AIFEP announces formation of the Tiwahe Foundation


The American Indian Family Empowerment Program (AIFEP), a donor-designated fund has achieved its goal of creating a new foundation called the Tiwahe Foundation. “Tiwahe” means “family” in the Dakota language.

The goal of the Tiwahe Foundation is to build upon AIFEP’s 16-year history of grant making to Minnesota’s American Indian community. After 13 years of operating as a donor-designated program, AIFEP received its IRS classification as a public charity in July.

“We believe the individuals that will be supported by the Tiwahe Foundation are the generation of American Indian people that will build upon our past, strengthen our culture and values, and begin to restore and sustain a healthy community seven generations into the future,” said LaVon Lee, Grotto Foundation program officer and Tiwahe Foundation administrator.

With less than 0.5 percent of U.S. institutional grant-making dollars supporting needs in American Indian communities, the Tiwahe Foundation hopes to play a key role in closing this funding gap. It is the only Native-American-run foundation in Minnesota whose primary goal is to support individuals striving to reach their potential through education, economic self-sufficiency, and service to community, and cultural connections.

Nationally, the Tiwahe Foundation joins 36 other foundations directed by American Indians, according to “A Demographic Profile of Independently Incorporated Native American Foundations and Selected Funds in the United States” published by Native Americans in Philanthropy. According to Lee, the Tiwahe Foundation, directed by American Indian people is invested in the Native community. It will allow for new opportunities and greater social participation of American Indians in the field of philanthropy. “As our social capital grows, so does our community’s ability to care for and sustain itself,” says Lee.

Earlier this year, the Seventh Generation Campaign was established to raise $6 million for an endowment to fund the Tiwahe Foundation. The new foundation was launched with gifts totaling $1 million from the Marbrook Foundation, Westcliff Foundation, Grotto Foundation and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Program support was provided from The Saint Paul Foundation and The Minneapolis Foundation. The Tiwahe Foundation is looking for additional contributors.  The proposed endowment budget includes $4 million for grant making to support self-sufficiency in the American Indian community, $1 million for permanent foundation operations, $500,000 for the Leadership Development Program, and $500,000 for bridge funding to support the transition of AIFEP to an independent foundation.

Five percent of the endowment would be devoted annually to each of these categories. Each year, $200,000 would be reserved for grants to American Indian individuals; $50,000 for operations; $25,000 for the leadership program; and $25,000 for transition purposes. AIFEP, founded in 1993, was the inspiration of Markell Brooks of the Marbrook Foundation. It became operational in 1996, a collaboration of the Marbrook Foundation, Grotto Foundation, and Westcliff Foundation and members of the American Indian community.

Its original purpose was to engage the American Indian community in philanthropy.  For more information, see their website at: .