in the Gila River and Jicarilla Apache Nation Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico, only 35% and 38% of households have broadband.

It’s against this backdrop that President Biden’s Administration has to act quickly to support broadband access and infrastructure. Every month of delay is time that our people continue to be disadvantaged and lack this basic necessity.

About the Author

ian skorodin

Ian Skorodin (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and began his directing career with an award-winning feature film, entitled Tushka, based on the murder of a Native American activist’s family. After premiering at Sundance, Tushka went on to win Best Feature at the Arizona International Film Festival.

He is also the founder and Executive Director of the prestigious Los Angeles Skins Fest, which ranks among America’s best film festivals and is an annual gathering for film industry executives, cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers, and critics. Considered a major launching ground for Indian Country’s most talked about films, Ian relays, “It is vital that we prepare our writers to tell our stories and offer genuine opportunities to showcase our voices and stories."

(Homepage Photo: Courtesy

Cannabis Crop Expansion into Forests Threatens Wildlife Habitat

By Pamela Kan-Rice

This series of satellite images shows the development of a greenhouse complex in a Humboldt County forest.

Planting cannabis for commercial production in remote locations is creating forest fragmentation, stream modification, soil erosion and landslides. Without land-use policies to limit its environmental footprint, the impacts of cannabis farming could get worse, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

“Despite its small current footprint, the boom in cannabis agriculture poses a significant threat to our environment,” said co-author Van Butsic a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “To mitigate the anticipated environmental impacts, now is the time for policymakers and land-use planners to set regulations to manage the spatial pattern of cannabis expansion before crop production becomes established.”

Earlier studies have shown that cannabis production causes environmental damage, including rodenticide poisoning of forest mammals and dewatering of streams due to improper irrigation.


Cannabis grows near a salmon stream Humboldt. Diverting water to irrigate cannabis can dewater streams during the summer and impact wildlife.

Cannabis, as either a medicinal or recreational drug, is now legal in more than 30 U.S. states and in several countries. In California, where medicinal marijuana has been legal since 1996, voters in November approved the sale and possession of one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. As a result, cannabis production is ramping up.

Effective policymaking for a new crop can be challenging without scientific data. In this study, Butsic and Ian J. Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, and Jacob C. Brenner, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College in New York, present an approach for early assessment of landscape changes resulting from new agricultural activities.

Their approach uses per-unit-area analysis of landscape change. To study forest fragmentation in northern California, the scientists compared the effects of cannabis cultivation to those of timber harvest from 2000 to 2013 in Humboldt County.

Based on the size, shape and placement of the cannabis grows among 62 randomly selected watersheds, they quantified the impacts relative to those of timber harvest.


Satellite image A shows a clearing with greenhouses (upper left in clearing) and rows of cannabis plants (lower right in clearing), surrounded by a buffer area. Image B shows a typical pattern of large areas of clear‐cuts for timber harvest and various stages of regrowth.

“We found that although timber has greater landscape impacts overall, cannabis causes far greater changes in key metrics on a per-unit-area basis,” Butsic said.

On a per-unit-area basis, the cannabis grows resulted in 1.5 times more forest loss and 2.5 times greater fragmentation of the landscape, breaking up large, contiguous forest into smaller patches and reducing wildlife habitat.

“The results show how important it is to consider environmental impacts at different scales,” Brenner said.

Current California law caps the size of outdoor cannabis production to 1 acre per parcel, to prohibit the development of industrial-scale cannabis operations outdoors. An unintended consequence of this law may be small dispersed cannabis grows that edge out wildlife.

While the long-term effects of cannabis cultivation on the environment are unknown, the researchers concluded that land management and agricultural policy informed by further research may reduce these threats in California and in other states and countries where cannabis production can be regulated.

“Studies like this one have the potential to directly inform local land-use policy and state environmental regulation,” Brenner said. “It's exciting to be a part of this research because it is capturing a human-environment phenomenon at the moment of its emergence.”

Originally published by Green Blog, Green news from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Wells Fargo Donates $1 Million Emergency Aid for Pandemic Relief

(Editor’s Note: Wells Fargo & Company created a $50 Million Fund to Support Indian Country non-profit programs. Below this announcement is Native America Today’s original story announcing the historic philanthropic commitment.)

Southern Utah University, one recipient of sponsorships, will place Rural Health Scholars on the Navajo Nation to help administer COVID-19 testing and distribute personal protective equipment to tribe-members. 

With tribal nations across the country severely impacted by COVID-19, Wells Fargo is responding to critical needs and delivering resources to help provide relief in Indian Country during this difficult time. They have donated $1 million across more than 20 nonprofit organizations since the start of the pandemic.

