2020 National Philanthropy Day Award Honoree

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
Trailblazers empowering and promoting healthy, sustainable Native communities

Shakopee_Mdewakanton_Sioux_Community.jpgThe Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) has honored its Dakota tradition of helping others by donating time, money and other resources to a variety of worthy causes during times of both hardship and prosperity. This tradition of giving is a part of who they are as Mdewakanton Dakota people. Contributing to causes, organizations and tribes across the country, the SMSC is the largest philanthropic benefactor for Indian Country nationally, and one of the largest charitable givers in Minnesota. Mitakuye Owasin means “we are all related.” This expression reflects the Dakota belief of interconnectedness and oneness. Healthier individuals lead to healthier communities and healthier communities lead to a brighter, more wholesome future.

Extreme poverty and the loss of traditional foods have caused many Native Americans to suffer from inadequate diets, leading to widespread chronic health problems in many Native communities. In response to this crisis, the SMSC launched Seeds of Native Health in 2015 to improve Native nutrition now and in the future. The $11 million campaign focused on three key components – grant-making, research and advocacy – to support tribal food and agriculture policy, community-based nutrition programs, and research that helps move the needle on improving dietary health.

Over five years, the campaign resulted in important successes for tribes and Native communities. Specific efforts included a national coalition which achieved historic wins in the 2018 Farm Bill, benefiting Native tribes and agriculture producers; the establishment and expansion of nutrition education and community engagement across Indian Country; the only academic conference series in the world devoted to Indigenous nutrition; and a new academic journal section showcasing the best scholarship in the field. Importantly, the SMSC brought new funders to the table to augment their efforts to invest in the field of Native nutrition.

Following the conclusion of Seeds of Native Health in 2019, the SMSC launched Understand Native Minnesota, a new philanthropic campaign to improve the Native American narrative in Minnesota K-12 schools. Tribes are modern, thriving governments, and Native Americans make important contributions to our state every day. But most Minnesotans have little or no in-depth understanding of the state’s tribes, their history, governments and culture. By sharing accurate information through a dedicated campaign in Minnesota’s K-12 education system, we can improve younger generations’ understanding of the state’s tribes and Native peoples.

In addition to these two philanthropic campaigns, the SMSC has a generous charitable giving program supporting education, youth activities, health care programs, legal aid, community development and infrastructure, women’s health, arts and culture, local communities, environmental protection, and much more.

Living in harmony with the world around them, the Mdewakanton Dakota people are committed to sharing their resources and helping others achieve a higher quality of life. They believe contributions to economic development and infrastructure in their neighboring communities will make the community and state stronger as a whole. The SMSC supports initiatives from across the state and beyond, in a continued effort to embody the Dakota way of life and share resources with others—now and for generations to come.

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