SJF is excited to celebrate the brilliance, power, and ongoing struggle for sovereignty of the Indigenous peoples of the so-called United States this coming Monday, October 10! Our Seattle office is on occupied Coast Salish territory, specifically that of the Duwamish, Suquamish, and Stillaguamish peoples. Our Portland office is on the occupied territory of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, Kalapuya, and Atfalati peoples. SJF’s office will be closed this coming Monday, and we hope our community will join us in intentionally celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day by deepening your education, moving money by donating and asking your friends and family to as well, taking direct action by supporting Indigenous-led movements (where and how you are asked!!), and directly supporting Indigenous artists, businesses, teachers, and more.
Over the past year and a half, SJF has been busy overhauling our organizational values; a key part of this process includes our effort to adopt Decolonization as a value. This process invited us to engage more critically with what material action for Indigenous sovereignty looks like as a funding organization populated by non-Native staff — where we’ve done well in the past, and where we must grow to fulfill this value. We’ve been so lucky to build with and learn from our Native partners in philanthropy — especially the rad folks at Potlatch Fund and Na’ah Illahee Fund — and want to share a few ideas to honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day as donor organizers and people working in the field of philanthropy.
Deepen your learning
If you are a non-Native person living on stolen land, start by learning more about its ancestral peoples. We’re one of many recommending Native-Land.ca, a fantastic resource documenting the territories, languages, and treaties of and relevant to Indigenous peoples across the globe. Once you know whose land you’re on, follow up by checking if your local tribe has shared their own history and learning resources. You can also learn more about the US’ history of breaking treaties and stealing land in the video “What If The US Honored Its Native Treaties?,” which covers the US government’s history of illegal land grabs and unfulfilled promises.
We also love revisiting Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva, a fantastic resource for those who work in and around philanthropy, consider themselves donors and donor organizers, and/or who are invested in change through wealth redistribution. The Decolonizing Wealth Project has an abundance of other ways to take action in the same spirit. If you want to go deeper, follow the work of Native Americans in Philanthropy, a national network of Indigenous-led foundations and other organizations that regularly offers webinars and other opportunities to support Native philanthropic work.
Material action for decolonization — Land Back!
One of the key learnings for SJF over the past year in our effort to better support Indigenous sovereignty is internalizing the fact that decolonization is not a metaphor (read up via “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang and “Decolonization, a Guidebook for Settlers Living on Stolen Land” by Tanya Rodriguez). We can work to liberate our culture, practices, and language from white supremacy, but this is not the same as decolonization. Decolonization requires the transfer of stolen land back to its original stewards. This action is especially poignant for non-Native — especially white and/or owning-class — donor organizers to grapple with; the origin of much of the wealth we aim to move is in the systemic theft of land from Indigenous peoples worldwide and on this continent. This theft is violent and ongoing, and we must be active in disrupting and divesting from it!
Nonprofit Quarterly published the excellent article “Land Back: A Necessary Act of Reparations” by Nikki Pieratos and Krystal Two Bulls nearly one year ago today. In it, they explore reparations through the lens of the Land Back movement, connecting its foundational purpose to other liberatory movements, including those for Black liberation, abolition, and anti-imperialism. Pieratos and Two Bulls discuss the four demands of the Land Back movement:
They also outline other actions non-Natives can take in support, including paying rent to the Native Nation whose land you occupy (more on that in a moment), contributing to land trusts for, and supporting efforts to return public lands to Indigenous stewardship. SJF lifts up paying rent in particular, as our main office is located on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish. The Duwamish are a Coast Salish tribe whose decades-long fight for federal recognition continues to this day; in an effort to support their struggle, over 15,000 Seattleites pay rent via Real Rent Duwamish. If you live in Seattle or otherwise have a meaningful relationship with the city, consider becoming a renter in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
If you are a non-Native land owner or are in relationship with non-Native people who are land owners, explore the possibility of transferring your ownership of land to your local tribe. This can be an admittedly daunting and complicated process, and may not be possible for everyone. If that’s your case, you can still learn more and get active in the Land Back movement. One incredibly comprehensive resource is Landback U from NDN Collective, a series of recorded panels on settler colonialism and imperialism, from so-called North America to Hawai’i, from Puerto Rico to Palestine and beyond. Donate to support their critical work here!
The fight for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day
While President Biden was the first president to officially proclaim an Indigenous Peoples’ Day observance in 2021, most cities and states in the so-called US have yet to adopt the holiday. This includes the states of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming — four out of five of the states in Social Justice Fund’s region. The city of Seattle, where SJF is based, ceased recognition of Columbus Day and adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a holiday in 2014 (read more about this Native-led victory in Iluminative’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day toolkit, here). This is just a first step!
As donor organizers, we understand grassroots power as the one and only force that will move our world toward liberation — and we’ve been exercising the muscles to do so! This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, learn about how you and your organizing community can support the movement to end the recognition of Columbus Day and advocate for the adoption of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in your city and state. Check out this guide from Illuminative to get started.
Donate to Native-led organizing
Aside from the wonderful organizations, formations, and teachers referenced above, we strongly encourage our community of donor organizers to move money intentionally and regularly in support of grassroots, Native-led organizing in the struggle for Indigenous sovereignty! Our region is home to some tremendously powerful Native-led collectives working on issues as diverse as housing justice, language restoration, climate justice, food justice and sovereignty, arts and culture, and more. If you are a non-Native person who has this coming Monday off as a holiday and comfortably able to care for your needs, consider donating part or all of your pay for the day to grassroots, Native-led organizing. If this isn’t doable, consider what a meaningful amount could be — in one good example, Real Rent Duwamish often recommends that new renters pay $18.55 in recognition of the US government’s refusal to honor the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855.
Keep an eye out for the upcoming announcement of the awardees of our Native-led Organizing Grant in partnership with Potlatch Fund later this month. Until then, we urge you to support Potlatch Fund, a Native-led organization providing grants and leadership development to Tribal Nations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, as well as Na’ah Illahee Fund, a Native women-led organization engaged in grantmaking, capacity building, and community-based intergenerational programming for the ongoing regeneration of Indigenous communities in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.
Stay engaged through all seasons
For a fuller commitment to Indigenous sovereignty, show up for Native-led organizing, Native arts and culture, Native history, and Native-owned businesses year-round! Intentionalist.org is a great resource to find Native-owned businesses in your area. Seek out opportunities to engage with your local tribe and other Indigenous-led groups by attending and supporting events; while there, be a generous and respectful guest. Support Native artists and craftspeople by buying and sharing about their goods. Learn from Native educators and leaders on social media and elsewhere. And finally, show up where and how you’re asked for Native-led organizing!
Resources (in order of mention):
“What If The U.S. Had Honored Its Native Treaties?” from General Knowledge
“Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance” by Edgar Villanueva
“Decolonization is not a metaphor” by Eve Tuck & K. Wayne Yang, originally published in Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, Vol 1, No 1 (2012)
“Decolonization, A Guidebook For Settlers Living On Stolen Land” by Tanya Rodriguez
“Land Back: A Necessary Act of Reparations” by Nikki Pieratos and Krystal Two Bulls
Landback U from NDN Collective
“An Advocate’s Guide to Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ Day” from Illuminative