This emergency aid centers on food security, health care services and rental assistance across tribal communities. Wells Fargo is also providing support for Native-owned small businesses impacted by COVID-19 through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Grantees include:

  • Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition– to deploy emergency cash assistance grants to American Indian and Alaska Native families, and continue to manage Native asset-building programs in the face of the pandemic
  • Change Labs, Inc. – to provide critical financial support to promising startup businesses on the Navajo and Hopi Nations that are suffering as a direct result of COVID-19
  • Southern Utah University – to place Rural Health Scholars on the Navajo Nation to help administer COVID-19 testing and distribute personal protective equipment to tribe-members. 
  • Native American Development Center – to support low-income Native Americans in metropolitan areas through its North Dakota Urban Indian COVID-19 Fund.

Wells Fargo announced $600,000 in grants to tribal housing programs via the Native American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC). The funding will be used to make urgent repairs to senior-owned homes in 21 tribal communities. At a time when tribes are forced to pare down services and devote their limited resources to pandemic response, these grants will allow tribes to make much needed improvements to help ensure the safety of senior homeowners and their families. 

Wells Fargo also announced a small business recovery effort that will directly impact-benefit Native American/Alaska Native and minority-owned non-profit organizations/CDFIs supporting small business owners. They are donating $400 million in processing fees from the Paycheck Protection Program, to nonprofits helping entrepreneurs and minority-owned businesses. These funds will help small businesses impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to keep their doors open, retain employees, and rebuild.

Through Wells Fargo’s new Open for Business Fund, the company will engage nonprofit organizations to provide capital, technical support, and long-term resiliency programs to small businesses with an emphasis on those that are minority-owned businesses.

(Adjoining Story)

Wells Fargo Commits $50M to Indian Country, Dawson Her Many Horses Named to Lead Initiative

Dawson Her Many Horses with Dr. Crazy Bull at the 25th Anniversary Gala for the American Indian College Fund.

Wells Fargo & Company announced today that it has hired veteran banker Dawson Her Many Horses to lead the bank’s services to American Indian/Alaska Native governments and tribally owned enterprises. The new hire comes on the heels of Wells Fargo’s recent announcement of a five-year, $50 million commitment to American Indian/Alaska Native communities to help address their unique economic, social, and environmental needs.

In November, Wells Fargo pledged to expand its philanthropy programs, work to improve retail, commercial, and corporate products and services to meet the community’s financial and banking requirements, and help to create greater awareness of the cultures, history, and contributions of the Native American community. The commitment included funding for dedicated bank resources supporting tribal advocacy and community outreach initiatives, including hiring a business-relationship manager focused solely on the market segment.

An enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, Her Many Horses brings 16 years of banking experience to the dedicated role. As senior vice president and senior relationship manager, he will work closely with the bank's National Tribal Advocate as well as a cross-functional advisory council focused on identifying and addressing challenges within American Indian/Alaska Native communities through Wells Fargo’s business and operations, stakeholder and community engagement, policy and philanthropy. Based in Las Vegas, Her Many Horses will serve customers throughout the United States.

“Dawson has a long history of serving this important community and truly understands the unique financial needs,” said Patty Juarez, national diverse segments manager for Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Banking group. “Wells Fargo is proud of our longstanding relationships with tribal governments and American Indian and Alaska Native customers, and Dawson is uniquely qualified to help us keep those connections strong.”


“We want to play a larger role in the development of tribal economies because we believe once tribes become financially successful, they also become more sovereign,” states Patty Juarez, National Diverse Segments Director.

Wells Fargo has served tribal governments and communities for more than 50 years and currently provides capital and financial services to more than 200 tribal entities in 27 states. In 2016, the company developed and published an Indigenous Peoples Statement in consultation with tribal leaders, indigenous stakeholders and their representatives, to help guide Wells Fargo’s decision making for projects where proceeds of Wells Fargo financing may potentially impact American Indian, Alaska Native or other indigenous communities.

Her Many Horses joins Wells Fargo from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he most recently served as vice president on the middle market gaming team. He began his finance career in 2002 at Merrill Lynch & Company. In 2004, he was appointed director of Native American Business Development for its investment banking, wealth management, and asset management groups. He also has worked in the Capital Markets Group at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a trade association representing more than 650 securities firms, banks, and asset managers.


Dawson (far left) with fellow Native American Finance Officers Association Board Members congratulating Chairman Rodney A. Butler, Tribal Leader of the Year recipient.

Her Many Horses holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in New York City. He earned an MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Her Many Horses chairs the Native American Finance Officers Association's Corporate Advisory Board, and he serves as vice chair of the finance and investment committees on the American Indian College Fund board. In addition, Her Many Horses founded the Native American employee group at his previous financial institution, and will participate in the Wells Fargo Native Peoples Team Member Network.

