Tiwahe (ti-wah-hay) means family in Dakota and symbolizes the interconnectedness we all have and one’s responsibility to protect and care for family, community, and environment. As a recent Tiwahe grantee said, “Tiwahe means having a relative wherever you go.” Since 2009, Tiwahe Foundation has filled a unique role among Native organizations in Minnesota. Because they are the only Native community foundation in Minnesota, Tiwahe has singularly engaged and supported thousands of diverse Native leaders, deepening their understanding of the ever-evolving needs and trends within Native communities in Minnesota.
Tiwahe challenges systemic barriers, caused by settler colonialism, to the goals Native people pursue. The dominant culture approach to philanthropy is one of those barriers. Tiwahe offers a new model for philanthropy that centers Native voices and values in every decision from planning through evaluation, and helps other organizations let go of dominant culture practices that hold them back.
Tiwahe Foundation’s American Indian Family Empowerment Program (AIFEP) program serves Native peoples living in Minnesota by providing direct access to microgrants that help bridge systemic disparity gaps in four key program areas: Health and Wellness, Education, Culture and Language, and Economic Independence. AIFEP fills a gap left by dominant philanthropy, which rarely makes direct microgrants to Native individuals or families (they focus on other Native non-profits or larger grants). And, even in those spaces, their giving is less than 0.4 percent of their dollars to Native communities.