The Power of Names

By Doug George-Kanentiio
News From Indian Country

Fundamental to the well being of all humans is the need to identify oneself with a specific name and to have that name acknowledged within the family, the clan and the community. To assume a name is to assert individuality, to express uniqueness, to affirm continuity.  What we are becomes who we are.

Communal names are equally important as they are an essential element within any specific culture. Names may be extracted from geography, events or individuals but they are a vital part of the collective sense of awareness and form a bond by which individuals within that community have their own place and meaning. We must all belong and names help us make a distinction between the “we” and the “them”.

Communal names have economic, social, historical and political power. New York City has deep meaning and resonates well in contrast to places like Beaverlick, Kentucky or Toad Suck, Arkansas. Selecting a name like Washington to become the capital of a new American nation was a wise choice unlike Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (formerly Saigon). Names lend themselves to harmony: cities such as Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (versus Ashgabat or Tecgucigalpa) which goes a long way in deterring the character of life of its residents.

Our ancestors knew this and were poetic in their application of names: Oswegatchie, Niagara, Kawenoke, Gananoque, Toronto.

When we abandon our aboriginal names we lose much of our power. Our connection with place is disrupted, our knowledge as to place is breached, our sense of connectedness severed. One of the tactics used by the colonial powers across the planet was to replace our names with nonsensical British Columbia or Pennsylvania versus Saskatchewan, Minnesota, Kentucky or Manitoba.

Here at Akwesasne we have struggled with names. We have been more fortunate than other Native communities in that our ancestors kept the language alive and vibrant across the generations. They also worked with the record keepers to insure that a comprehensive written form of Mohawk was used and the Native names and clan affiliations preserved.

Still, there were serious problems with names. For many decades the name of our community-Akwesasne-was obscured and suppressed Not until the arrival of Ray Fadden-Tehanetorens in the 1930’s was Akwesasne as a definer applied to us all. We were, until the 1960’s, something odd, the St. Regis Indians, both names of which are incorrect, deceptive and lies.

We shouldn’t cover our selves with lies.

There is no such thing, no people, who can truthfully say they are St. Regis Indians or St. Regis Mohawks. We don’t belong to St. Regis. We are not Indians. We are the far more powerful Onkweh, the Kanienkeha, the Rotinosionni. Of this earth, by this earth, with this earth.

Who exactly is Regis and why is he a saint? We know the flesh and blood man was born in 1597 in a town called Fontcouverte in the French province of Languedoc north of the Pyrenees mountains to a “noble class” family.

His true name was Jean Francois Regis, nor John Francis.

He elected to become a priest at the age of 19 because he had, according to, a “holy hatred of himself” which was reflected in his vows of poverty and chastity. He became a Jesuit priest at the age of 31 and desperately wanted to become a missionary to the Iroquois (we were then considered the most cruel and yet the most intellectual of all Natives). When his application to come to our country was delayed he devoted himself to converting to Protestants, administering to prostitutes and caring for orphans.  He punished his body so badly that he caught pneumonia and died at the age of 43.

Regis was made a saint in 1737 and assigned June 16. His life of denial, his feeling that he was sinful and this earth was a cursed place was in such contrast with the traditional values of the Onkwe that we have nothing in common with him other than our humanity.

What does Regis have to do with Akwesasne? Nothing except that his “feast day” may have been when the Jesuits Gourdon and Billiard arrived at Akwesasne in 1754 and decided that June 16 would be the official beginning of the mission then used Regis’ interest in the Iroquois to give their efforts more authority.

So why keep that name? Why do we refuse to relinquish the colonial embrace? It happens when we are compelled to step away from the past and redefine our identity by giving life to the old names, never a simple thing to do when one has been made to feel defensive about our heritage. It can be terrifying to some and to others it uncovers a reservoir of guilt and shame.

Should one be embarrassed using the term St. Regis? Yes, especially if that name continues to cause harm which it does since its intent was to destroy our traditional ways, our aboriginal spirituality, our sense of pride and dignity.

Many other Native people have tackled this problem and succeeded in casting off names of oppression. Witness the Tohono O’dham discarding the insulting name Papago, the Ho Chunks throwing away Winnebego, the Miami using Myaamia or the Eskimo refuting that pejorative for Inuit.

Speak the truth, use the name, empower the people.

It should be the Kaienke Nation Council, the Kanienke Council of Akwesasne, the Kanienke who reside to the south of Akwesasne and were once the “St. Regis Tribe”.

Doug George-Kanentiio is a writer, lecturer and Vice President of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge.